post-workout nutrition

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fin racer

Original Poster:

766 posts

213 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all


just bought a few sachets of the Rego recovery sachets, just to try them out.

I understand the importance of nutrition after a workout, especially in terms of timing.

What I'm wondering is if anyone uses this kind of thing, as I am completely new to it?

I have been told it can help decrease muscle fatigue?


Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
What sort of training do you do?

Lee

fin racer

Original Poster:

766 posts

213 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
my bad, should have said.

Running 3 miles, twice a week.

Couple of 45 minute boxing intervals per week. So jump rope warmup, crunches, burpees, planks,shadowboxing,jumping jacks,more jump rope then a few rounds on the heavybag, of varying intensity.

I can usually be a little stiff and sometimes drained next day or day after, this after a good stretch/cooldown.


Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
The most common belief is the 45 minutes immediately after training are the most important to get nutrients in.

Also the other important recovery phase is during sleep.

Most folk believe protein is the key for this recovery phase but it isn't a complete answer so there's a little more to it than that but a good recovery supplement won't do any harm.

This is quite a popular one;
http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/elite-recover...

I do weight lifting so I just take a protein drink.

fin racer

Original Poster:

766 posts

213 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
well, I can give it a go and see what the results are.

Thanks Lee.

Declan

Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
No problem, the below article provides a good body of knowledge on pre/post work-out;
http://www.brinkzone.com/articles/the-religion-of-...

Also Will Brink's site provides a great deal of good quality information on a wide variety of training subjects.

article said:
Will Brink
April 22, 2010 by Will Brink
The Religion of Pre and Post Workout Nutrition.

The Religion of Pre and Post Workout Nutrition.

Pre- and post-workout nutrition is all the rage these days, and for good reason. For some, however, it’s become more than a science—it’s become their religion, or perhaps just a place to focus their OCD-like tendencies. Regardless, people have taken the topic of pre- and post-workout nutrition to a level that is not justified by the research, or at least not confirmed by the research that currently exists.

Readers should realize I may have my membership card to the Bodybuilding Nutrition Guru Society torn up and thrown at me for what I am about to share in this article…

As expected, supplement companies—and self–proclaimed ‘net guru types—have used what does exist for research to convince everyone that that if they don’t take in exactly 98.7 grams of carbohydrates and 37.2 grams of protein within 28 seconds after they leave the gym, their muscles will be attacked by every muscle-hating hormone they possess in their body by second 29; with the prior year of hard work in the gym totally wasted by second 30!

People are fixated on this particular topic like nothing else, and when you throw in the other possible ingredients that can be added to the post-workout drink, such as creatine, glutamine, and many others, it’s taken to the level of psychosis!

Of course supplement companies have come out with their own “techno-functional ultra-repartitioning multi-dimensional”* post-workout drink formulas that are claimed to be the latest breakthrough. Besides the carbs and protein in these formulas, many of the additional compounds are either under dosed (ergo the ‘label decoration’ syndrome), have no particular justification for being in the formula in the first place, or both (ergo, the ‘shot gun’ approach)…but I digress.

Now I have to take at least some blame—or credit—for this predicament, depending on how you want to view it. I have written extensively about the importance of post-workout nutrition in all manner of articles, and give the topic extensive focus in my Bodybuilding Revealed e-book.

Unlike many of the supplement companies and ‘net experts’ out there, however, I never claimed you would shrivel up into Pee Wee Herman in a matter of minutes if you didn’t get your ultra high-tech post-workout drink 29 seconds after your last set of squats. I have always taken a balanced view on the topic, by pointing out that food is still more important in the overall equation of muscle growth.

Thus, what I can say is that research—and common sense—tells us it’s advantageous to get some fast-acting carbs and protein after a hard workout to optimize the time we put in the gym. From there, however, people have relied more on wishful thinking than science for their pre- and post-workout nutrition. People who have poor diets and poorly thought-out training routines, but focus on the latest magic pre- and post-workout elixirs are missing the point. Their approach is like trying to hold up a three-legged stool with one support leg and the other two missing.

General Considerations of Research vs. the “Real World”

As we all know, a great deal of research is performed that—although interesting—has very little “real world” application to bodybuilders and other athletes.

This is because scientists do everything in their power to study their chosen topic in isolation. In other words, they go to great lengths and trouble to control variables that will impact the outcomes of their studies. For example, in a study looking at the effects of a drug or supplement, a placebo group is matched to the “active” group. The scientists want to make sure the effect they get—or don’t get—is due to the drug/supplement and not the placebo effect. Making the study double-blind is another way of attempting to prevent the bias of the scientists from influencing the study.

The point is that, when they attempt to isolate an effect of something being tested, scientists often end up with results that may not always be directly applicable to the “real world” of Joe Schmoe gym goer.

