Do BCAAs Work in Building Muscle?

Hi James,

I was just reading the Email page on your site where you mention you will accept questions and answer them on your blog. This is really cool of you, and I have a question that's been bugging me for some time.

I work for a supplements retailer in the UK called Bodyfuel. I see a lot of athletes come and go and a lot of different opinions. One particular query has been coming up recently and no-one seems to know the answer. It relates to BCAAs. They seem to be the latest thing and very popular, but my question is this: Is it enough to take just BCAAs, or are other supplements also required?

As I understand it, BCAAs help my body use fat as energy and convert this to muscle, so with a good diet, I shouldn't need anything else to get lean and muscular. Would you agree with this, or do you have a different opinion?

Best regards,

My Answer: Why do I get the feeling you're just trying to promote your supplement website, Thomas? ;)  I personally have never gotten anything out of BCAAs, and I don't know anybody who's gotten results from just BCAAs.  Now BCAAs are found in protein powders, and protein powders are certainly helpful in building muscle.

BCAAs by themselves really don't do much to transform your physique.  You would have to ingest a lot of pills just to get some kind of effect, and even then the effect on your physique would be negligible.  I'd rather invest in a protein powder that doesn't have artificial sweeteners.

It depends on what your goals are.  If you're fat and trying to lean up, then your supplement protocol would be different from a guy who's naturally skinny and trying to gain weight.  If you're fat, then your main supplement would be a fat burner.  If you skinny, then your main supplement would be a post workout shake.

Q: How much should I be moving up in weight per set? Should I be lifting Medium or Heavy weight? I'm not seeing anything regarding weight in this blog post

My Answer: For the first set, use a weight based on your 10 rep max.  Add weight with each set as the reps get lower.  How much you increase the weight depends on the exercise, as smaller muscle groups require smaller increases while larger muscle groups require larger increases. But if you want to play it safe, then use the smallest incremental increases. So if your gym has 1.25 pound plates and 2.5 pound plates, then take advantage of them. Over time, those small increments of weight will add up, and you'll be hitting new maximums.


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