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Why the BCAA Supplement is Overrated

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Why the BCAA Supplement is Overrated

The BCAA supplement is one of the most popular in the bodybuilding industry, but it’s also one of the most overrated. Here’s why.

 

You know that gallon of pink liquid all the hardcore bodybuilders lug around at the gym? Chances are it’s a cocktail of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and that they’ll swear by its muscle-building powers.

If you listen to the hype, the BCAA supplement is as fundamentally useful as whey protein and as powerful as creatine in its ability to help you build muscle and strength (or even moreso if you listen to some companies).

But, as is the case with many supplements, you’re not being told the whole story. Simply put, while BCAAs do have a valid use (which we’ll talk about), they’re not nearly as effective as they’re sold to be.

In this article, we’ll break down why. But let’s start at the beginning: what exactly are BCAAs, anyway?

What Are BCAAs?

BCAA Supplement

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short, are a group of three essential amino acids (amino acids that your body must get from your diet):

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Leucine is the star of the trio, as it directly stimulates protein synthesis via the activation of an enzyme responsible for cell growth known as the mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR.

Isoleucine is number two on the list, as it improves glucose metabolism and increases glucose uptake in the muscles.

Valine is a distant third as it doesn’t seem to do much of anything when compared to leucine and isoleucine.

You find high amounts of these amino acids in quality proteins such as meat, eggs and dairy products, with whey protein isolate being particularly high.

If that’s the case, then, are there benefits to using BCAA supplements in addition to eating such high-quality proteins? Is it worth the extra expense?

The BCAA Supplement’s (Supposed) Benefits

bcaa dosage

If I wanted to sell you a BCAA supplement, it wouldn’t be too hard. I could cite a variety of scientifically validated benefits, such as…

Basically, I could just tell the same story that just about every supplement company selling BCAAs tells, and it would be hard to refute at first glance.

But there are two very important points you’re not told about BCAA research:

1. Research commonly cited that demonstrates muscle-related benefits of BCAA supplementation was done with subjects that didn’t eat enough protein.

For example, this study is one of the poster boys for selling BCAAs. It examined the effects of BCAA supplementation on a group of wrestlers in a calorie deficit. After three weeks, the supplement group, who ingested an additional 52 grams of BCAAs per day preserved more muscle and lost a bit more fat than the control group (who didn’t supplement at all).

Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, what you won’t hear is that subjects, whose average weight was about 150 pounds, were eating a paltry ~80 grams of protein per day. If we look at research on the protein needs of athletes in a calorie restriction, we learn that they should have been eating double that amount of protein to preserve lean mass.

So all that study really tells us is if we feel like eating half the amount of protein we should be eating, a BCAA supplement can help mitigate the damage. Not too exciting.

Other studies that demonstrate various muscle-related benefits of BCAA supplementation have promising abstracts, but are almost always hampered by lack of dietary control and/or low protein intake, and in almost all cases, subjects are training fasted, which is a very important point we’ll talk more about in a minute.

2. You can simply get your BCAAs from food instead, and this is cheaper and far more satisfying. 

Research that demonstrates the anabolic effects of BCAA supplementation before, during, and after exercise is often used to sell the powders. But this misses the forest for the trees.

What such research tells us is that acutely raising BCAA levels (and leucine in particular) before and after exercise helps us build more muscle. There is no evidence that doing it through the ingestion of a BCAA supplement is more effective than food, however.

In fact, there’s research to the contrary: food, and whey protein specifically, may be even more effective than amino acid drinks.

This is why I recommend you eat 30 to 40 grams of protein before and after working out, and why I use whey protein for these meals. It’s cheaper than BCAA powders, tastes better, and is more effective.

So that’s how things currently look when we strip away the hype and marketing angles. But before I move onto one legitimate use for BCAAs, I want to address a question that may have occurred to you:

Isn’t there a study that has resistance-trained subjects lift weights and supplement with BCAAs while also on a high-protein diet? I wish, because that would lend great insight into the controversy.

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All we currently have is an unpublished study paid for by Scivation–the creator of the popular Xtend BCAA supplement–and headed up by Jim Stoppani, that…cough..demonstrated?…some remarkable results:

Daily intra-workout BCAA supplementation was twice as effective as intra-workout whey protein supplementation, and resulted in a whopping 9 lbs of muscle growth and 2% reduction in body fat in just 8 weeks…in strength-trained men with at least two years of weightlifting experience…who were eating 2.2 – 2.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight…and were in a calorie surplus according to Harris Benedict

Wait…what? If I take BCAAs–no sorry, not just any BCAAs but Xtend–while I work out I can be in a calorie surplus and achieve steroid-level muscle growth and get leaner? Wow! Take all my moniez Scivation!

Not. Color me skeptical here. To quote Alan Aragon in his monthly research review:

“The skeptic in me is tempted to chalk up some of the results to not just funding source (Scivation), but also the longstanding friendship [my link] between Jim Stoppani and the Scivation staff. The fact is, there’s no way to quantify the degree of commercial bias inherent in this trial – or any other for that matter.”

Okay then, so BCAAs don’t look to be nearly as exciting as the supplement companies say. They do, however, have one scientifically validated, legitimate use…

Want a workout program and flexible diet plan that will help you build muscle and get strong? Download my free no-BS “crash course” now and learn exactly how to build the body of your dreams.

When You Should Consider Using a BCAA Supplement

when to take bcaa

If you were on the fence about buying a BCAA supplement for general use, you’re probably off it now. It turns out, however, that this supplement does one scientifically supported use, and it relates to fasted training.

People usually think “fasted training” means “training on an empty stomach,” but it’s a bit different. Fasted training means training in a “fasted state,” and this has to do with insulin levels in your blood.

You see, when you eat food, it gets broken down into various molecules that your cells can use, and these molecules are released into your blood. Insulin is released as well, and its job is to shuttle these molecules into cells.

Now, depending on how much you eat, your plasma (blood) insulin levels can remain elevated for several hours (anywhere from 3 – 6+). Why is this important? Because insulin blocks lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells in the body).

mikead2-900x900

When your body is in this “fed” state–when its insulin levels are elevated and its absorbing nutrients you’ve eaten–little-to-no fat burning occurs.

Your body enters a “fasted” state when it has finished absorbing all nutrients from the food you’ve eaten and insulin levels return to their normal, low “baseline” levels.

When you exercise your body in this state, fat loss is accelerated (and weighlifting in a fasted state is particularly effective).

So, as you can see, just feeling like you have an “empty stomach” doesn’t necessarily mean your insulin levels have returned to baseline.

The easiest way to work fasted training into your routine is to work out first thing in the morning, before you eat breakfast. This has an added benefit, as well: fasting for longer than 6 hours increases your body’s ability to burn fat.

There is a downside to fasted training, however, and this is where we get to BCAAs.

When you exercise in a fasted state, muscle breakdown is increased and this is bad simply because too much muscle breakdown impairs total muscle growth over time.