When study designs don’t reflect “real world” conditions, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Were the study participants fasted? What type of exercise did they perform? What effects did the researchers actually look at and how does that apply to the “real world” or athlete in question? Were the study participants new to the form of exercise being utilized in the study or were they experienced athletes? How many people were in the study? Who do the results apply to: endurance or strength athletes? Both? Neither?!

Those are just a few of the essential questions that have to be asked and answered before you can even begin to draw any useful “real world” conclusions from the studies that come out. Yet this doesn’t stop people and supplement companies from jumping on the latest studies as the last word in nutrition and start making recommendations from them. They also tend to ignore the studies that contradict or fail to replicate the advice they are giving out. Let’s look at some examples…

The Fast vs. Slow Protein Craze..

The use of fasted subjects in nutrition studies illustrates how researchers can end up with results that may not apply well to the real world. As the name implies, the study subjects are a group of people who have not eaten for an extended period of time. In many cases, they haven’t eaten for 8 – 10 hours or more, which of course does not reflect how the average person eats, at let alone how the average athlete eats—especially bodybuilders looking to add muscle mass.

Enter stage right, the “fast vs. slow” protein craze. The study that got this craze rolling was called “Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion” and was responsible for causing a resurgence of interest in casein. The basic premise of this much-touted study was that the speed of absorption of dietary amino acids (from ingested proteins) varies according to the type of dietary protein a person eats.

The researchers wanted to see if the type of protein eaten would affect postprandial (e.g., after a meal) protein synthesis, breakdown, and deposition. To test the hypothesis, they fed casein (CAS) and whey protein (WP) to a group of healthy adults, a single meal of casein (CAS) or whey WP following an overnight fast (10 h). Using this specific study design, they found:

•WP induced a dramatic but short increase of plasma amino acids.
•CAS induced a prolonged plateau of a moderate increase in amino acids (hyperaminoacidemia)
•Whole body protein breakdown was inhibited by 34% after CAS ingestion but not after WP ingestion.
•Postprandial protein synthesis was stimulated by 68% with the WP meal and to a lesser extent (+31%) with the CAS meal.

The basic non-science summary is: the study found that CAS was good at preventing protein breakdown (proteolysis), but was not so good for increasing protein synthesis. WP had basically the opposite effects: it increased protein synthesis but didn’t prevent protein breakdown. The problem is that they were using fasted subjects for a single meal. ***

Keep that in mind as we move along here…

So far so good right? So what can we conclude from this study and how useful are the results? Like so many studies, the results were interesting—and of little use to people in the real world. Do these results hold up under more “real world” conditions where people are eating every few hours and/or mixing the proteins with other macronutrients (i.e., carbs and fats)? The answer is probably not, which is exactly what the researchers found when they attempted to mimic a more realistic eating pattern of multiple meals and or the addition of other macronutrients. The follow up study was called “The digestion rate of protein is an independent regulating factor of postprandial protein retention.” Four groups of five to six healthy young men received:

• a single meal of slowly digested casein (CAS).
• a single meal of free amino acids mimicking the composition of casein (AA).
• a single meal of rapidly digested whey proteins (WP).
• repeated meals of whey proteins (RPT-WP) mimicking slow digestion rate of casein (i.e., reflecting how people really eat).

So what did they find? In a nut shell, giving people multiple doses of whey—which more closely mimics how people really eat-—had basically the same effects as a single dose of casein, and mixing either with fats and proteins pretty much nullified any big differences between the two proteins.

Even that’s not the end of the story, however, as multiple follow up studies done by the same group and others found these effects could also be different in older versus younger people and male versus female! How messed up is that?! So how much press did these follow up studies get? Little or none, as I recall.

Now, a later study did attempt to examine the actual net amino acid uptake after resistance training with whey vs. casein, and found both proteins had essentially the same effects on net muscle protein synthesis after exercise despite different patterns of blood amino acid responses.

Does that put to rest the issue or debate of one protein vs. the other post-workout? No, as there are yet more conflicting studies out there and my bet is still on whey as the superior post-workout protein, but it’s important to realize the answer is far from established at this time.

Got Milk?

Milk: nature’s original MRP. Despite all the fancy proteins out there all claiming to be the next step in the evolution of proteins that “will blast you past your plateaus in the gym,” good old milk seems to be competing—and winning—against some “high tech” products on the market. We have various studies finding increased protein synthesis and other positive effects when a purified protein supplement (e.g., whey, soy, casein, etc.) ingested right after or before a workout—usually in conjunction with carbohydrates—but what about good old milk, a “real” food?

One recent study found good old milk to be an effective post-workout drink that increased net muscle protein synthesis after resistance training. Yet another recent study compared 2 cups of skim milk as a post workout drink compared to a soy drink and a “sports drink.”

