Building Muscle and BCAA's

bcaa and building muscle

I remember back in 1987, weight trainers were going crazy over a supplement called “Branch Chained Amino Acids”.

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Everybody I knew were trying to get their hands on this stuff but the only way to get it was through the Weider supplement company. The only problem was that his company charged through the roof for that stuff.

I vividly remember seeing small bottles of BCAA's going for 50 bucks. These bottles contained 30 capsules that held about 1 gram each.

Can you imagine that? $1.50 for a gram of protein!

Anyways, I could never afford brach chained amino acids so all I could do was sit and watch.

One guy I knew swore by branch chained amino acids and took them by the boat load. However, this guy had the cash so he could do it.

Anyways, I believed him because he was a monster. He took handfuls of BCAA's every couple of hours or so, and his dosage looked to be about 10 capsules - Give or take a few.

His average daily dose of BCAA's looked to be around 40 to 50 grams per day. I'm guessing this guy spent close to 50 bucks (At the least!) every day just on BCAA's.

I thought he was nuts! At that time, I'd have to save up 2 weeks worth of cash just to get one bottle of BCAA's and here was this guy taking one bottle a day. I just couldn't afford this luxury supplement (which BCAA's were at the time), so I had to stick with my plain weight gain shakes.

Before I go on, I'm guessing some of you don't really know what branch chained amino acids are and what makes them so special?

The branch chained amino acids (BCAA's), are made up of 3 essential amino acids, which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are called essential amino acids because they must be ingested from sources outside the body. That is, we cannot produce these amino acids within our bodies so we have to get it from other dietary needs.

Branch chained amino acids are the most important amino acids for building, maintaining and repairing muscle tissue. BCAA's, leucine more importantly, stimulate the growth of muscle through protein synthesis, which basically builds muscle protein that leads to muscle growth.

During intense exercise, levels of these amino acids fall, a decline that may contribute to fatigue during long training sessions or during competition. Basically, BCAA's have been shown to boost muscle growth, and increase energy for workouts. These amino acids have also been shown to greatly reduce cortisol levels after a workout which is very, very important because it's this hormone that basically kills muscle growth. For those of you who don't know this yet, cortisol is that hormone which block's testosterone's anabolic effects and leads to increased muscle breakdown. This is something, that we, as hard working weight trainers, want to keep to a minimum.

Did you know that only 750 mgs of BCAA's taken 4 times a day can reduce cortisol levels by as much as 40% after workouts?. That alone is enough to start supplementing with BCAA's.

Let's take a look at each of the BCAA's.

Isoleucine: This amino acid helps to stabilize and regulate blood sugar and energy levels. Isoleucine is also of great value to weight trainers and body builders because it aids in the healing and repair of muscle tissue, skin and bones.

Leucine: Leucine plays an important role in that it helps promote muscle growth and repair. It also helps:

  • Regulate blood sugar levels;
  • Helps provide the body with energy;
  • Helps increase the production of growth hormones;
  • Helps burn body fat;
  • Helps to promote muscle recovery after exercise and helps prevents muscle breakdown.

So, you can see the leucine is very important for muscle growth and repair. For those of us who are looking to build muscle, this amino acid is very important.

Valine: An important amino acid that is needed for tissue repair, muscle metabolism and coordination, and for the maintenance of proper nitrogen balance in the body. Valine can also be used as an energy source by muscle.

So you can see that these amino acids are quite important for weight trainers looking for optimal results. Ok, this begs the question, “If these amino acids are so great, how come they haven't taken the fitness world by storm like creatine did?”. I can honestly say that it's not because they don't work, because they do. Take a look at some of the popular supplements today such as MuscleTech's Anator P70 and Leukic. These are nothing but leucine supplements that have been adjusted in terms of dosage size. These are some of MuscleTech's most popular supplements and have taken the supplement world by storm.