You can prevent this with proper supplementation, however.

As BCAAs include leucine, and as leucine suppresses muscle breakdown, a BCAA supplement is useful for preserving muscle while training in a fasted state.

And in case you’re wondering why you can’t just use food, remember that food will spike your insulin levels and you will no longer be in a fasted state. In fact, whey protein is more insulinogenic than white bread.

BCAAs, on the other hand, have a smaller impact on insulin levels than food, which allows you to remain in a fasted state while you train. This is why many people “in the know” supplement with them before fasted exercise.

While BCAAs are good for preserving muscle, they have two significant drawbacks:

1. You’re paying for three amino acids but leucine is the only one of the trio that effectively suppresses muscle protein breakdown.

You could save money and achieve the same results by buying pure leucine instead (but be warned–leucine tastes really, really bad).

2. Most BCAA supplements are comprised of 2 to 3 parts leucine and 1 part isoleucine and valine, which means you need to take quite a bit (about 10 grams) every time

You need 3 to 5 grams of leucine to effectively counteract the muscle loss that results from fasted exercise, which means you burn through bottles of BCAAs fairly quickly if you’re training fasted 5 to 7 days per week.

Thus, I’m not particularly excited about using BCAAs for fasted training. You just don’t get much “bang for your buck,” so to speak.

Fortunately, there’s a better alternative…

Why β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB) Is Better Than BCAAs

best bcaa supplement

β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (also known as HMB) is a substance formed when your body metabolizes the amino acid leucine, which is an amino acid that directly stimulates protein synthesis.

HMB is often sold as a muscle-building aid but the research purported to demonstrate these benefits is shaky at best, hindered most by design flaws. Thus, I’m not comfortable making anyclaims about muscle growth.

There is one benefit of HMB that’s well established, however: it’s an extremely effective anti-catabolic agent.

That is, it’s very good at preventing muscle breakdown, which means you will recover faster from your workouts and experience less muscle soreness (and the free acid form shows the most promise in this regard).

It also has no effect whatsoever on insulin levels, which means it can’t break your fasted state.

This makes HMB perfect for use with fasted training. Its powerful anti-catabolic effects and non-existent insulin effects means you reap all the fat loss benefits of training fasted without any of the problems relating to muscle loss or insulin secretion.

It’s also worth noting that HMB is superior to leucine in suppressing muscle breakdown because it’s more anti-catabolic than its “parent” amino acid.

This means it’s also more effective than branched-chain amino acid supplements because they rely on leucine for their anti-catabolic effects (isoleucine and valine are very weak in this regard).

The Supplement I Use Instead of BCAAs

In the spirit of full disclosure, I want you to know that the following supplement that I recommend below isn’t just what I personally use but it’s from my supplement line, LEGION.

As you probably know, the supplement industry is notorious for its lies and shenanigans. The truth is the majority of the supplements you see in the magazines and on the shelves aren’t going to help you reach your goals faster.

That’s why I decided to create the products I myself have always wanted: science-based formulations, clinically effective dosages of all ingredients, no fillers or unnecessary junk, and natural sweetening and flavoring.

You can learn more about LEGION and my goal to change the supplement industry for the better here.

And if you like what you see and decide to support my work…you’re awesome. 🙂 It’s because of people like you that I get to spend my time writing articles like this that help others get into the best shape of their lives.

Anyway, on to the supplement, which is called FORGE.

FORGE is a fat burner made specifically for use with fasted training and it contains clinically effective dosages of…

  • HMB. As you now know, HMB is very good at preventing muscle breakdown, and this means you will recover faster from your workouts and experience less muscle soreness.
  • Yohimbine. Research shows that yohimbine enables your body to reduce fat stores faster, and it’s particularly useful as you get leaner and are battling with stubborn fat holdouts.
  • Citicoline. CDP-choline (also known as citicoline) is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain that increases levels of another chemical called phosphatidylcholine, which is vital for brain function.

Research shows that supplementation with CDP-choline improves attentional focus, and I included this in FORGE because most people find fasted training more mentally draining than fed training and CDP-choline can help counteract this.

The bottom line is FORGE helps you lose fat–and “stubborn” fat in particular–faster, preserve muscle, and maintain training intensity and mental sharpness.

forge-bottle1

The Bottom Line on BCAAs

best bcaa product

BCAA supplements are big moneymakers but they just don’t live up to the hype.

mikead3-900x900

If you eat enough protein every day, and if you eat protein before and after you train, you have no reason to add BCAAs to your monthly supplement bill (unless you just like tasty water).

If you train fasted, however, BCAAs can help mitigate the increased muscle breakdown rates, but HMB does a better job and is more cost effective.

 

What do you think about BCAAs? Have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!

How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

I've also learned a lot about what DOES work, and I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to build the body you've always wanted.

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  • Jake

    Another great article!
    I’m starting my rest week of phase 3 today, half through the year one challenge!

    I did 20 minutes of HIIT hill sprints this morning. First I took 5g of BCAAs and a scoop of ON Pre ( just using it up so I can by some of your brand).

    I’m trying to stick to a 16/8 fast as I’m also cutting. Had 2 cups of coffee with a packet of stevia after running.

    Unfortunately due to my schedule I can’t hit the gym in a fasted state for weight training. Is having a smaller meal at noon and then lifting at 4 somewhat of an effective routine?

    Thanks Mike.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Great job man!

      Cool on the fasted training. I recommend 10 g so you can get 3-5 g leucine.

      The coffee and stevia is fine (one packet isn’t going to raise insulin levels enough to matter).

      Yes, that’s effective IF your lunch is basically just protein. Maybe you could get away with some veggies but to be safe, I would do protein only if you want to be fasted by 4 pm.

  • Alexa White

    I just started up a routine again, with emphasis on fat loss and strength training. BCAAs were suggested to me as an optional supplement. I take them 30 minutes before and right after the workout, and am lifting in a fasted state. I can’t speak much to fat loss or muscle growth yet (this is only my second week back at it), but I have noticed a HUGE difference in DOMS. Normally when I take up lifting again, I blow through the first workout, and then am sore for a week, and my desire to work out again disappears quickly. But since adding BCAAs to my routine, my soreness is significantly decreased in both duration and amount. Being only slightly sore the next day versus hardly being able to move without my muscles screaming for several days has really helped. And I’m lifting as much now as I did at the end of my last spurt of lifting a few months ago, I’m not easing back into it. Regardless of any other benefits, I would use it for the reduction in DOMS alone. It’s really helped me stay on track and not dread waking up early to lift again.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup this is because you’re training fasted. If you replaced the BCAAs with food or whey protein, they too would help with DOMS (but would also break the fasted state, hence the BCAA use).

