One of the most common questions I get from my customers is when is the best time to take BCAA supplements. My response, “never!”, because I do not recommend them. Let me tell you why, but to do so, we have to hope into the time machine and head back to 1990. I was 17 years old and weighed about 120 lbs.
I was pumping iron in my parent’s garage with equipment that was as old as my father. All of the plates were iron and oxidized. When you rubbed up against them, your shirt would get big orange streaks on it from the rust. I had two 50 lbs plates made by Joe Weider. I had a bar that was not an Olympic bar, but one that was skinny, but heavy. It had to weigh 65 lbs. I had a stack of 10 lbs plates and only 2, 25 lbs plates. All of them iron, rusty, and plain ugly looking. But looking back at my home gym now, it was awesome and I wish I still had that gym to workout in now. Of course, along with this rusty, dirty home gym, came the bogus, ineffective supplements.
It was the early 1990’s when bodybuilding supplements we’re still in its infancy. Supplements like creatine and whey protein did not even exist yet. The only place to get supplement information was in the magazines and the guy at the local health food store. As far as the magazine’s go, they, of course, were nothing more than a front for the supplements that Joe Weider was selling. Supplements like Weight Gainer 3000 and beta-ecdysterone were being sold by Weider Supplements and you bet your bottom dollar that I was using them. You also had amino acids and branched-chain amino acids. They came in all forms from liquid to tablet. My first experience with amino acid tablets was a giant fail. I bought the amino acid tablets at a health food store and they were the worst tasting things I have ever tried. Essentially they were like huge pills that were chewable and contained about 4 grams of protein. You had to eat 4 of them at a time. I remember they were dry, disgusting, and almost impossible to consume. After the failure of chewable amino acid tablets, I tried liquid amino acids. Of course these did not work either. One tablespoon of this syrup like mixture only provided 5 grams of protein. And the protein was in the form of free form amino acids.
It was not until I decided to start using whey protein isolate at very high levels and make my own version of a weight gainer shake did I EVER see results from supplements. Before I did this I was sold on magic pills, powders, and whatever else the supplement companies were trying to sell that promised gains in lean muscle mass. Included in these supplements are BCAA supplements, specifically free form amino acids. These are amino acids with a molecular weight smaller than 100 daltons. They are single peptides, not linked to any other peptides. Unlike hydrolyzed protein powders like Peptopro, and Silk Cocoon Protein Powder that are peptides. Peptide protein powders, in my opinion, are much more effective than free form amino acids and free form BCAA supplements. Supplements such as L-Glutamine, L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and free form amino acid powder have been around for almost 30 years! Think about that for a second, a supplement that is 30 years old. I tell people that ask me if they should use free form amino acids, that it would be like going out and buying an Iphone 2 instead of buying an Iphone 7. Why on Earth do you think a supplement that is around 30 years old, should be something you should be spending your money one? Free form BCAA supplements have been around for 3 decades. Free form amino acids are extremely outdated and over the years there have been numerous studies concluded that BCAA supplements simply are not ergogenic.
Another factor that supports my opinion that free form amino acids and branched chain amino acids are outdated is the birth of whey protein powder. After whey protein was invented it pretty much made free form amino acids obsolete. Whey protein powder, whether it is a whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate contains a boatload of branched chain amino acids, over 30 percent to be exact. Therefore for every 30 grams of whey protein you suck down, you’ll get about 9 grams of BCAA’s. If you compare that to most of the BCAA supplements on the market being sold today, most give you a serving size of only about 5 grams. Additionally, whey protein is cheaper than BCAA supplements. Finally, whey protein powders are much more nutritional beneficially to you than BCAA supplements. Whey protein not only contain a ton of BCAA’s, but it contains nutrients such as calcium and vitamin A. BCAA supplements do not contain any additional nutrients. Oh, and one more thing, I’m a big believer is knowing where you supplements and protein powders are made. Most of the time BCAA supplements are made in China and then sent here for flavoring and packaging. Whey protein, on the other hand, does not come from China. It comes from places like good old ‘Merica, New Zealand, and Germany.
Why Free Form BCAA Supplements Are Obsolete
- Most come from China
- They cost more than whey protein
- You can get more BCAA’s simply by using more whey protein
- Studies have shown they are not beneficial
- You get more nutritional value from whey protein
Hydrolyzed Branched Chain Amino Acids Are Freakin Awesome
Back in 1998, when I first started Proteinfactory, I carried a product called glutamine peptides instead of L-Glutamine. I did this because I am a firm believer that peptides are the preferred digestion form of protein than free form amino acids. I then began stocking the Proteinfactory with high quality hydrolyzed whey proteins, like my hydrolyzed whey protein 520 and hydrolyzed whey 1400. At that time no supplement companies were marketing hydrolyzed whey protein like I was. Most supplement companies were pushing whey protein concentrate and some whey protein isolate. My company, however, was touting the benefits of hydrolyzed protein powders. Over the course of the next several years, I would write a ton of articles on the benefits of hydrolyzed whey protein powders and other pre-digest forms of protein.
Then about 4 years I was able to sell a new hydrolyzed whey protein isolate that consisted of 50% Branched Chain Amino Acids. Essentially it was a sort of a hybrid form of whey protein with a modified BCAA content that contained about 20% more BCAA’s then whey protein. I called this new protein Advanced BCAA’s.
It is, of course, far superior to free form BCAA’s in every which way you can think of. There is absolutely not one reason why you should use free form amino acids over this product.
How To Use Advanced BCAA
- Use Pre and Post Workout. 1 to 2 tsp mixed with your favorite protein powder
- To increase the qualty of your protein powder add 1 tbs of Advanced BCAA
- Mix 1 tsp with 40 grams of micellar casein protein powder before bedtime.