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“What Are The Best BCAA Food Sources?”

Ask The Macro Manager
Mike Roussell, Ph.D.

Ask The Macro Manager: What Are The Best BCAA Food Sources?

BCAAs were crucial nutrition for humans long before they were a supplement. Here's how some popular protein sources stack up in amino content!
Q

I like BCAA supplements, but I know that essential aminos are also found in many foods. What are the best dietary sources of BCAAs?

Branched-chain amino acid supplements are extremely popular for boosting protein synthesis during and after training sessions, in addition to providing a convenient between-meal spike in the muscle-building amino leucine. However, with the explosion in popularity of BCAA supplementation, the role of whole food sources of BCAAs is often overlooked.

Chewing and swallowing your aminos will never be as easy as simply mixing a powder in water. On the other hand, man cannot and should not live on supplements alone. If you're looking to up your diet's anabolic and recovery-aiding potential, check out this breakdown of the BCAA content in some popular protein sources:

Popular Food Bcaa Content

Food Serving Protein BCAAs Leucine Isoleucine Valine BCAA Leucine
(per g of protein)
Chicken Breast 6oz 36g 6.6g 2.9g 1.8g 1.9g 0.18 0.08
95% lean beef 6oz 36g 6.2g 2.8g 1.6g 1.8g 0.17 0.08
Canned Tuna 6oz 33g 5.6g 2.5g 1.5g 1.6g 0.17 0.08
Wild Salmon 6oz 34g 5.9g 2.7g 1.5g 1.7g 0.17 0.08
Flank Steak 6oz 36g 6.2g 2.8g 1.6g 1.8g 0.17 0.08
Talapia 6oz 34g 5.9g 2.7g 1.6g 1.6g 0.17 0.08
Turkey Breast 6oz 40g 5.2g 2.8g 1.1g 1.3g 0.13 0.07
Egg 1 6.3g 1.3g 0.54g 0.3g 0.4g 0.21 0.09
Egg White 1 3.6g 0.8g 0.3g 0.2g 0.3g 0.23 0.09
Roasted Peanuts 6oz 12g 6.8g 3.1g 1.7g 2g 0.14 0.07

This table reveals some interesting information about the BCAA content of popular foods. For example, turkey breast provides more total protein than any of the other proteins per ounce—not including eggs and egg whites, which aren't usually measured in ounces—but the smallest amount of total BCAAs. By comparison, a 6 oz serving of dry-roasted peanuts packs more leucine and total BCAAs than any of the meat sources, but not nearly as much protein.

To minimize confusion and level the playing field a bit, I included the right two columns, which allow for better comparisons from one protein source to the next. Note that per gram of protein, eggs and egg whites provide the highest levels of BCAAs. Eggs again are also marginally superior when it comes to leucine content. This should be of interest to you because leucine is the main driver of muscle protein synthesis. That said, the amount of leucine is very similar per gram of total protein in all of the foods.

Which Should I Choose?

Any of the foods listed above are good sources of BCAAs. Research shows that 3 grams is the approximate amount of leucine needed at a given meal to maximize muscle protein synthesis, so 6 oz of any of these meats is on the low side of what you would want to consume at a meal.

If you can stomach them, six whole eggs or nine egg whites would allow you to hit the 3 gram leucine target. On the other hand, 6 oz of peanuts may not sound like a lot, but a handful is approximately 1 oz, give or take, so 6 oz is definitely a hefty portion.

The next step for you is to look at your meal plans, calorie intake, and macro breakdowns to see if you are consuming enough of these foods per meal in order to get 3 grams of leucine per meal. If not, and you can't increase your servings of these protein foods due to calorie or macro restrictions, then consider upping your intake through BCAA supplementation.


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About The Author

Author, speaker, and nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical habits...

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paper-guy

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paper-guy

great article

Feb 22, 2013 6:19pm | report
 
randyortan

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randyortan

Feb 26, 2013 5:43pm | report
sinclairsinclai

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sinclairsinclai

nice information... Thanks

Feb 22, 2013 6:35pm | report
 
mrdinklemin

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mrdinklemin

Awesome article! What are macros?

Feb 22, 2013 9:02pm | report
 
JoeZero

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JoeZero

protein, carbs and fat

Feb 22, 2013 9:53pm | report
PauloTauren

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PauloTauren

Macros are the set of the three nutrients we ingest the most in our daily nutrition, which would be Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat.

Feb 23, 2013 10:39am | report
Adrian77

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Adrian77

sinclairsinclai- Someone needs to crack down on these spammers posting comments. It's beyond a joke now.

Feb 22, 2013 9:46pm | report
 
lhxs

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lhxs

Agreed! Every other site, even the small ones seem to have cracked it, can't be that tough for a multi million pound site!

Feb 23, 2013 2:04am | report
Killshot1

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Killshot1

dat feel when spammerz rep power say 10, IN THE GREEN

Feb 23, 2013 1:33pm | report
Nath35

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Nath35

Great article. Still amazes me how people get so hung up on which supplements to use when they really just need to start with getting their macros right.

Feb 22, 2013 11:01pm | report
 
Zoso1116

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Zoso1116

Agreed. Supplements are just that - supplements. If your diet isn't right, supplements aren't going to save you...not to the extent people think they will at least.

Feb 23, 2013 8:50am | report
TonedJordan

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TonedJordan

Yeah unless you do any of Gregg Plitts workouts LOL

Feb 26, 2013 7:35am | report
homesteader1080

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homesteader1080

Nath,
How does one go about finding info in order to get these right and to do the right nutrition???

Feb 26, 2013 7:39pm | report
justindcyr

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justindcyr

Very informative... THANKS!

Feb 23, 2013 2:53am | report
 
justin999

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justin999

1 whole egg and 1 egg white has 0.09g of Leucine so you would need at least 30 whole eggs or egg whites to get 3g of leucine not the 6 eggs or 9 whites as suggested. Sorry not trying to be negative, or maybe i screwed up and missed something, great article all the same :)

Feb 23, 2013 10:50am | report
 
Shifisu

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Shifisu

It says per gram of protein. An whole egg and/or an egg white is not 1gram protein. You should check the total Leucine content of an egg/eggwhite to the left.

The information in the article is correct ^_^

Feb 23, 2013 11:13am | report
justin999

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justin999

Cool thanks for that, i was reading the wrong column, thought i was going mad, lol :)

Feb 23, 2013 2:33pm | report
Nirmal1991USA

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Nirmal1991USA

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

Feb 23, 2013 11:06am | report
 
RippedRico69

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RippedRico69

I just eat some eggs lol

Article Rated:
Feb 23, 2013 12:28pm | report
 
Busydad518

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Busydad518

Great read, definitely learned a few things.

Feb 23, 2013 2:59pm | report
 
Michaelw021

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Michaelw021

Just ate six eggs.... I don't really feel like eating anything else lol

Feb 23, 2013 6:29pm | report
 
Derpbag

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Derpbag

Really good, thanks

Feb 23, 2013 8:49pm | report
 
frenchie1981

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frenchie1981

Thanks for this great article

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Feb 24, 2013 10:01am | report
 
turkinuae

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turkinuae

thanks!!!very informative!!!

Feb 24, 2013 10:34am | report
 
V3x

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V3x

Nice info.

Feb 24, 2013 10:55am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 55 Comments

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