  • Ketan

    A very good article! Another myth! I don’t have access to those popular BCAAs. While you say that its not as effective as its made/sold to be! I don’t think its worth spending for those popular BCAAs! Any natural food do you suggest that can be used as alternate, again if it has more than a few calories then its defeating the purpose of fasted training! or considering whey has good AA profile, can that be used?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Honestly any high-quality form of protein is suitable. Meat, dairy, eggs, etc.

  • Zack_Leman

    What are your thoughts on collagen protein as a daily supplement for muscle growth? It is not really a complete protein as it is mainly glycine rich, but that fact makes it a beneficial supplement for other reasons (balancing methionine rich animal proteins).

    • Michael Matthews

      I haven’t looked into it actually. Not sure if it provides any special benefits.

  • Serge

    Hello, Mike! I recently purchased your Whey+ and Pulse and must tell you that these products are the BEST! I like the Whey+ since it doesn’t contain any junk – I had in the past many other brands with chocolate flavor but none of them are close to whey+.

    Anyway, today I tried a Pulse for the first time. My current workouts for the last 2 months are Insanity (HIIT). Last two weeks I do MAX workouts (45-60 minutes). I usually do them the first thing in the morning (at 5AM), which means in your terms as “fasted state” (since my last meal was about 8PM last evening, i.e. more than 9 hours). Before I purchased a Pulse, I had (a) a cup of black coffee to wake me up and (b) 10g of BCAA (MRM Reload, the one you recommend). Anyway, each time I do the workout I was tired after 15-20 minutes after beginning and usually finish these workouts kind of “sloppy” (frequent breaks, intensity wasn’t enough). But today, boy – I had a blast. Since it was my first time trying Pulse, I had only one scoop as suggested. After few minutes I felt some strange symptoms – I felt kind of dizzy. But in few minutes it was gone. But, when I started my 60 minutes of HIIT training – I did feel great, I wasn’t tired at all, I was able to jump at full intensity. Only after 45 minutes of workout, my legs were a little bit tired. So, I am very satisfied!

    I have one question for you. On this MRM BCAA (the one your recommend), the label says this supplement is for post-recovery. Since I don’t have your Recharge (it is out of stock), would it be OK to drink BCAA after workout? Currently, I drink a protein shake after workout (whey+/mike’s-mix-whey-protein(all natural,unfavored) + banana+strawberries).

    Also, any plans to release Whey+ with other flavors or even unflavored? I guess, that chocolate flavor doesn’t mix well (in terms of taste) with fruits.

    Thanks!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Serge! I really appreciate it!

      Great with Pulse! It is REALLY good for endurance exercise, not just weightlifting. Regarding the dizziness, let me know if that continues. There’s nothing in Pulse that should cause that but keep me posted.

      Also don’t forget to do your leucine or BCAAs with Pulse as you still need to prevent the excessive muscle loss.

      Yeah they say it’s a post-workout product but it’s really not, haha.

      Yes, more flavors to come! Vanilla is next! 🙂

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      Could I ask a small favor? Would you mind writing a short blurb on the Legion products on my website, and copy and pasting those blurbs as Amazon reviews? It seriously helps with word of mouth, as you can imagine.

      If you’re cool with that, here are the product pages:

      WHEY+:

      http://www.legionsupplements.com/products/supplements/whey/#testimonials

      https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review?ie=UTF8&asin=B00ESM6OEM&channel=reviews-product&nodeID=&ref_=cm_cr_pr_wr_but_top

      PULSE:

      http://www.legionsupplements.com/products/supplements/pulse/#testimonials

      https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review?ie=UTF8&asin=B00F46JJGG&channel=reviews-product&nodeID=&ref_=cm_cr_pr_wr_but_top

      Again, if you wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to do that, I’d owe you big time! 🙂

      • Serge

        Hi Mike,

        I posted my reviews on both Legion’s website and Amazon.

        Am I getting this right, that I should first drink BCAA and Pulse after that?

        After 4 days of taking Pulse, I don’t fee any dizziness, and I’m really enjoying my workouts. No suffering anymore.

        Are you planning to sell your supplements on BodyBuilding.com? I had to return most of the supplements I purchased there (because of junk fillers in them) and ended up with BB credit.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks so much! Really glad you’re rolling on Pulse.

          Yeah BCAAs and Pulse before your workouts. Order doesn’t matter. Mix together if you want.

          Yes I’m planning on getting that set up later this year!

  • Ori Carmely

    Very well said Mike! My personal takeaway with BCAA’s is that they’ve only provided me a benefit while drinking them intra-workout and being in a calorie deficit. Other than that, I haven’t noticed any considerable differences when eating at maintenance/surplus.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah, they’re good for that.

  • Dan

    Hey Mike I have a question, if I’m going to fast for lets say 16 hours long, and I’m also going to workout in that 16 hours, when should I drink the BCAAs? 10-15 min before workout?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, 10-15 min before is good.

  • Cameron

    Nice article Mike, very informative. Hey I was really wondering when/if you would be releasing your follow up book to bls I seen you mention about it a few times but that was a few months ago.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yessir, the book launch will be starting very soon!

      • Elt31987

        Darn, just bought BLS a couple days ago

        • Michael Matthews

          That’s okay. The next book is a sequel to it. No overlap in content.

  • Dan Watkinson

    Hi Mike. Have been training fasted for a few weeks but taking high BCAA profile whey protein pre and post workout but probably need to add some to my supplement routine. Can you tell me if taking the recommended 10g pre workout in tablet form would be as effective as powder or if better to to split dosage up?

    • Michael Matthews

      If you take whey before you train you’re no longer fasted. I’d do powder, and 10 g before training.

  • Shamir Alvis

    Hey Mike, the research you showed for increase muscle breakdown during fasted training (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12750588) said that there was no affect of the exercise at 60 mins after training but rather at 195mins. So assuming a person consumes his/her shake within the next hour of a training session, would I be right to assume there is no evidence that BCAAs would be of benefit pre/post workout (especially considering some bcaas are in most whey shakes). Also is there any research of fasted subjects who actually took bcaas?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! Check out this paper:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17374665

      The introduction and discussion give a great breakdown of the protein turnover issues related to fasted training.

      • Shamir Alvis

        Thanks for always replying Mike. I can’t see any significant difference between the fasted and fed groups in that paper.

        Admittedly I dont understand the significance of leucine turnover (what is that) and protein breakdown (i assume of muscle because the fasted ones haven’t ingested any) and leucine disposal (what?). The numbers are all similar though. I’ve only done 8 months of Medicine and my biochem isn’t great 😛 Teach me enough so I can understand this article please 🙂

        After Training:
        Leucine turnover (micromol/kg.h – i.e. very tiny):
        Fasted – 167->152 (15 difference)
        Fed – 197->178 (19 difference)

        Protein breakdown
        Fasted – 165->144 (21 dif)
        Fed- 111->93 (18dif)

        Leucine disposal
        Fasted -144->126 (18 dif)
        Fed- 151->133 (18dif)

        The article also didnt explicitly say that “vs” means levels before training compared to those levels after training, but that’s what I assume it is.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure.

          Ah okay leucine turnover is explained here:

          http://jn.nutrition.org/content/129/3/728.full

          Protein breakdown you can find on Wiki.

          Basically what you’re looking at is muscle breakdown is greater while lifting fasted than fed, but less lifting fasted than doing cardio fasted (the latter burns up more muscle than the former).

          All in all it’s not a MASSIVE problem, but when you’re natural you’re trying to stack as many “little” things in your favor, you know?

  • Pingback: How to Take Workout Supplements for Maximum Results | Muscle For Life()

  • Josey

    Hey Mike!

    I tried the MRM BCAA that you recommended for my fasted workouts and oh boy. The taste was… not so good. The burning sensation while drinking it felt like I was drinking bad tequila. Lol. Are there any other ones you recommend? I found one that that’s amazing but those typically are loaded with artificial crap 🙁

    • Michael Matthews

      LOL wow, that bad for you? You could try just pure leucine?

      • Lindsay Rice

        Did you get it recently & are you sensitive to beta? Sometimes it makes my lips burn. It didn’t taste good before but they just re-formulated this stuff, I just got my 2nd bottle and they bumped down the Glutamine, and up on the Beta by about 1100mg as well as Valine & Calories. Also switched from regular stevia to TreLeafia.

  • frametheory

    Hi Mike

    Just started lifting about a month ago. Im skinny fat, 24% BF. I like working out in the mornings, drink gaterade during my work out. Not sure if I want something that tastes bad in the mornings. Even tooth paste grosses me out. Am I good with the gatorade or should I get some leucine? Protein shake? Im currently in calorie deficit to bring me down to around 13%

    • Michael Matthews

      Gatorade is just carbs so that will cause too much of an insulin response. Whey protein isn’t ideal but it’s better. Ideal is leucine or BCAAs….

      • frametheory

        Thanks Mike. Just found your site couple days ago. Good info. Will get your book. Or one of your books. Have to see which one. Thanks!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. I’d do 1 scoop of whey if you don’t want to do the BCAAs. Thanks man. I appreciate it. 🙂

  • vrk1975

    Can Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy be used for fasted training. It seems to have BCAAs but it also has some calories – will that break the fast?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm if it’s more than 40 cals per serving I wouldn’t do it.

  • Amy

    Is it effective to add the bcaas to pulse in a fasted state or does the pulse break the fast?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. One scoop of Pulse definitely won’t but 2 could due to the amount of active ingredients. Amino acids do raise insulin levels to some degree.

      • Amy

        I do two back to back spin classes followed by Pilates and I’ve been killing it by taking 2 scoops pulse plus 10g of ON instantized bcaa powder mixed together 10 minutes before the first class. Should I take 1 scoop of pulse and 5g of bcaa before each individual spin class instead? Would that prolong the fasted state but still give me the energy boost? I’m finally shedding the baby weight but the tummy stuff is sticking big time. Was hoping the fasted exercise would help with that.

        And I LOVE pulse. It’s awesome for endurance cardio. I follow it with recharge and love that too. I’m waiting for the whey+ to be available as I know that will be top notch as well.

  • vrk1975

    It looks like fasted state training with BCAA is doing the trick for me. Tried for 2. weeks. No strength loss however I lost 3 lbs since I did fasted state training (of course I also have the meal plan).

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome!

      • Grant

        Many thanks. By the way I love your site. The only one that backs itself up with scientific proof and great information.

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks Grant!

          • Jayadev Singer

            Dear mike .
            In the morning can i take30 GM’s of whey isolate instead of bcaa? I plan on follwing the intermittent fasting diet ..
            I am 85 KGS . 5.6 ft in height. My first plan is to shed fat. Can I use whey instead of bcaa.
            Thanks fur ur time buddy
            Jai

          • You can but it will break the fasted state if you care about that.

            Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/fasted-cardio/

  • Ciprian

    Is it more cost effective to only take BCAA’s? how much would one need? let’s say i now take 150g of protein per day and would want to only supplement with BCAAs

    • Michael Matthews

      Leucine only is most cost effective. 10 g BCAA or 3-5 g leucine is all you need before you train fasted.

  • Jennifer Maxine

    Hi Mike! I preordered your fat burner and also have Pulse. Currently I use ON Pro BCAAs. I use the BCAAs for the fasted training in the morning. Do you have a Legion bcaa product? If not – do you still recommend the above one? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! Not yet but that will be next! Yes the above is fine.

  • Amy

    Hi! I just started using the Phoenix. I’m also doing fasted training. I take 1 scoop of pulse with bcaa in the AM. I don’t have my first meal until around noon and that’s when I take the Phoenix. I know the Phoenix works best with caffeine, but I don’t drink anymore caffeine in the day after my morning pulse. Should I take the Phoenix in the AM with my pulse to maximize the effects or will it upset my stomach since I don’t eat anything then.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great, thanks! Good question. It may upset your stomach as EGCG can cause nausea on an empty stomach. It doesn’t always though. You can give it a go and see.

  • Ssftr

    Pure leucine can have a negative impact on muscle growth on anyone who’s diet doesn’t contain adequate protein as it forces the body to process existing stores of isoleuvine and valine.

    Also a leucine free diet has been shown to reduce white adipose tissue (WAT) and increase the thermogenic effect of brown adipose tissue (BAT). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797918/.

    I haven’t seen any human studies, but have ever thought about dropping leucine for a cut?

    • Michael Matthews

      If you have any research to support your first claim please do share it. And remember that considering the amount of protein us fitness folk eat, there’s absolutely no way that 3-5 grams of leucine taken 1-2 times per day is going to cause any issues in this regard.

      You can’t extrapolate rat research to humans and I can guarantee you reducing leucine intake isn’t going to help you lose fat or “supercharge” your BAT.

  • Elt31987

    On your Legion site you posted under Whey+ about the following study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562251 that adding Leucine to a post workout Carb Protein mix would increase protein synthesis further. On Legion it says (8 Grams). My question is, is that 8 grams on top of the leucine already in the Whey serving or is that 8 grams including the Leucine in the Whey. Reason being is because im looking to add Leucine if its a matter of adding 5 grams to my post workout shake but if its 8-10 it would be getting too costly. Thank you again.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup that’s 8 grams in addition to what’s already in whey. You can add 4-5 and expect SOMETHING beneficial–you just aren’t replicating the study exactly.

  • D

    Mike, what do you think about the fact that isoleucine and valine are glucogenic and thus, bcaas could cause gluconeogenesis? Wouldn’t this make leucine by itself far more ideal when it comes to fasted training and burning fat?

    Secondly, do you think leucine is necessary before a low-intensity fasted walk?

    • Michael Matthews

      AFAIK this effect is very mild, but yes I do prefer just leucine.

      Probably not on the walk.