In this study, the milk and soy drinks were matched for basic macronutrient ratios and calories and all three were matched for total calories. 56 male volunteers were split into three groups, with all put on a resistance training program for 12 weeks. The volunteers were then randomly assigned one of the three drinks to consume as a post workout drink and again one hour after the workouts.

Although no major differences were found in strength between the 3 groups, the group getting the milk had the greatest increase in muscle mass (via increases in Type I and II fibers) with researchers concluding

“…chronic postexercise consumption of milk promotes greater hypertrophy during the early stages of resistance training in novice weightlifters when compared with isoenergetic soy or carbohydrate consumption.”

But it gets better: how about our favorite childhood drink, chocolate milk? How about chocolate milk vs. two commercial energy/fluid replacement drinks, such as Gatorade and Endurox R4?

One recent study—albeit a small one—found chocolate milk as effective as Gatorade, and more effective than Endurox, as a recovery drink for trained cyclists between exhaustive bouts of endurance exercise.

Now is this a condemnation of sports drinks and an endorsement for milk/chocolate milk as the last word on post-workout drinks? Not at all: remember those essential questions I mentioned above? You have to look at such a study in context—in other words, at the experimental design and how that applies to the “real world.” The subjects fasted for 10 – 12 h prior to the chocolate milk experiment, and these drinks were the only food these guys had for 14 – 16 hours. The results may have been quite different had they been following their normal eating patterns.

They also measured effects on endurance vs.—say—strength or increased protein synthesis, etc.

So, in the context of this particular study design, look at it this way: chocolate milk has casein (a “slow” protein), and whey (a “fast” protein) as well as calcium, some vitamins and a bunch of carbohydrates—so it makes a pretty good, cheap MRP, if that’s all you are going to get all day long. It’s not a half-bad post-workout drink either. It’s not the best MRP—or post workout drink—I could design, but it’s cheap and easy to find. The reality is that there are some inexpensive foods out there can be used, and most of your old school bodybuilders and strong men used milk as the original post workout drink/MRP.

The study that looked at milk vs. soy and sports drink, was done in novice weight lifters, so that too needs to be taken into consideration. Regardless, milk, in particular chocolate milk, should make a perfectly acceptable and inexpensive post workout drink and people who think it’s too “old school” or not “high tech” enough to be if any use are clearly misinformed and the victim of marketing.

Now the study we need to see that does not exist, of course, is milk or chocolate milk vs. a well thought out post-workout drink of—say—whey and maltodextrin (high GI carb source), in experienced weight lifters who are not fasted—but don’t hold your breath on that one. Studies like that get expensive quickly and also pose practical issues. For example, if you wanted to match the protein content of—say—2 scoops of whey isolate to chocolate milk (so the groups were getting an equivalent amount of protein), the subjects would need to drink a large volume of milk (remember, milk is mostly water).

My hunch is that a correctly designed post-workout drink would be superior to chocolate milk, but it would be nice to see the two compared, no?

The Pre-Workout Drink

The pre-workout drink craze followed the post-workout craze after a study found pre-workout nutrition may be more effective than post-workout nutrition.

The study that got this craze going was called “Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise” which found that drinking a mixture of essential amino acids and carbohydrates induced a greater anabolic response (i.e., a net increase in muscle protein balance) when taken right before weight training vs. right after. ****

This study had everyone taking in a pre-workout drink as well as a post-workout drink in an attempt to cover all the bases. It should be noted, however, that—once again—they were using fasted subjects. Think of it like this: you have not eaten in 8-10 or more hours, then you are made to work out on a (very) empty stomach.

Under those particular circumstances, does it not make sense getting something to eat before the workout would be superior to after the workout? We all know hitting the weights on an empty stomach is not an optimal method to preserve—or build—muscle mass. Nor is it reflective of real world eating patterns where the vast majority of people have eaten a full meal at least a few hours before they hit the gym.

After this study, everyone started drinking a protein drink before they hit the gym. Interestingly, however, a recent study done by the same group who did the pre-drink study mentioned above, found whey taken before hitting the gym did not result in an improved net protein balance vs. taking it after the gym.

“Well wait a dang minute Will, now I am really confused!” you are saying angrily to your comp screen! Does this new study show pre-workout nutrition is no more effective than post workout nutrition?

No, and here’s why. It’s an apples vs. oranges study. The first study used free amino acids plus carbohydrates, and the follow up study used whey alone without carbohydrates—which is very odd if they were truly trying to see if free aminos were superior to a whole protein such as whey.

Unfortunately this latter study really didn’t do much to confirm or deny the first study’s findings. And, don’t forget my comments regarding using fasted subjects, which adds yet another wrinkle to all this.

So does that essentially disprove the pre-workout drink vs. the post-workout drink studies? Nope. One recent study did look specifically at the issue of timing and does support the idea that the pre- and post-workout window is the most effective period for ingesting some fast-acting protein and carbs.

This study, titled “Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy,” has gotten a fair amount of attention in the bodybuilding/sports nutrition oriented publications. The researchers examined the effects of a drink of whey, glucose and creatine given to two groups of experienced weight lifters, either morning and evening (M/E) or pre- and post-workout (PP), to see if the actual timing of the drink had an effect on muscle hypertrophy or strength development.

The study found that the group getting the drink PP had an increase in lean body mass and 1RM strength in two of three assessments that were tested. The group getting the drink PP also experienced greater creatine retention and glycogen resynthesis, which means timing of specific nutrients is an important strategy for optimizing the adaptations desired (e.g., increased muscle mass and strength) from your hard work in the gym.

So does this study finally put to rest the issue of pre- vs. post-workout nutrition? No, it did not compare one strategy to the other per se, but did confirm that nutrient timing is an important aspect.

One obvious issue is that this study used a drink that contained creatine throughout, so technically it’s not a pro + carb study, but a pro + carb + creatine study. On the plus side, it was done in experienced weight lifters and they were not fasted, so it does at least represent the metabolic realties of “real world” people looking to get the most of their nutrition. Either way, it supports the idea of taking in the right nutrients both pre- and post-workout, but people should not be under the impression that this issue of timing has been “put to bed,” so to speak, and realize there are still plenty of unanswered questions yet to be explored.

Of course, there are more studies than just the ones mentioned above, so there are plenty of measurements on indicators of recovery from exercise, such as effects on glycogen resynthesis, alterations in hormones, and hormone levels. Nonetheless, I prefer to look at the actual endpoint that really matters at the end of the day: did this person gain muscle mass, strength, or performance by using this product? Without that, everything else—though potentially interesting—is mental masturbation.

Conclusions, and Real World Recommendations.

Now I didn’t write this article to confuse you, but to demonstrate that the optimal strategy for increasing strength and LBM in response to resistance training is not as cut and dried as you are often led to believe. However, it’s also probably simpler than you are led to believe, as the human body is far more adaptable to the types of protein it receives as well as the amounts it receives.

Thus, the people who stress over whether they got 35g of protein and 60g of carbs in their post workout drinks vs. 32g of protein and 70s of carbs in the drink are probably wasting their time, and causing what is known as “paralysis by analysis.” Put more practically, the amount of cortisol you produce from worrying about such minutia probably offsets any gains you might make from one drink vs. another!*****

I also wanted to dispel some of the hype over one protein vs. another, and the fact that expensive pre-made high tech drinks that are all the rage right now are just that: expensive and over hyped.

In the real world, people have used variations of the idea that fast acting proteins and a good dose of simple carbs can improve the effects of resistance training for many years. My good friend, the late Dan Duchaine, used to give people whey mixed in water and Corn Flakes with skim milk as their post workout meal.

One bodybuilder I knew who went onto be a well known IFBB pro, used to have a drink of whey after his workouts and several slices of apple pie at the local Friday’s restaurant next to the gym for his post-workout meal.

Most of your old time strong men and bodybuilders drank quite a lot of milk, and as we have seen from the research, it’s not a half bad post workout drink either.

If people want to buy pre-made carb/protein mixtures with other nutrients added (e.g., creatine, glutamine, various vitamins, etc) out of convenience and don’t care that they can “roll their own” for less money, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just don’t think there’s anything magical about the pre-made post-workout drinks, no matter what the marketing material or web site says to entice you to purchase it.
Edited by Ordinary_Chap on Friday 26th August 16:07

didelydoo

5,456 posts

195 months

Friday 26th August 2011
quotequote all
Corn flour, whey and creatine- my magic recovery potion! Couldn't do with out it now.

fin racer

Original Poster:

766 posts

213 months

Monday 29th August 2011
quotequote all
thanks for input guys.

Now I dont know if this is a massive coincidence, but after taking first Rego shake on Friday (after 45 minute boxing circuits), I had a complete absence of aches/pains the next day, or even yesterday.
I would usually be especially stiff and sore two days after. Even after a good 5 minute stretch.

ApexJimi

23,101 posts

228 months

Monday 29th August 2011
quotequote all
didelydoo said:
Corn flour, whey and creatine- my magic recovery potion! Couldn't do with out it now.
Be honest - that mix is minging, isn't it? hehe


kbf1981

2,143 posts

185 months

Wednesday 31st August 2011
quotequote all
To be honest, I've started playing around with BCAA's post workout instead of a protein shake (always used to just use protein post workout). I got recommended this by a competitive bodybuilder friend of mine who stays very lean (8 pack) all year round, and he said that all he has post workout is a BCAA drink (e.g. BBW Excel or Boditronics IntraCell) then when he get's home after a protein rich meal.

Can't say whether this is better than what I was doing previously yet, but it's an interesting alternative and given BCAA's are metabolised in the muscle rather than in your stomach, they have no calorie value...and hence...this strategy might be better for losing bodyfat in addition to enhancing recovery between sessions.

Some good studies on pubmed to back this up:

"According to these findings, it is possible to consider the BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721

Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
kbf1981 said:
To be honest, I've started playing around with BCAA's post workout instead of a protein shake (always used to just use protein post workout). I got recommended this by a competitive bodybuilder friend of mine who stays very lean (8 pack) all year round, and he said that all he has post workout is a BCAA drink (e.g. BBW Excel or Boditronics IntraCell) then when he get's home after a protein rich meal.

Can't say whether this is better than what I was doing previously yet, but it's an interesting alternative and given BCAA's are metabolised in the muscle rather than in your stomach, they have no calorie value...and hence...this strategy might be better for losing bodyfat in addition to enhancing recovery between sessions.

Some good studies on pubmed to back this up:

"According to these findings, it is possible to consider the BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721
BCAA's are of question value when measured against standard protein powder. They usually cost 2-3 times more and any difference between the two is negligible, still if you want to spend the money then I'm sure it won't do any harm either.

Also the fact the dude has a full time 8 pack has absolutely nothing to do with BCAA's!

I'm tempted to try again although I don't really think it makes any difference.

kbf1981

2,143 posts

185 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
Ordinary_Chap said:
kbf1981 said:
To be honest, I've started playing around with BCAA's post workout instead of a protein shake (always used to just use protein post workout). I got recommended this by a competitive bodybuilder friend of mine who stays very lean (8 pack) all year round, and he said that all he has post workout is a BCAA drink (e.g. BBW Excel or Boditronics IntraCell) then when he get's home after a protein rich meal.

Can't say whether this is better than what I was doing previously yet, but it's an interesting alternative and given BCAA's are metabolised in the muscle rather than in your stomach, they have no calorie value...and hence...this strategy might be better for losing bodyfat in addition to enhancing recovery between sessions.

Some good studies on pubmed to back this up:

"According to these findings, it is possible to consider the BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721
BCAA's are of question value when measured against standard protein powder. They usually cost 2-3 times more and any difference between the two is negligible, still if you want to spend the money then I'm sure it won't do any harm either.

Also the fact the dude has a full time 8 pack has absolutely nothing to do with BCAA's!

I'm tempted to try again although I don't really think it makes any difference.
The fact he has an 8 pack (and you don't I would guess?), goes to show he's more likely to know what he's talking about since he has achieved a good physique and maintains it all year round.

In terms of BCAA's.....the studies say you're wrong. You can bh about price if you want, but the fact is, studies very much show BCAA supplementation around the time of your workout (e.g. especially intra workout) to be superior to standard protein supplementation.

SignalGruen

630 posts

185 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
I've started taking BCAA's pre-workout since I've started doing fasted training. I now also drink a litre of semi-skimmed milk post workout as I'm trying reduce my reliance on protein shakes.

Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
kbf1981 said:
Ordinary_Chap said:
kbf1981 said:
To be honest, I've started playing around with BCAA's post workout instead of a protein shake (always used to just use protein post workout). I got recommended this by a competitive bodybuilder friend of mine who stays very lean (8 pack) all year round, and he said that all he has post workout is a BCAA drink (e.g. BBW Excel or Boditronics IntraCell) then when he get's home after a protein rich meal.

Can't say whether this is better than what I was doing previously yet, but it's an interesting alternative and given BCAA's are metabolised in the muscle rather than in your stomach, they have no calorie value...and hence...this strategy might be better for losing bodyfat in addition to enhancing recovery between sessions.

Some good studies on pubmed to back this up:

"According to these findings, it is possible to consider the BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721
BCAA's are of question value when measured against standard protein powder. They usually cost 2-3 times more and any difference between the two is negligible, still if you want to spend the money then I'm sure it won't do any harm either.

Also the fact the dude has a full time 8 pack has absolutely nothing to do with BCAA's!

I'm tempted to try again although I don't really think it makes any difference.
The fact he has an 8 pack (and you don't I would guess?), goes to show he's more likely to know what he's talking about since he has achieved a good physique and maintains it all year round.

In terms of BCAA's.....the studies say you're wrong. You can bh about price if you want, but the fact is, studies very much show BCAA supplementation around the time of your workout (e.g. especially intra workout) to be superior to standard protein supplementation.
How many scientific studies have shown that BCAA's aren't even as effective as protein powder? I'm guessing you don't know given what you've posted above.

Also you do realise most of these studies have been carried out on rats?

Also the link doesn't state for one second its more effective than using protein powder, in fact there isn't even a comparison!!!

study said:
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), or BCAA's, are a group of essential amino acids that play important roles in protein synthesis and energy production. In humans, about 15-25% of total protein intake is BCAA's, and dairy products are particularly high in them [1]. BCAA's make up 35-40% of the essential amino acids in body protein and 14% of the total amino acids in skeletal muscle [2]. One of the most important BCAA's is leucine, and estimates of dietary requirements for leucine range from 1-12 g daily [1]. The use of supplemental BCAA's has been researched for a variety of purposes, particularly in the treatment of liver failure and catabolic disease states [3], and also as a means to improve exercise performance.

There is a significant decrease in plasma leucine levels after aerobic, anaerobic, and strength exercise [4]. This is due to increased BCAA metabolism in muscle tissue [5]. Supplementation with leucine or BCAA's in both the short and long term prevents the exercise-induced decline in plasma BCAA's and increases muscle BCAA concentration [4-6]. The BCAA's are the only amino acids that are not readily degraded in the liver. Therefore, an increase in dietary BCAA's will reliably increase their concentration in blood and other tissues. Because BCAA's play important roles in promoting protein synthesis via multiple pathways, increasing their tissue content beyond the required amount may be beneficial, and increased availability of BCAA's will also increase production of other amino acids such as glutamine [1]. This article will review the research on and biochemical mechanisms of BCAA supplementation, particularly as they apply to the athlete.

Leucine & protein synthesis
In skeletal muscle, leucine stimulates protein synthesis through multiple independent mechanisms. The first mechanism is increased insulin secretion [7], and insulin is well known to increase body protein balance. However, leucine still stimulates protein synthesis in concentrations that do not increase insulin in vivo, and mechanisms by which leucine increases protein synthesis other than insulin secretion have been identified [7-9]. By itself, leucine stimulates protein synthesis through the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways, 70-kDa ribosomal protein S6 kinase activity, and enhances eIf4E-binding protein phosphorylation and the association of eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF)4E with eIF4G, effects that have been determined both in vitro and in vivo in humans [9-10]. These effects are directly mediated by leucine, rather than a metabolite, and the specifics of the process are not yet well established [7].

Multiple animal studies have confirmed the importance of leucine in protein synthesis and/or inhibition of protein catabolism. In vitro in rat muscles, leucine alone stimulates protein synthesis as effectively as all amino acids together [10]. Similarly, leucine and a complete meal were equally as effective at stimulating protein synthesis in fasted rats [11]. However, not all studies have yielded the same results, and this is likely due to the fact that other amino acids and factors are required to synthesize protein [9].
Studies have also been carried out in humans at rest, which primarily indicate that BCAA's inhibit protein breakdown under this condition.

In studies with humans restricted to bed rest, BCAA supplementation decreases nitrogen losses when compared with non-essential amino acids [12]. While some studies indicate that BCAA administration decreases protein breakdown but doesn't increase protein synthesis in humans [9], others indicate that they do increase protein synthesis [8]. This is probably due to differences in study conditions. One study indicated that insulin infusion did not increase protein synthesis, but the combination of insulin and BCAA's did [13].

Further research has examined the interaction between exercise, BCAA's, and protein synthesis. Since BCAA concentrations are reduced during exercise, it is postulated that BCAA supplementation before, during, or after exercise may have a strong effect on improving muscle protein balance.

A study in rats found that leucine stimulated muscle protein synthesis postexercise independently of increased plasma insulin [14]. In humans, studies have found increased protein synthesis and/or decreased protein breakdown when BCAA's are administered before, during, and after various types of exercise, although a few studies have not produced positive results [8, 11, 15-16].

Although it is clear that leucine is the most important of the BCAA's in stimulating protein synthesis, leucine supplementation alone is not recommended. This is because this can cause an amino acid imbalance, and although the other two BCAA's are less important, inhibiting them by increasing leucine intake may have negative consequences.

Increasing dietary leucine decreases the concentrations of valine and isoleucine and blood and muscle tissue, and keeping a dietary balance of BCAA's is particularly important when compared with other amino acids [2]. A high amount of dietary leucine in the long-term depresses food intake and growth in various animals [10]. Thus, it is important to get all of the BCAA's together, rather than supplement with leucine alone.

