So What’s The Deal with BCAA ratios?
September 20th, 2016
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are one of the most critical supplements you can use during and around your workout. I’m sure you’ve heard the term numerous times, but what are BCAAs? Basically, BCAAs are the building blocks of protein. They aid muscle growth and recovery, however they also provide other functions such as aiding with energy and even fat loss. So it’s important that we get extra branched-chain amino acids from supplementation, especially through times of intense training or even when you’re ill, you should consider adding extra amino acids into your diet, BCAAs and glutamine especially.
When we refer to BCAAs, we’re specifically talking about three amino acids: isoleucine, valine and leucine (which most people believe is the most valuable out of the three). Now most of the time we get a ratio of 2:1:1, two parts leucine, to one part valine and isoleucine, some products might even offer 4:1:1 ratios or even a massive 12:1:1. So what’s the big deal on leucine? Leucine is considered to be the most important when it comes to muscle growth and that’s because leucine has been found to directly turn on muscle protein synthesis (MPS). It activates mTOR pathways in the body, (but we won’t bore you with that), it just literally acts as the key to turn on the ignition to a car (but in this case, the car happens to be MPS).
So what ratio should I be going for? The most optimal ratio of BCAA products is 2:1:1, so a 4g serving should essentially provide 2g of leucine and 1g each of both valine and isoleucine. This is critically important as leucine is the key amino acid for MPS. Because of its importance, many supplement companies market the idea of a higher ratio, such as 4:1:1, 8:1:1, as being superior. While this may initially sound correct, there’s plenty of science and research out there that actually tends to show otherwise. Basically, when the ratio increases in favour of leucine, you’re pretty much taking a leucine supplement, not a BCAA supplement. When studies were conducted, results showed that supplementary leucine post workout was surprisingly less effective than a complete BCAA in a standard 2:1:1 form. As all three amino acids play a vital, integrative role, they should be consumed as a complete product. The other two amino acids also provide individual benefits of their own, for instance valine can reduce fatigue, the rate of perceived exertion in your workout and reduce the effects of serotonin on the brain (which leads to fatigue/tiredness).
Our muscles naturally contain a 2:1:1 ratio, so it makes perfect sense that we should use the same ratio to replenish our natural stores. If we do dose one specific BCAA too high, research has shown that we can deplete the other two BCAAs, which is counterproductive and can lead to less desirable outcomes. We suggest you stick with BCAA products that use a 2:1:1 ratio providing at least 1 gram of isoleucine and 1 gram of valine per dose. But, if you're looking for optimal gains, your best bet is to get in at least 3 grams of leucine per dose, as that’s the suggested minimum amount you need to optimize mTOR activation and maximize muscle protein synthesis.
At Muscle Coach Supplements, you’ll find optimally dosed 2:1:1 ratio BCAAs in the following products:
- Raw BCAA
- Cyborg Sport: Fusion iBCAA
- Scivation: Xtend
- Victory Labs: Myst
- Optimum Nutrition: Gold Standard BCAA
- EHP Labs: Beyond BCAA
Author Dan Cavalcante Blackburn Store Manager.