  • scash

    Hi Mike, I’ve been looking for research on using pure l-leucine while on an alternate day fasting protocol. I know that l-leucine is a good way to prevent breakdown on the cheap for fasted training, but what about those long 36 hour fasts? I’ve read on forums etc that this ends up depleting the other two BCAAs, affecting glucose resistance, etc. but have been unable to find any research on this specifically. I will be doing this anecdotally since this fits into my budget a lot better than BCAAs, but would like some science facts, if you know of any. Any insight/links would be amazing. Thanks!

    • Guest

      BTW, I eat 1.1-1.2g of protein per pound on my feast days, so it’s not like I don’t have any AAs floating around in my body.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm yeah if you were super-loading leucine that could be an issue but honestly I’ve never done fasts that long and haven’t researched them too much so I’m not sure what would be optimal.

      In reality if you’re lifting regularly long fasts like that are probably just a bad idea…

      • scash

        Was only planning on a few grams before and after fasted training, which I do in the morning. Not lifting regularly, and if I do lift it’s on the days after I eat (so it would be like lifting first thing in the morning before breakfast).

        Thanks anyway.

        Do you know of a good way/place to try to research this on my own? Google just keeps bringing up bodybuilding forums, and Google Scholar mostly just brings up articles on IF and obesity.

        • Michael Matthews

          A few grams won’t cause any issues.

          Yeah start here as I reference a couple papers that talk about longer fasting periods:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-definitive-guide-to-intermittent-fasting/

          Go grab those papers and read them and read the various papers they cite. That’s how I dive into areas.

          • scash

            Thanks! Can’t wait to get started on these.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! LMK how it goes!

  • Pingback: Whey Vs BCAA’s. Which Is Best For Building Muscle?()

  • rokkar

    Before workout fasted I tend to use 10g of Spiruline. Do you think it works as well?

    • Michael Matthews

      I take mine with food.

  • Grant

    Hi Michael
    I’m a 45yr old male ectomorph who trains first thing in the morning and I’m trying my best to build muscle and just want to clarify which is the best way to do this ie Stay in the fasted state and just use BCAA’s or straight Leucine or take 20-40gms of whey isolate before training (take my body out of the fasted state yet absorb the BCAA’s found in the whey)? Love to hear your comments. Cheers..Grant

    • Michael Matthews

      If you want to maximize muscle growth, don’t train fasted. You’ll have a LOT more energy if you eat 30 g pro and 50-60 g carb before each workout.

    • Grant

      Hi Mike. I meant to add that early morning time is the only time I can train so is your advise still valid ie eat 30 g pro & 50-60 g carb before w/out?

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah definitely.

  • Matthias Copenhagen

    Hi Michael, just thought taking 5g of BCAA before sleeping and 5g in the morning, could be a good way of preventing muscle break down when we’re travelling. It would be easier to carry some BCAA with you, than a huge protein container.
    I’m planning on travelling for a month through Mexico and am thinking about how to make sure that I stay in shape.. Also red your article about it, but the BCAA pill solution seems easiest to me. Do you agree?

  • sameer

    Hello mike, is it a complete waste of money to take BCAAs in fed state before workout?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah. Just eat protein instead.

  • metroman

    most of the bcaas I have found are from soy because its cheaper i guess. Any way these seem to give me low t. I looked into it and two studies at the universities of Connecticut and North Carolina concluded that the phytoestrogens in soy protein actually does cause low t and increases cortisol. Not too worried about the cortisol as tylenol seems to take it back down, but don’t want to be poppin it everyday. I have read about others having similar results, though i do not understand why breaking the soy protein down to the level of amino acids wouldn’t denature it. I have read that the phytoestrogens are hard to remove and since most people think they are harmless, might not try very much.Anyway feels like working backwards to me, so until i figure out i’m just sticking to protein, whey in particular.

  • pliv1 .

    Great article, I have been been doing fasted training ( i do circuit workouts with kettle bells, battle ropes etc), I tried a shake beforehand on a few occasions and found myself nearly vomitting after the work out.

    I was considering purchasing the BCAA’s you recommend at the bottom of the page but a friend of mine told me to try whey protein isolate as it contains BCAA’s

    http://www.proteinworld.com/shop/whey-protein-isolate.html

    I dont mind taking a supplement that dont taste clever as its the results I am more concerned with but would the Whey Protein Isolate do the trick and help me with fasted training, would this be o.k to consume before and after a workout?

    Thanks

    Ams

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      The only problem with whey is it will break the fasted state. The insulin response is much higher.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/fasted-cardio/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • pliv1 .

        Thanks for the reply and thanks for the link, its very insightful and most magazines or PT’s wouldn’t provide this advice.

        Is there any difference in taking BCAA in liquid form or in tablets? some people say the tablets are really large

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! Tabs are quite big, yes, I prefer powder mixed in water.

  • Ivan

    Very interesting article! I have a doubt… My goal is to build muscles (I improved since I started training but very slowly) and in the same time to loose abdominal and lumbar fat (abs are hidden). So, it’s better to do:

    A
    10 am Fasted training with 10 gr. Bcaa
    12 am Post workout: whey iso protein shake and 10gr more of Bcaa
    1 pm Lunch
    00 Protein or bcaa before sleeping?

    or

    B
    9 am Breakfast (soy milk, biscuits and marmelade, some walnuts, 1 banana)
    12.30 am Training with 5 gr. Bcaa
    2 pm Post workout: whey iso protein shake and 5gr of Bcaa
    3 pm Lunch
    00 Protein or bcaa before sleeping?

    or a different strategy?

    Thanks for your reply and your articles!

  • James Ellis

    I got the BCAA and Leccine to help me train in a fasted state. Lifting Mondays Wednesday and Fridays to get in shape for golf. My body fat percentage is 20% and I’m 160lbs. I dropped 10 pounds in the first 5 weeks of training but haven’t lost any in a month. I’m on a 1800-2000 calorie diet and couldn’t eat anymore food if I wanted. Feel stuffed. Anyways I want to start dripping his stomach fat since it still hanging around. I usually eat a couple bags of plain whole wheat oatmeal before working out in the morning but think I should stop and just take the bcaa and Leccine only to train in a fasted state.

    I seen above where you said don’t train in a fasted state if you want to build muscles. So Ivan I not train in a fasted state and get stronger and leaner?

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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    You can sign up here:

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    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Jay

    Is there any way to make Leucine taste better without raising insulin? My god its awful, I could get it down….just!

  • acirpr

    Gr8t article on Using bcaa. But if my last meal is 8pm. I train 4 am and don’t eat until 11 am, when and how do I use bcaa? Thanks

    • Thanks! I would have 10 g before training, 10 g after, and eat at 11.

