Do BCAA's Work For Muscle Growth and Recovery?

Branched-chain amino acids are one of the most popular sports supplements. However, research reveals an inconvenient truth supplement makers try to avoid.

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Let’s break bread

  • The real reason you might be lacking motivation

  • Overrated or underrated: BCAAs

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Why Bread Isn’t As Unhealthy As You’ve Been Told

Many people will insist bread is unhealthy. A few scientists apparently took that personally and used science to demonstrate it’s not true. 

New research suggests eating fiber-loaded bread helps you eat less, stay fuller, and balance your blood sugar. 

The study was the latest in a long line of research focused on fiber and resistance-starch, a specific type of carbohydrate that helps feed the good bacteria in your stomach so you absorb fewer calories. 

The study was small but notable when you consider it alongside other recent research. The design was simple: participants ate bread enriched with fiber and followed the dietary guidelines provided by a nutritionist.

Those who had the fiber-loaded bread experienced lower glucose and insulin levels and healthier blood sugar. Maybe more importantly, they felt fuller four hours after having the bread, had a lower desire to eat more calories, and were more satisfied with their meals. 

This isn’t the first time fiber-loaded foods and resistant starch have made a big difference in dietary change. A review of more than 70 studies found that whole grains and starchy carbs help maintain lower weight and reduce the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, and cardiac events.

Another study found that eating 7.5 slices of whole grain, high-fiber bread daily is associated with better health outcomes, such as weight management and less cardiovascular disease. 

If you don’t like bread, then don’t eat it. But if you want to enjoy bread, there’s no need to fear it. And when you prioritize fiber-loaded bread, you can feel confident that it can be beneficial. 

The Real Reason You Might Be Lacking Workout Motivation

Do you find that you have trouble sticking to a workout problem? You might want to drop the “no days off” mentality.

Research suggests that a lack of off days can reduce your motivation and make it harder to stick to your workouts. 

We’re big advocates of workout intensity. After all, the research is pretty clear that if you want to become healthier, burn fat, build muscle, or improve at your sport, you must push yourself beyond your comfort zone so your body adapts. 

However, there’s a big difference between pushing hard and pushing too often. 

Oftentimes, if you’re struggling with recovery — whether too much soreness, poor sleep, or a lack of progress — what’s missing is not a supplement or sleep, it’s a better-designed program that doesn’t leave you on an endless hamster wheel of lots of effort and little progress. 

If you want to stay motivated long-term, you need to avoid burnout. When you take exercise to the extreme and don’t give yourself a break, it’s easy to feel like exercise is controlling you rather than the other way around, which torpedoes your enjoyment and can destroy your consistency. 

Remember, more isn’t always more. And a well-designed program — and strategically planned rest — is not a sign of weakness. It’s a better plan to make sure you keep improving over time and see great results as a reward for your hard work. 

Overrated Or Underrated: BCAAs

Step into any supplement store, and you will find many BCAA products. And that’s because research suggests BCAAs are one of the four most used supplements by athletes and bodybuilders. 

However, just because BCAAs play an important role in muscle growth doesn’t mean supplementing with them provides any additional benefit. And a new study suggests that BCAA supplements are — at best — inferior to any complete protein and — at worst a complete waste of your money. 

BCAAs — or branched-chain amino acids — are a collection of three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that stimulate muscle-building. And amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins in your body. One of the three BCAAs — leucine — is especially important in muscle protein synthesis. Naturally, supplement companies started selling expensive BCAAs, and people have been buying them for years.

But the research found — over and over again — that BCAA supplementation isn’t all that useful, especially when you get enough total protein in your diet. 

You might wonder, “But what if I don’t get enough protein, should I supplement with BCAAs?”

And the answer is still no because of how your body processes amino acids. Even though BCAAs help turn up muscle protein synthesis, muscle-building, and recovery is a team sport. There are 20 amino acids, some of which your body creates and others you need to get from your diet. To build muscle, all 20 amino acids must be present. So, when you use a BCAA product, it’s like buying a fancy engine and acting like you don’t need any fuel. Both are needed to make the car — or, in this case, muscle building and recovery — work effectively. 

Because of how your body works, BCAA studies tend to fall flat, and you’re better off getting protein from whole foods or a protein powder. 

A good protein powder will give you all the BCAAs and EAAs (the essential amino acids your body can’t produce on its own) but at a fraction of the cost. If you’re having trouble getting enough protein, this is our go-to whey product and our preferred plant-based protein (use the code PUMPCLUB for 20% OFF). Or, make sure you consume at least 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, which is about 3 to 4 eggs, 4 ounces of lean animal protein (chicken, beef, fish), about 1.5 cups of lentils, or 8 oz of Greek yogurt.

The final verdict: It probably comes as no surprise, but BCAA’s as a standalone supplement are overrated.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell