Why BCAAs?

BCAA formulation - Reflex Nutrition

Why Anything other than a 2:1:1 BCAA Ratio could be a BAD Move

At Reflex Nutrition science, quality and efficacy are the driving forces behind all Reflex Nutrition products and that’s why we use a 2:1:1 Branch-Chain Amino Acid ratio in our all of our products and NOT 4:1:1, 8:1:1 or more.

First of all though why use BCAAs?
The theory behind their use is really very simple. They work in three distinct areas which can help with your goals in the gym, be it muscle growth, fat loss or both.

Number One: They help stimulate new muscle tissue by having a direct effect within muscle tissue. This happens in two simple processes. Firstly, they help switch on protein synthesis (muscle building) and secondly, they also provide the building blocks for muscle tissue.

So where is the proof?

Well, researchers in one recent study1 concluded that, “together with the BCAA-induced enlargement in p70S6k phosphorylation, provide additional support for the view that BCAA has an anabolic effect on human skeletal muscle, an effect that appears to be similar in resting and exercising human muscle.”

Another study2 relating to it use during 8 weeks of resistance training concluded, “Ingestion of a supplement containing BCAAs while following an 8-week resistance training program resulted in a greater decrease in percent body fat, an increase in lean mass, and 10-RM strength gains on the bench press and squat vs. ingestion of a whey supplement or a sports drink.”
Number Two: They help with endurance. During exercise the uptake of the amino acid Tryptophan increase levels of 5-HT (serotonin), this is what tells your brain you are tired, as a result you fatigue. The BCAA L-Valine competes with Tryptophan uptake into the brain effectively slowing down the message that you are tired/fatigued.

So where is the proof?

Researchers in this study3 concluded that, Intake of BCAAs increases their concentration in plasma and prevents the increase in free tryptophan/BCAAs, which according to the hypothesis should decrease the synthesis of 5-HT in the brain and delay central fatigue. “

Gomez in another study4 concluded,  pre-exercise administration of L-valine prevents, via a limiting effect on 5-HT synthesis, exercise-induced 5-HT release. This study provides some answers to previous human and animal investigations, showing physiological and psychological benefits of branched-chain amino acids supplementation on performance”

Number 3: L-Isoleucine helps utilise fat for energy resulting in reduced body fat, in simple terms L-Isoleucine works at a cellular level where it can influence PPAR receptors in the muscle tissue and liver which trigger fat burning whilst also turning off the signal to store fat.

So where is the proof?

Japanese researchers5 confirm, our present findings suggest that Isoleucine simultaneously activates liver and skeletal muscle Free Fatty Acid uptake and oxidation.”

Why not more L-leucine?

The studies relating to the muscle building potential used a 2:1:1 ratio, in addition most studies relating to endurance focus on 2:1:1 ratios or just L-Valine. For fat loss just L-Isoleucine is used. It really comes down to common sense as to why you want to use anything other than what is used in the studies. Having one part Isoleucine and one part Valine also makes absolute sense for their role in fat loss and fatigue fighting. At Reflex Nutrition we use, as already stated, the 2:1:1 ratio. In fact we’ve been using the same ratio for our capsules for as long as we’ve been making them, over a decade.

Why are other companies using ratios like 4:1:1 and 8:1:1 ?

It’s a really good question. Most companies will roll out the same excuse, L-leucine is the most anabolic so we add more, and whilst this is true you will end up negating the benefits derived from Isoleucine and Valine. The only time extra L-leucine is of benefit is post workout when all we really want to do is boost protein synthesis, and you can do this with our post workout supplement Growth Matrix.

4:11 and 8:1:1 ratios are SIGNIFICANTLY LESS EXPENSIVE TO MANUFACTURE

Whether this is the reason why some companies sell these ratios I can’t say, but what I can you tell you that is a black and white fact is that L-leucine is nearly 50-60% cheaper than Valine and 60-70% cheaper than Isoleucine. I literally checked these figures whilst writing this blog with our purchasing department, so you would hope that products with those ratios are much cheaper as a result. My guess is that they won’t be and as a result it’ll be more profitable for that said company.

The take home message?

Simple really, Branch-Chained Amino acids are a valuable addition to an athlete’s nutritional regime and if you want to experience the full benefits which include muscle synthesis, endurance and fat burning then stick to the scientifically proven ratios of 2:1:1.

References:

  1. 1 Intake of branch-chain amino acids influences the levels of MAFbx mRNA and MuRF-1 total protein in resting and exercising human muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012
  2. Stoppani, J., et al., Consuming branched-chain amino acid supplement during a resistance training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009.
  3. Blomstrand E. A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. 2006
  4. Gomez-Merino, D., et al. Evidence that the branched-chain amino acid L-valine prevents exercise-induced release of 5-HT in rat hippocampus. Int J Sports Med. 2001
  5. Nishimura, J., et al. "Isoleucine Prevents the Accumulation of Tissue Triglycerides and Upregulates the Expression of PPAR{alpha} and Uncoupling Protein in Diet-Induced Obese Mice." J. Nutr., March 2010
James Phillips

Founder of Reflex Nutrition in 1996. James Phillips has arguably more first-hand knowledge with regard to the manufacture and design of whey protein and sports nutrition products than anyone in the industry today. There is little this man does not know about supplements during his 20 years in the business.

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