BCAA's & exercise
BCAA's may also have other benefits for the athlete, especially when taken during or pre-workout. First, BCAA's may spare muscle and liver glycogen stores and increase fuel supply. Branched-chain oxo acid dehydrogenase (BCOADH) is the rate limiting step in the catabolism of BCAA's, and is normally inactive. However, exercise increases the activity of this enzyme [5], as does increasing the serum concentration of BCAA's [17]. This catabolism of BCAA results in the release of gluconeogenic precursors such as alanine and glutamine [1, 4, 8]. After being released from muscle, the alanine is used by the liver for gluconeogenesis [1]. In exercised rats, BCAA's increase serum glucose by 2-4 times compared to control [17] and BCAA supplementation increases alanine production during exercise in humans [18]. - Continued
Edited by Ordinary_Chap on Thursday 1st September 14:44

Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
study said:
BCAA's also decreased plasma lactate with chronic supplementation (30 minutes before exercise) to triathletes, presumably by increasing the conversion rate of pyruvate to alanine [5]. In animals, BCAA and carbohydrates increase muscle glycogen concentration to a greater degree than carbohydrates alone [14]. Studies in humans have found that BCAA's have a glycogen sparing effect during exercise, although in some cases it is not statistically significant [8, 18]. However, other studies indicate that BCAA supplementation prior to exercise does not alter plasma glucose [1, 19].

An additional mechanism for improved exercise performance from BCAA's is inhibition of CNS fatigue. This was throroughly discussed in a review by Blomstrand [20]. Exercise causes an increase in serotonin levels, and this is one of the hypothesized mechanisms of CNS fatigue. This is supported by numerous facts, including the fact that some SSRI's have been shown to decrease exercise performance. BCAA's share the same transporter system with tryptophan (the serotonin precursor amino acid), so BCAA supplementation causes competitive inhibition of tryptophan transport to the brain, and this in turn reduces serotonin levels. Exercise increases the tryptophan/BCAA ratio in the bloodstream, and a BCAA supplement may prevent or reverse this. Further, animal studies find that tryptophan administration reduces exercise performance. This means that in theory, BCAA's could increase exercise performance by decreasing buildup of serotonin in the brain. Multiple studies indicate that BCAA supplements successfully change the BCAA/tryptophan plasma ratio, especially during more prolonged exercise [19-22].

Over the years, many studies have been done to determine if BCAA's improve exercise performance in humans, and they have produced varying results. In one crossover study, 13 subjects ingested BCAA or placebo prior to endurance exercise in the heat. The BCAA group cycled 153.1 minutes on average, whereas the placebo group averaged only 137.0 minutes [19]. Another study found that a BCAA supplement given prior to a 42 km marathon improved performance in slower runners, but not in faster ones [23].

In a study on seven male endurance-trained subjects who were glycogen depleted, BCAA's decreased ratings of perceived exertion by 7% and ratings of mental fatigue by 15% during 80 minutes of exercise, but performance was not increased [22]. In two other studies, one on endurance training and the other on high-intensity intermittent running, there was no performance difference between subjects who ingested BCAA's or BCAA's and carbohydrates [1, 21]. In a study on hypocaloric competitive wrestlers, a diet enriched with BCAA's did not improve strength or exercise ability, but the BCAA group lost more body fat [24]. However, two other studies, one in highly trained skiiers and another in patients with type II diabetes, indicate that BCAA's have no effect on body composition [25-26]. At this point, two independent reviews have concluded that the present evidence indicates that BCAA's do not improve endurance performance [27-28]. It would be more accurate to say that they can improve exercise performance under some conditions, but not others, and whether or not they have practical application is debatable.

A final possible benefit of BCAA supplementation is combatting immunosuppression caused by prolonged exercise. Supplementation of BCAA's to competing triathletes and runners increases plasma glutamine concentration, and one study indicates that increased glutamine can decrease the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in endurance athletes [29]. On the other hand, other researchers contest the notion that increasing glutamine concentrations can combat exercise-induced immunosuppression [30].

Are BCAA supplements necessary?
Given the information above, there is significant evidence indicating various benefits of BCAA ingestion for athletes. However, the pertitent issue then becomes whether or not BCAA supplements have any advantage over ingestion of protein and/or carbohydrates, which are both significantly less expensive.

The first issue is whether or not BCAA's are superior to protein in stimulating protein synthesis. One study indicates that there is a decline in plasma leucine over five weeks of training in speed and strength athletes consuming 1.26 g protein per kg bodyweight daily, and that leucine supplementation prevents this decrease [4]. However, this study is only confirming a well known fact, which is that strength athletes need high amounts of dietary protein. Studies indicate that in bodybuilders and strength trainers, the amount of dietary protein needed to maximally stimulate protein synthesis is in the realm of 1.4-1.8 g/kg bodyweight (about .6-.7 g/lb), and also that most of these athletes consume well above this amount [31].

For example, a study in stength athletes compared daily dietary protein intakes of .86 g/kg, 1.40 g/kg, and 2.40 g/kg, and found that whole body protein synthesis was increased in the 1.40 g/kg group compared to the lower group, but not further increased in the 2.40 g/kg group. However, rates of leucine oxidation were much higher in the high protein group [32]. This means that if protein intake is adequate, it is doubtful that BCAA supplementation could further stimulate protein synthesis, as the extra amino acids will just be readily catabolized.