However, a simple “Leucine Supplement” is not going to sell. However, a “Muscle Gene Activator” will and MuscleTech realizes this so that's how they market simple leucine supplements.

Really, branch chained amino acids are muscle builders - Plain and simple. The more of it you have in your system, the better. And it is for this reason that branch chained amino acids have never really worked for a lot of people in the past. The dosage size is not enough for any noticeable gains in strength and size. I honestly think that most weight trainers simply don't have enough BCAA's in their systems to begin with.

For someone my size (240 pound mark), I'd need about 30 to 40 grams of BCAA's per day for it to be effective at promoting strength and muscle gains.

Ideally, branch chained amino acids should be taken 3, maybe 4 times per day to see any noticeable results. The most important time to take branch chained amino acids are immediately after training.

However, there are specific “windows” in which to effectively take branch chained amino acids. As I mentioned, the most important time to take branch chained amino acids are immediately post workout. By ingesting BCAA's, post workout, you'll enhance protein synthesis which leads to more muscle growth. However, the most important part that I feel it may play is to keep cortisol levels to a minimum - Which I've mentioned earlier.

Here are the best times to take BCAA's in order to get the most from them:

Morning - Your body is starving from the 8 hour fast. Load up on protein and more importantly, branch chained amino acids. Try taking in 5 to 10 grams of BCAA's as soon as you get up.

Try the following drink upon waking up:

  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder;
  • 3 to 5 grams of glutamine;
  • 5 to 10 grams of BCAA's;
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla yogurt;
  • 1 tablespoon of honey;
  • 5 strawberries;
  • 1 cup of skim milk and 3 ice cubes.

Mix everything in a blender. A true body building power drink! You should be good to go once you have this drink.

Pre workout - Research has shown that athletes improve physiological and psychologically when they have taken 2 to 4 grams of branch chained amino acids prior to training.

Try the following drink about 40 minutes before working out:

  • 1 scoop of protein powder;
  • 3 to 5 grams of creatine - creatine ester if you can;
  • 5 to10 grams of BCAA's;
  • 5 grams of glutamine;
  • 2 cups of water.

Post workout - If you were to only take in only one protein drink per day, this is the time to do it. This is the most important time to take in protein and carbs in terms of muscle building.

Try the following drink after your workouts;

  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder;
  • 5 to 10 grams of BCAA's;
  • 3 to 5 grams of creatine - creatine ester if you can;
  • 5 grams of glutamine;
  • 1 cup of water or skim milk;
  • ½ cup of orange juice;
  • 1 tablespoon of honey;
  • 2 tablespoons of yogurt

Mix everything in a blender and drink it down immediately after training.

After dinner - Try taking in another shake containing 5 to 10 grams of BCAA's after dinner.

These are probably the best times to take in branch chained amino acids. However, just remember that you may have to play around with the times to find out which works best for you. Also remember that you may want to try and reduce the amounts of BCAA's you have when you first start out, just to get your stomach used to them.

Now, I would also suggest that you get a 2 to 1 ratio with respect to leucine and valine/isoleucine. That is, for every 1 gram of valine and isoleucine you take, you should be taking in 2 grams of leucine.

Leucine has been shown to help in the muscle recovery process. If you can get more leucine into the muscle immediately after your workouts, the better off you'll be in terms of your recovery period. Lately, more and more supplement companies are catching on to this fact and are adding more leucine to their formulas. I'm sure you are all familiar with Muscle Tech's Anator P-70.

Ok ,where do you get branch chained amino acids? I'd suggest going over to a web site such as:


You can get 1000 grams of BCAA's with a 2 to 1 ratio of leucine to valine/isoleucine for about $39 USD. This gives you about a 25 day supply if you are taking in about 40 grams per day. This is pretty cheap! Try taking a look at this page:


Alright, if you are the kind of weight trainer that leaves nothing to chance and looking for a supplement that can potentially take your results to the next level, branch chained amino acids may the one your looking for.

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As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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