The Branched Chain Amino Acid playing field is full of pretenders and very few contenders.
Sometimes I wonder if we should just relabel the fitness industry as the “Hype Industry”. It seems as soon as a good product is released you have 15 articles coming out about how it’s debunked, unnecessary and a waste of time. A good example is the Elevation Mask topic. Trust me, as a user I’ll get to that some other time but just like those who see something awkward and are quick to dismiss it there are plenty of other products on the market that are a part of an ongoing debate.
Branched Chain Amino Acids are no different.
So what are they? Well to get you ramped up to the argument if you’re new to it, BCAA’s as they are referred to, are a threesome of essential amino acids, a “menage a trois” of lathered up building blocks, wrestling naked in a vat of lube, climaxing for your muscles. Maybe. Possibly. Gross.
But they’re essential, meaning in order to get your gains Bro, you need to make sure you’re getting these. The three suspects, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, met in a club, took some MDMA and went home and have been in an essential union ever since, but they’re doing it for you and your swole. Hilarious to think about it like that, isn’t it?
Leucine, who provides the money shots in the scenes, directly stimulates protein synthesis. Isoleucine, who would be the dominant number two, improves glucose metabolism. Valine is a distant third in the scheme of things and while essential, kind of just lays there and takes it. And if you don’t have a diet or a food plan that is written by a complete schmuck, you should be able to get plenty of all these through the proper amount of protein. This is the first argument as to why they are overrated: if you eat right, you get enough as is.
So why buy them? Because just like anything else you buy, you’re sold these through FLASHY PICTURES and HOT BABES and BUFF DUDES and EXPLODING GRAPHICS AND FONTS with things like “Improved immune function” and “reduced fatigue” or “increased levels of post-exercise muscle growth and SWOLE!”. Coming up with stuff like this is really simple.
And a lot of the studies out there on people where it claims taking extra BCAA’s are necessary are generally skewed results, where test subjects are people who are ALREADY PROTEIN DEFICIENT. I know huh? But that’s marketing for you. The other reason why it’s not needed, as stated earlier is, you can get it from whole foods already.
So when SHOULD you be using this stuff? Ever heard of fasted training? You have now Bucko! But if you hate hyperlinks, here’s the skinny….consumed food breaks down into molecules that cells use, and are released into your blood. Insulin is also released and it’s job is to push these little guys into cells. If you eat correctly insulin levels remain up and erect like Peter North for a couple of hours. This matters because insulin blocks the breakdown of fat cells in the body. When you’re body enters a fasted state when it’s done taking all the nutrient from your food you’ve chomped and insulin levels go below normal levels. When you exercise in that state, you’re in the state of accelerated fat loss. And lifting shit in this state has been shown to be pretty effective.
But when you do this, muscle breakdown is increased also, and that just fucks up your gains over time. No good. This is where drinking BCAA’s during a workout is the most effective.
So now that you know there are some benefits to taking BCAA’s during a workout, you should know that very very few have the correct balance in the mix. Considering Valine doesn’t do much of anything, you really only need to take Leucine more than anything, since it’s the most important. But unless you wanna drink something that tastes like Highway 99 at 3am down an alley, you opt for a BCAA mix which usually has some kind of Stevia or Blue 56 flavor, which may or may not be the taste of real Windex.
So that’s the breakdown of why you may or may not need them. So do we take them? We do generally since we workout in a semi-fasted state a few hours from our last meal after work. We’ve noticed a difference after taking two different products. And remember we only recommend something touted as Vegan friendly because fuck any product that harms our animal friends. You know how we roll.
The first is produced by Kaged Muscle, which is the brain child of bodybuilder and trainer Kris Gethin. Nice guy, very into his products and if you go to the site, it has a lot of good information and science on his products. And he happens to make a vegan friendly BCAA. Though while unflavored giving it the taste of the chalk or brass, I can’t tell, the product itself is everything it claims to be. A clean mixing powder that dissolved instantly in water, and is free the evil DUCK FEATHERS AND HUMAN HAIR which most every BCAA is made out of. It’s derived from sunflowers and has a 100% vegan fermentation process. We did a one jar cycle of it which lasted two months. Good results and a good product. Our only wish is that even though it’s primarily a company that only makes this one product that is animal free, it’d be cool to see them release a Plant Protein to accompany it. While we like companies branching out, no pun intended, we do prefer to support companies that minimize it’s harm to them, if not 100%.
Enter the fine folks at Clean Machine. Started by Geoff Palmer, the idea was to create products for the folks that lift heavy that do so without hurting critters. We’re into it. So we opted to give the BCAA mix a go. Also devoid of DUCK FEATHER AND HUMAN HAIR, Clean Machine goes the route of fermented corn BCAA’s. It’s zero everything else which means no carbs, sugar, artificial this or that when it comes to the usual suspects. The one perk we do dig about this the Coconut Water powder that gives it natural electrolytes. So you get all your hydration WHILE you’re getting the BCAA’s needed during an intense workout. Geoff also explains another important factor in his process.
“Our line of products contains only natural ingredients, they use synthetic ingredients.” Geoff proclaims. “Some companies may call Synthetics “vegan”, but the source of the raw materials they start from before the chemical synthesis process could be derived from animal products. We do not use synthetic ingredients. All of our fermentation ingredients are from plant sources. That is why we can be 3rd Party Certified Vegan, while most other companies are not.”
And with 25 plus years in the natural products industry we’re going to bet a shiny nickel that Mr. Palmer and the Clean Machine crew have done everything possible to make their products as legit as possible.
So there is about the most comprehensive rundown of the BCAA topic as we care to get into. We have some metal to listen to now. Remember as with any product, ignore the hype, do your googling and find out the best resources of information before throwing all your money into the fitness industry marketing machine.