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BCAA Supplementation For Athletes, Part IV!

Glutamine, by itself, is essential for functioning the immune system and cells involved in regeneration...

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BCAA + Glutamine

Last week I left you with the research that showed how using BCAA's can help improve your physical goals in several areas. Although you now know what BCAA's can do as a stand alone supplement, I think it's imperative to also touch on the synergistic combination between BCAA's and Glutamine. While the BCAA's are the most abundant amino acids incorporated into muscle proteins, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream and free inside muscle cells. Glutamine, by itself, is essential for functioning the immune system and cells involved in regeneration and repair and is attributed with many other positive benefits from the healing of the lining of the stomach to it's use as a supplement used to temper alcohol or tobacco cravings.

Much like the BCAA levels, it has been shown that there is a correlation between the concentration of glutamine in the body and the rate of protein synthesis. In other words, glutamine levels are a good marker of anabolic status. When blood levels are high your chances of positive adaptations (muscle and strength) from your training are greater and low levels are a definite marker of overtraining and/or under-nutrition. The synergism between the two (BCAA & Glutamine) exists because, not only do they both induce many of the same anabolic and anti-catabolic effects, but under stressful conditions BCAA's can directly contribute to glutamine stores by serving as donors to the formation of glutamine.


The combination of glutamine and BCAA's has been shown to dramatically improve nitrogen balance and slow down muscle wasting in bone marrow patients, burn patients, and those undergoing major surgery. Amongst athletes a relatively low dose combination of BCAA (3 grams) and glutamine (5 grams) supplemented during training was found to promote a 2-pound greater gain in muscle mass and greater gains in strength versus ingesting whey protein alone. Anecdotal reports indicate some athletes making gains of up to 5 times this number by using optimal (higher) dosages with solid nutrition and training! Although BCAA's and glutamine definitely have plenty of merit as stand alone supplements, the potential benefits when used in combination seem to magnify the results.


To maximize the various anabolic effects of BCAA's and glutamine it is essential that adequate dosages are used. Although dosages as low as 3 grams/day have shown benefit, studies involving BCAA usage show dramatic benefits when using approximately 9 grams per 100 pounds lean bodyweight per day. Further results may be obtained during strenuous training or dieting periods, or for a real anabolic kick, by using BCAA dosages as high as .44 g BCAA per kg of lean bodyweight. To use this formula simply deduct your body fat in pounds from your total weight then divide this number by 2.2 to get kg. Next multiply by .44 g to get the dosage. So a 220 lb individual with 10% body fat would use this formula:

220 lbs (total weight) - 20 lbs (body fat in lbs)= 200 lbs / 2.2= 90.91 kg (weight in kg) X .44g = 40 grams BCAA per day.

For glutamine a minimal dosage for those on a limited budget would be .05 grams per pound of lbw/day. Further results may be seen by using dosages as high as .10 grams to .20 grams per lb of lbw/day. So the same 220 lb 10% body fat individual would consume between 10-40 grams of glutamine per day with the higher numbers most likely used during periods of intense training coupled with severe calorie and carbohydrate restriction.

Protein Creations' BCAA product ICE is incorporated with a synergistic stack that utilizes the BCAA's but also proline for tissue damage, histidine as a vasodilator, and vitamin B6 for additional absorption. It's likely that these additions make ICE a more efficient BCAA product. In other words, it may take less of a dosage to see a dramatic response. Personally, if I were new to using these products, I'd start off with a middle of the road dosage of 9g BCAA per 100 pounds lean bodyweight and .10 grams glutamine per pound of bodyweight. Start off with this and follow the timing guidelines provided next and see what happens!


Perhaps the greatest variation amongst experts in BCAA or Glutamine supplementation is the issue of timing. Depending on who you ask you'll likely get a different opinion. I think everyone agrees that the greatest physical stress occurring to an athlete during his/her daily life is their training sessions and/or sporting events. Since the effect of BCAA and/or glutamine supplementation has been documented to have their greatest benefits during these high stress periods, I think it makes sense that some supplementation should occur prior to one's training session to ensure high levels in the body during this stressful time.

Think of it this way-remember that dietary protein is broken down into amino acids which include BCAA's and glutamine. Also remember that carbohydrates from your meals will help spare the BCAA's and Glutamine in the body. If you're eating well and feeding your body as you should with frequent protein feedings and lead a normal lifestyle than most of the day you should have plenty of BCAA's and glutamine floating around doing what they do best. It is during training when a sudden catabolic stress is placed on your body and you begin to use up your glycogen stores that your BCAA and glutamine stores begin to become compromised.

Glutamic Acid Formula

This is the time when targeted higher levels will deliver their greatest anabolic and anti-catabolic effects. Therefore, for anabolism my recommendations are to first ensure a high level during training by splitting the dosage in half and consuming half 30 minutes prior to or during the beginning of your training session and the other half immediately after. I think for the money you'll obtain the greatest benefit this way. Try this for two weeks and see if you don't notice a substantial difference in recovery, DOMS, fat loss, muscle growth, and energy level during training. Also be sure to fill me in on your results!

Having made my timing recommendation I definitely do believe there is benefit to using these supplements at other times as well if you want to take your dosages higher. During periods of dieting, when overall calorie & carbohydrate intake is lower, supplemental levels of 2-5 grams BCAA and glutamine between meals will help maintain positive nitrogen balance and maintenance of muscle mass. Glutamine also helps between meals as it suppresses sweet and carbohydrate cravings. Yet another point that deserves mention is the effect on growth hormone.

Both BCAA and Glutamine have been shown to independently increase G.H. levels with dosages as low as 3 grams. By using 3-5 grams of each in between meals and an additional 5-10 grams glutamine before bed, athletes-especially those over the age of 30-may benefit by increased levels of GH. This in turn may lead to less body fat, greater energy and increased recovery from training.

So there you have it! I hope all you readers have enjoyed this series of articles and are having fun applying the science. Along with ball-busting efforts in the gym I'm sure everyone will appreciate the effects these supplements will have on your goals. So go have some fun with your newfound knowledge and make sure to eat and supplement well! Feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have. Look forward to hearing from you!

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