  • Tony

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the great article. I am currently trying to bulk so I was wondering if fasted training 3 times a week would help me put on muscle mass mass while maximizing fat loss. I already bought the BCAAS u recommended on the article and they seem great. I’m currently 168 so I’m trynna hit 175. any suggesting with training in the morning? Today I’m going to train fasted And I got chest and triceps. I’m gonna take 10 g of BCAAS just like recommended. do you think fasted training is a good way to bulk up and put on muscle mass? Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • I don’t like training fasted when bulking because I’m stronger with pre-workout carbs in me. Save the fasted training for cutting…

  • Theinformedconsumer

    Hey Mike i loved how you exaggerate the uses BCAA’s in the beginning of the article to shoot down the benefits of BCAA’s just to give the actual recommended uses for it to sell some brand that I’m sure you are biased to through a business relationship. This is garbage.

  • Billie Garcia

    Hi Michael I have a question??? I’m 6’2, 27 years old, weight 238 Ibs I lost about 8 pounds the 1st 30 days i been following your recommendation. My question is regarding the BCAA i wanted to know when i take my post shake should i add bcaa even tho the protein Hydro whey optimum nutrition i take has already contains bcaa, and should i take bcaa pre and during workouts? what do you recommend? i diet is about 4-5 meals a day. Your help will be appreciated thank you.

    • Great job! Nope you don’t need BCAAs in your post-workout shake. You don’t need HydroWhey either. Stuff is really expensive for no good reason.

  • Andrea escanuelas

    Hi Mike! 🙂 I’m a personal trainer for 24 hour fitness super sport and I’m excited that I found your blog ! I have never exercised in a fasted state before, but I really wanna give it a try, how long would u recommend a fasted workout an hour or 30 min, and what target heart rate do u think would be ideal for fat burning in a fasted state, low intensity or medium intensity? And you also do cardio and weight training in a fasted state or do you just stick with cardio? How many times a week should I do this ?

  • Joseph

    Hey Mike, I know BCAAs help with muscle retention, because studies have shown this. Do we know how, though ? I mean, leucine stimulates protein synthesis through the mtor pathway. However, protein synthesis requires amino acids, right ? So, if you are fasted, where do these amino acids come from ? From the ingested bcaas themselves, I guess ?

    • Good question. Stimulating PS doesn’t mean you actually build muscle, it just counteracts protein degradation. In a sense you are “tricking” your body into not breaking down the tissue.

  • Lee Power

    The only time I ever use BCAA is pre morning cardio during the summer while on a fat loss cycle. I personally like to take double what it says on the pot and currently use 7 grms a serving mostly made up of leucine and wash it down with 10 grms of glutamine added in the water.

  • Janie Hannan-Kearl

    The BCAA you recommended has 10 calories a serving. I thought to train in a fasted state a person had to have no calories at all?

    • Doesn’t have to be 0. Under 30ish is a safe bet for preserving the fasted state.

  • Anthony Pampillonio

    Hi Mike how r you? I workout early morning and like to take a pre workout for energy. I’d like to start fasted training due to the am workouts, is it ok to mix in the bcaa with a pre workout? Thanks

    • Yup I do the same. 🙂

      • Anthony Pampillonio

        Thanks, all the best

  • Mike

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article. I have a question – since it’s always said that you can’t lose fat and gain muscle at the same time…. is using BCAAs and doing fasted training only advisable for someone who’s going for fat loss, rather than muscle gain? I need to bulk up, and I’m just wondering if the benefits of fasted training with BCAA’s would even happen with me if I’m on a calorie surplus. It seems that the ability of fasted training to burn fat would only occur in a deficit, right? Since you can’t lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously? Or could I use this method while bulking and experience benefits (like less fat gain than I’d otherwise get, or even fat loss, while bulking?)? Thanks

    • Mike

      Nevermind – I just saw that someone else asked the same question and you already responded. Thanks

  • Deekron Krikorian

    Hey Mike. Thanks for this article. I had my suspicions about BCAAs and finding your article has shed a lot of light. Thanks man. I have a question: So unless someone is working out in a fasted stated – which usually means first thing in the AM – there really isn’t much need to use BCAAs at all. Correct?

    • That’s right. 🙂

      • Deekron Krikorian

        Mike Matthews = ‘The Myth Buster’! Just bought ur book and started reading it on the subway. Look forward to learning more wisdom. Thanks again.

  • xMVince

    I take BCAA’s at work in the morning because I don’t have time to eat breakfast. My muscles are still really sore after my workout from the day before and I’m trying to lose as much fat as possible so I’m cutting back on food but still taking the BCAA’s to help continue building muscle without the fat. Too early to tell but I hope this isn’t a wasted effort! Thanks for the article

  • Mar

    At the beginning sorry for my english 🙂 I was taking BCAA for a few days and I was feeling really great physically and mentally, my humour and creativity was awesom, but one day after 15 minutes from taking BCAA my stomach was in bad condition. I had a very bad pain. So I tried to take only pure leucine but nothing changed. My stomach hurts really bad after 15 minutes, every time when I take BCAA or leucine. I tried to mix leucine powder with lemon juice and it was a little bit better – pain wasn’t so bad, but still it was huge discomfort for me. I take small doses, 5 g. And I really want to take it, because my mood is great after that – only stomach is upset… Can’t find any advice what could be the cause or what can I do. Should I drink more lemon juice with leucine or maybe drink or eat something differen with it? I will be very grateful for any advice, Michael.

    • Hey hey!

      Hmm it sounds like you should just stop using BCAAs or leucine (no fasted training).

      Thoughts?

  • Vince Diamond

    Great article as always. Just a couple questions though Mike, can I add leucine to a pre workout? Or just use bcaa’s as a pre workout? Or both?

    I’ve started fasted weight training and can really tell the difference once I’ve taken a pre workout, improved concentration, less rest times needed etc.

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    • Thanks!

      Yeah you can add leucine to a pre-workout. That’s what I do when I’m training fasted.

  • jord

    why no mention of EAA? as is my understanding, they contain all the required amino acids required for protein synthesis. seems like they would be much more effective for fasted training

    • EAAs don’t replace food protein and aren’t better for fasted training as all you really want is the leucine.

  • Steve

    Hi mike. Question about the fasted state.

    Will this product keep me in a fasted state? http://www.bulknutrients.com.au/products/bcaa-recovery.html?page_context=search&faceted_search=0

    I noted it has the 3 BCAAs you mentioned present but it also includes these ingredients: Citrulline Malate, Sodium, Flavouring, Potassium, Sucralose, Lecithin, Vit B6.

    Are any of them likely to spike my insulin levels and make my fasted state redundant?

    • Steve

      Please note that my serving size will be 41.3cals to get 5 grams of leucine. Is this going to effect the fasted state?

