Part 1 | Part 2
As was brought to light in the first BCAA article of this series, supplementing with BCAA alone will deliver results, but we want more! We want enhanced results. I will list a couple supplements that can be combined with BCAA in order to produce a synergistic effect on performance and growth.
If you remember from Part I, protein synthesis is in part controlled by mTOR, which senses ATP and amino acids levels, specifically leucine levels. mTOR is activated when BCAA are abundant and is also activated when ATP levels are high. BCAA and ATP activate mTOR through separate mechanisms.
Quoting From BCAA Part I
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"The Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) is one of the body's protein synthesis regulators. mTOR functions as an energy sensor; it is activated when ATP levels are high and blocked when ATP levels are decreased (AMPK is activated when ATP decreases, which works antagonistically to mTOR)."
"The main energy-consuming process in the cell is protein synthesis. When mTOR is activated (high ATP levels sensed) protein synthesis is increased and when mTOR is suppressed (low ATP levels are sensed) protein synthesis is blunted."
"MTOR activation is vital for skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Interestingly, mTOR is also a nutrient sensor of amino acid availability, specifically of leucine availability. Research has shown that regulation of mTOR by ATP and amino acids act independently through separate mechanisms (Dennis et al., 2001)."
It is my belief that combining supplements that increase/elevate ATP levels with BCAA will lead to an increased activation of mTOR, and therefore protein synthesis.
Our goal is to keep ATP levels elevated while working out. To do so, we must supply the needed nutrients and substrates before and after the workout to keep ATP levels elevated and our bodies primed for growth.
Obviously a proper diet is the most crucial factor when it comes to keeping ATP levels high and delivering the nutrients needed to grow. Supplementing with additional BCAA and the supplements I mention below are the "icing on the cake" of a proper diet, and we all know a cake with icing tastes much better than a plain cake.
Creatine is used in the high-energy phosphate or ATP-PCr system to regenerate ATP. ATP, the body's main source of energy, is a molecule of adenosine (adenine + the sugar ribose) linked to three phosphate molecules by high-energy bonds. Breaking of the two outer bonds results in the release of energy.
When the most outer bond is broken, the energy is released and ADP and Pi are left behind. Creatine, which is bonded to a phosphate ion, transfers energy to the ADP and Pi molecule by breaking its own bond. This regenerates the ATP molecule, which means one now has more energy to use.
Skeletal muscle has a limited storage of creatine. Therefore supplementing with creatine increases your ability to form ATP and therefore increases the available energy for exercise (Casey et al. 1996 & 2000). More importantly to our topic on hand, by keeping ATP levels by supplementing with creatine we increase protein synthesis through mTOR activation.
Citrulline malate (CM) is the non-essential amino acid citrulline bonded to malate, a TCA intermediate. A study done by Bendahan et al. (2002) reported (supplementing with 6 grams of citrulline malate a day):
"CM ingestion resulted in a significant reduction in the sensation of fatigue, a 34% increase in the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise, and a 20% increase in the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise, indicating a larger contribution of oxidative ATP synthesis to energy production."
Supplementing with CM leads to increased ATP production, and as stressed, higher ATP levels equates to mTOR activation and an increase in protein synthesis.
My Recent Experience With "Mega-Dosing" BCAA
I have been using BCAA for the past three years. I have used large amounts of BCAA in the past, but never really contributed my results to the BCAA, though now I realize they played a big part in my results.
Recently I began using large quantities of BCAA as part of a self-experiment and my results have been very impressive. I began "mega-dosing" BCAA in March using Scivation's Xtend as my source of BCAA. Xtend also contains citrulline malate (and glutamine), which as stated above, should work hand-to-hand with BCAA and increasing protein synthesis by elevating ATP levels.
In order to really put Xtend to the test, I decreased my protein intake by 50 grams (200 calories) and replaced that with 50 grams of BCAA. I did this because if I would have just added 50 grams of BCAA, I would be adding 200 more calories to my diet, which should cause a change in lean mass on its own. Here are the results of my month long Xtend "mega-dosing" experiment:
Mega-Dosing Experiment Results
The large jump in lean mass during the first week was due to a large increase in intracellar hydration (at least that is how I explain such a large increase), which I would credit to the BCAA's ability to increase glycogen synthase (the enzyme that catalyzes muscle glycogen storage) activity, which leads to an increase in muscle glycogen and therefore intracellular water.
I also noticed an increase in muscle "fullness" and vascularity during the first week, which would support my theory of increase muscle glycogen and intracellular water storage.
Along with my large increase in lean mass (7 pounds in 4 weeks), I also lost three pounds of fat while bulking. This is most likely due to the BCAA's ability to increase glucose uptake into skeletal muscle, increased leptin expression, and decreased fatty acid synthase (the enzyme responsible for committed fat storage) in adipocytes (Taylor, 1975).
My results from this experiment were what prompted me to write my BCAA Part I article and lead me to continue using large amounts of BCAA.
BCAA Dosing and Timing
While one will see results using less BCAA than I am going to suggest below, I am suggesting the amount of BCAA (and citrulline malate/creatine) I think one should use to obtain optimal results.
If One Is Using BCAA Alone, I Would Suggest:
Breakfast: 10 grams
Pre-Workout: 10 grams
During Workout: 10 grams
Post Workout: 10 grams
Bedtime: 10 grams
Total: 50 grams/day
If one wanted to incorporate citrulline malate and creatine along with BCAA, I would suggest the following (I am using Scivation's Xtend in my example because it already contains 1 gram of citrulline malate per serving and tastes very good).
Breakfast: 1 serving Xtend
Pre-Workout: 1 serving Xtend & 3-5 grams Creatine
During Workout: 2 serving Xtend
Post Workout: 1 serving Xtend & 3-5 grams Creatine
Bedtime: 1 serving Xtend
Total: 50 grams BCAA, 6 grams Citrulline Malate (the recommended dosage), 6-10 grams Creatine Monohydrate. (You can use a newer creatine, such as CEE, if you would like)
Supplementing with BCAA during these times will create a steady activation of mTOR and deliver BCAA when you need them most: first thing in the morning after going 8 hours with no food, around your workout where the BCAA can be used for energy production, to spare amino acids from skeletal muscle, and increase protein synthesis, and before bed when it is time to recover from a hard days work.
I truly believe BCAAs are worth every penny you pay for them (Just a quick FYI, unflavored BCAA taste like garbage, so I highly recommend getting some flavored BCAA if you do plan on supplementing with them). The results I've experienced first hand, the results other athletes are experiencing, and the available scientific research all suggest BCAA are a wise investment.
Part 1 | Part 2
- Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, Confort-Gouny S, Le Guern ME, Cozzone PJ. (2002). Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. Br J Sports Med. Aug; 36(4):282-9.
- Casey, A, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Howell S, Hultman E, Greenhaff PL. (1996) Creatine ingestion favorably affects performance and muscle metabolism during maximal exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. Jul;271:E31-7.
- Casey A, Greenhaff PL. (2000).Does dietary creatine supplementation play a role in skeletal muscle metabolism and performance?Am J Clin Nutr. Aug;72(2 Suppl):607S-17S. Review.
- Dennis, PB. Jaescke, A., Saitoh, M., Fowler, B., Kozma, SC., Thomas, G. (2001). Mammalian TOR: A homeostatic ATP sensor. Science. 294: 1102-1105.
- Taylor WM, Halperin ML. Effect of valine on the control of fatty acid synthesis in white adipose tissue of the rat. Can J Biochem. 1975 Oct;53(10):1054-60.