Perhaps even more enlightening is the work of Tipton et al., who conducted studies on the types and quantities of amino acids that increase protein synthesis in humans during and after exercise [33]. They compared 40 grams of mixed amino acids to 40 grams of essential amino acids (containing a much higher quantity of BCAA's) to compare their effectiveness in stimulating protein synthesis postexercise, and the two supplements provided a equivalent increases in protein synthesis. The authors then concluded that "there is a maximum rate of net synthesis attainable during hyperaminoacidemia after exercise," and that 40 grams of mixed amino acids is enough to maximally stimulate protein synthesis postexercise.

Another issue is that BCAA supplements are in the form of free-form amino acids, as opposed to a whole protein source. Supplement companies often claim that free-form amino acids are absorbed in greater quantity, more effectively, and more quickly, but this is contrary to the scientific evidence. In general, studies indicate that protein hydrolysates are utilized most effectively, followed by whole proteins, followed by free form amino acids. Intestinal transporters exist for both peptides and free amino acids, and peptides are absorbed more rapidly [34].

Peptides that are not absorbed via a transporter can be rapidly broken down enzymatically. Although not the best model for human athletes, studies in food-deprived rats being refed consistently find that whey protein hydrolysate leads to much higher degrees of weight gain and nitrogen retention than free form amino acids, with one study indicating that whole protein is in the middle in terms of effectiveness [35-36]. Comparative studies have also been done in humans. In healthy subjects, whole protein, protein hydrolysate, and free amino acids all resulted in similar nitrogen balance [37]. Another study in healthy humans found that a protein hydrolysate was absorbed equally as rapidly as free form aminos [38]. Ideally, a study more specific to the conditions in question would be available, but this research indicates that fast-digesting proteins could be just as or more effective than free form amino acids for use before or during exercise.

Carbohydrates may also provide many of the benefits of BCAA supplementation at a much lower cost. As mentioned above, two studies found that BCAA's and carbohydrates together did not provide a performance advantage over carbohydrates alone. Carbohydrates will obviously have glycogen sparing and glucose increasing properties as BCAA's do. Also, carbohydrate supplementation prevents the increase in tryptophan levels caused by exercise, although they may not be as effective as BCAA's [20]. Finally, carbohydrates also have glutamine-sparing and positive immune effects in athletes [39].


All in all, it would appear that the positive effects of BCAA's on protein synthesis can be achieved by a high protein diet and use of a fast-acting protein prior to and after exercise, and that most of the other possible benefits on exercise performance could be achieved equally as effectively by ingesting simple carbohydrates prior to exercise. If caloric intake must be limited at all costs, or if protein intake is inadequate, BCAA's may be useful in this respect. Also, a unique benefit of reduced CNS fatigue by decreasing tryptophan buildup cannot yet be discounted. Given the other properties of BCAA's described below, the usefulness of BCAA supplements can further be questioned.

Other effects of BCAA's

In addition to the effects on tryptophan levels, BCAA's may have other effects on the CNS, both direct and indirect. A well established property is that BCAA supplements reduce dopamine levels, an effect that occurs in many sample populations including healthy human volunteers (at doses of 10, 30, and 60 g) [40]. There are two possible reasons for this effect. The primary reason is that BCAA's competitively inhibit transport of phenylalanine and tyrosine to the brain (similar to the inhibition of tryptophan) [41]. Secondly, BCAA's also simultaneously lower the plasma levels of key amino acids required for neurotransmitter synthesis.

Ordinary_Chap

7,520 posts

228 months

Thursday 1st September 2011
quotequote all
study said:
This occurs because the BCAA's stimulate protein synthesis, but other amino acids are also required for protein synthesis. This issue does not occur with whole protein sources, which also provide the other amino acids required for protein synthesis. BCAA's also consequently lower levels of norepinephrine [42]. In conditions such as mania and hepatic encephalopathy, this effect of BCAA's can be beneficial [41-42]. However, decreased levels of NE and dopamine are generally not desirable in normal individuals. Functional changes induced in healthy humans by BCAA ingestion so far include impaired spatial memory and elevated plasma prolactin [40-41]. There is also a reference in the literature to BCAA ingestion increasing appetite [43].

BCAA's may also have effects on GABA transmission. When given to rats, BCAA's increase the pain threshold and increase the seizure threshold. This may be because they are used to produce glutamine in the brain, and glutamine is a precursor to GABA, but in all reality the exact mechanisms are far from being identified at this point, as there are many possibilities. [43]


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I'm not suggesting it doesn't work but I am suggesting the evidence of it being better than protein powder is extremely weak.

So in short you need to read more studies before wildly calling people wrong.

P.S. I do have a 6 pack thank you.......


Edited by Ordinary_Chap on Thursday 1st September 20:47