      • I checked out the product and you’re good! Taking that product won’t break your fasted state. No worries. 🙂

  • Sean

    Hi Mike! I’m curious as to why you mentioned that fasted training results in an increase in catabolism and that justifies taking BCAA’s preworkout for fasted training. The abstract states there was no noticeable effects until roughly 3 hours into recovery. So as long as one gets nutrients post workout within a reasonable time frame (less than 3 hours after) there is no reason to supplement BCAA’s pre-workout? I’ve been doing fasted lifting for almost two years now and my fat loss and muscle gain, whether I was cutting, reverse dieting or bulking, has been consistent without preworkout BCAA supplementation. (I usually just grab some coffee with a small amount of creamer, ~25 calories, as my preworkout) I get plenty of nutrients post workout usually 30-60 minutes after lifting depending on how long I spend showering, driving home from the gym, running errands post-lift, etc.

    • Yeah but if you look at the actual data in the study the picture is a bit different. There IS an acceleration of protein degradation.

      There’s also evidence that BCAA (leucine, really) pre-workout creatines a more anabolic post-workout response to training:

      http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/287/1/E1.full

      • Sean

        Ah wow, I see. Now I’m a little scared I lost out on extra results this past year or so 🙁 Leucine in bulk is en route to my house as Im writing this!

  • Mike Davis

    Great article, Mike. Thank you! I eat breakfast at 7:30 and do cardio around 11:30 or noon. Would that 4 hour window be considered a fasted state? I am 40 y/o and take BCAAs prior to cardio since I get paranoid I’ll lose some muscle. I realize it’s probably unwarranted but you know how us lifters get since we’re always striving for that perfect balance of muscle building vs. fat loss. Thanks for reviewing and please keep this site going… I agree 100% with your training philosophy. 🙂

    • It takes 3-6+ hours to be in a fasted state depending on what you ate.

      I hear you on the BCAAs pre-cardio haha. No worries. 🙂

      Thanks for the support!

  • MattyD

    Just joined the site after reading this article. It’s very informative.
    After having a 2year’ish break from training due o injury and work commitments I’m getting back in to it and seeing immediate but slightly slow results.

    I train first thing in a fasted state and hoped you could comment on my routine which will now be supplemented with HMB.

    So I’m up at 0615, about 0645 I take water on board flavoured with ‘ZERO’ as I hate plain water, this has electrolytes and magnesium and next to no cals. At the gym by 0700.

    I take a fat burning pre workout supplement which has amino’s, caffeine, green tea, alpha lipolic and dandelion root, again no cals.

    Adding HMB to this as soon as I get my order.

    Post workout I take protein on board straight after the shower.

    My goal is to lose fat while retaining/building muscle bu cramming multiple pills down my throat before a workout is off putting to say the least, is there anything you can see of concern or that can be improved?

    • Thanks!

      Great on what you’re doing. I like it.

      Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

      • MattyD

        Another great article thanks. Learnt a lot in the last 48 hrs from your articles. Now to lose my Rugby player build and get lean!

        • YW! Sounds like a plan. 🙂

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

          • MattyD

            Thanks Mike. Started supplementing with HMB this morning and I’m starting a new plan. I’m dropping my 2 x 45 minute swims and 3 strength day routine for a new 5 day strength program (heavies all the way) supplemented with 2 x 25-30 minute HIIT sessions. Still trying to find a HIIT routine that works for me, can’t do impact due to injury to my right foot. I want to get my heart pumping during HIIT without tiring any muscle group too much and impacting strength training. I find that if I do HIIT in the pool then dragging over 215lbs in a sprint then recovering kills my shoulders and arms too much. Think I’ll give HIIT on the crosstrainer and rower a go and see which works best, also tempted to find a HIIT program for the TRX but suspect I may end up in a twisted tied up mess and ending up on youtube in a ‘When BDSM goes wrong’ video!

          • Cool on the HMB.

            Awesome on the program change up! You’ll be happy with the results.

            Lol. Yeah I don’t think HIIT on the TRX would work well.

            Good idea on doing HIIT on the cross trainer. LMK how it goes!

          • MattyD

            Yet another question… I am taking the HMB on my training days Mon-Fri (lifestyle dictates I don’t have time at the weekend, when I say lifestyle, I mean ‘her’). Should I still be supplementing HMB on my rest days?

          • Lol. Nah. You only need to take it before fasted training.

  • Jason

    Great articles!
    I had a specific question: I want to bulk up, i already have a bit of muscle and am maybe 15% body fat. I was going to bulk up the traditional way, but I read that intermittent fasting can raise your GH and test levels as well as other good stuff. If I go into calorie surplus during my 8 hour feeding window, do you think ill be able to gain mass effectively? I wont training in a fasting state, but rather train right before my last meal, so i can hit the gym, eat my egg or casein protein and go to sleep. What do you think? Also should i sip on BCAAs during my morning fasted state from 7AM till 1PM(aka my first meal)? I read that leucine gives a response to the brain that its full and negates the hormonal fasting benefits.
    Thank you!

  • Frederik Linderberg

    Hey Mike, thanks for another great article!
    I totally hear you on your take of BCAA. I like to do HIIT while in a fasted state (first thing in the morning), would you then prefer do take HMB or pure Leucine to minimize the loss of muscle?

    • Glad you liked it!

      HMB or Leucine would both work well, but they don’t taste very good.

      My fasted training product, Forge, does an even better job. 🙂 Check it out:

      https://legionathletics.com/products/supplements/forge/

      • Frederik Linderberg

        Forge is definitely the better choice! Another question, what is the difference between Forge and Phoenix?

        • Good question!

          Phoenix is my fat-burner. Phoenix helps you burn fat in three ways. It increases the amount of calories you burn daily by 150-200. It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced in the body, and it helps you feel more full thanks to the ingredient, 5-HTP.

          Forge, on the other hand is my fasted training product. It is only taken before fasted training. Fasted training is a great way to accelerate fat loss. The problem with fasted training is that it also breaks down muscle. That’s where Forge comes in. It prevents muscle breakdown due to fasted training. To add to that, it also accelerates the fat burning that occurs from fasted training.

          So, Forge preserves muscle and accelerates fat burning during fasted training while Phoenix is taken with food and helps you burn more calories and fight cravings.

  • Steve

    Hey Mike,
    I was wondering if there were any foods that would help me train in the fasted state but still giving me the appropriate leucine dosage to maximize muscle growth?

  • @michael_matthews:disqus, I’ve also digged up studies on HMB and Leucine. HMB is better than Leucine for anti-catabolic purposes, although not as good as Leucine for anabolic protein synthesis.

    If I train fasted in the AM and only have my first meal 6 hours later, I suppose this is a good way to manage the “destruction”?

    Pre-Workout:
    – 2g of HMB + 2g of Leucine 30-40 min before workout
    – Optional stimulant (I use Source Naturals Chocolift)

    – Workout (8AM, lasts 1 to 1h30min)

    Post-workout:
    – 2g of Leucine

    6 hours later:
    – 1st meal (3PM)

    Let’s do some math. So 2g + 2g before workout, then 2g after workout. This is 6g of protein, so 6*4 = 24 calories. I don’t suppose this ‘technically’ breaks the fast?

    How about glutamine? Is it worth it to throw in the mix?

    • I’d stick with just HMB before training because of its null insulin response. Leucine after training would be fine. I’d go with 3g.

      Glutamine is good for gut and immune health but otherwise isn’t needed.

      • Thanks Michael, makes sense. I suppose 1-2g of HMB is enough 30-45 minutes before a workout, and 2-3g of Leucine afterwards.

        • YW. Sounds like a plan!

          • Mike, can you get Forge up on iHerb? I don’t think it’ll be practical to ship Forge to Portugal due to shipping costs and customs. With iHerb I get my stuff almost always.

          • Unfortunately, Forge is only available on Amazon and Legionathletics.com.

            To help with the cost of shipping, feel free to shoot an email to contact@legionsupplements.com. I’ll have them hook you up with a discount. 🙂

  • Sara Rajewski

    This was a well-written article and I am so glad I found it! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Just curious, as far as women are concerned taking HMB won’t cause us to bulk up or anything will it? (maybe that is a stupid question lol I know lifting doesn’t cause women to bulk up since we have a lot less testosterone than men) Thanks!

    • Sara Rajewski

      Also, should Forge be used at every workout or just weight training? I do HIIT 3x per week, I lift 3x per week and do PiYo the other day.

      • Forge should be taken before any fasted training you do whether its lifting, HIIT or PiYo.

        BTW, if you take Forge you don’t need HMB. 🙂

    • Nah you have nothing to worry about HMB doing that.

  • Mark Holland

    Mike, in reviewing the PubMed article you linked comparing leucine to HMB it appears that leucine performed better in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) but HMB performed better in preventing muscle protein breakdown (MPB). I have been using leucine with yohimbine in fasted training the past two weeks and just realized that the leucine might stimulate a significant insulin release. Do you know If the insulin release of taking approximately 3g of leucine is enough to counter the effects of 10mg yohimbine HCl? Is that why HMB is superior in that capacity? I wish I had just been using Forge from the outset but didn’t find it in time.

    • That’s right on the HMB vs. leucine.

      On the insulin point, not it’s not a large enough spike to nullify the fat-burning benefits but the maximize fat loss we want as close to baseline insulin as possible. (The spike caused by eating food is enough to completely negate yohimbine’s fat burning properties.)

  • Kal-El

    Mike, I’ve ordered ON HMB capsules. Each capsule has 1g HMB. So, should I take 3 capsules pre-workout? And is there any HMB manufacturer you would recommend?

    • Yup 2 to 3 g is what you want. I would trust ON.

      • Kal-El

        Cool! And should I take another 3g before fasted cardio later in the evening?

        • Yep 3 g before any fasted training.

          Practically speaking, nothing. There’s preliminary evidence that FA may be more efficacious but honestly I don’t trust the research ATM.

          • Kal-El

            Thanks man. You’re doing a great job with the books and with the articles. And you’re the only one I trust in the industry. Keep going Mike.

          • YW. I’m happy to do it.

            Thanks for the support.

  • Ryan B

    Hi Michael,

    I’m currently bulking on a schedule of 1 day on, 1 day off, (6ft 2, 176 pounds, 15% body fat roughly) after 6 months out due to various circumstances (will hopefully move to 2 days on, 1 day off, with 30 hours rest between workouts: Am day 1 and Pm day 2 – rest day 3). My daily diet is 1.1g protein per lb, 0.9g fat per lb, and 3.75g carbs per lb, totaling around 3,300 calories for a 21 year old.

    Should I be doing fasted training to reach my hypertrophy results? I currently go the gym around 4pm after a sizable chunk of my protein, carbs and calorie intake for the day, and obviously I consume the rest post workout and throughout the rest of the day.

    I read your article (https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/) that is essentially saying one can’t lose weight and build muscle concurrently without a calorie reduction (which my calorie count clearly exceeds).
    My warm up on the treadmill before lifting is 14.5 km/h for 10 minutes and I want to continue to build up my speed on my treadmill while bulking, hopefully reaching 16.0km/h within the next 7 months.
    Essentially, will I be able to increase my treadmill speed considering I am bulking? I know that I won’t be able to lose much fat overall as I’m bulking but does that mean I can’t increase my treadmill speed as my bulking will impair my cardio? I shouldn’t be putting on any extra fat from my bulk as I’ve calculated the exact requirements.

    Thanks very much for your time!

    Best,

    Ryan

    • Cool on your workout schedule.

      .9g fat per pound of body weight is a LOT. How much are you gaining a week? Check this out to see what I recommend macro-wise on a bulk:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      If you’re bulking and you’re focus is building muscle, there’s no reason to train fasted. stick to your pre-workout nutrition.

      If you’re new to this style of training, you are able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but yeah, it requires a calorie deficit. Check it out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/build-muscle-lose-fat/

      It really isn’t workable to lose fat on a bulk. Fat loss requires a calorie deficit, and you won’t be in one while bulking…

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Ryan B

        Thanks for getting back to me Mike 🙂

        SO MUCH INFORMATION (and I was pretty clued up before!)

        1) Sorry, my numbers were mixed up! I’m at 0.55g fat, 1.4g protein, 2.5g carbs (47% carbs, 24% fat and 29% protein from daily calories); 13.8% body fat. I know the protein is a little bit over the 1g per lb you recommend, the fat a little high and the carbs a little under, but is that, with my current body fat % acceptable and will maximise my muscle growth during bulk?
        (http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/)

        2) So if I’ve got this right (please correct me if I’m wrong), according to (http://www.muscleforlife.com/build-muscle-lose-fat/), only those who haven’t been lifting PROPERLY for say 3+ years can lose fat and build muscle at the same time? And to do so they have to be in a calorie deficit (among other things)?

        3) I’ll be showing my ignorance here: what I don’t get, is if I’m in a bulk i.e calorie surplus throughout the week, how can I not burn fat in a fasted state? If I was in a fasted state on a rest day, and took BCAAs or leucine to be more accurate (or even HMB) in the morning to preserve my muscles and not spike my insulin levels, and then went for a 3k run soon after to burn fat, why I am not be able to burn fat and maintain muscle in the fasted state because I have a calorie surplus for the week?

        4) I worked out how much muscle I could gain naturally according to the Berkhan formula (http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-muscle-can-you-build-naturally/)which turns out to be around 187lbs (total muscle mass, 0%BF). I’m currently at 151.7lbs which is a 35.3lb difference. I’m a lot like you were during your first 1.5 years as seen in the article above, and I’ve probably added 10-15lbs of muscle also during that period. Since I haven’t been making as much gains I should have over the past 2 years (and thus I can’t adhere directly to McDonald’s table), would averaging 8lbs a year over the next 3 years be a realistic expectation?

        5) Regarding the cardinal rule of 0.5-1lb a week while bulking that’s mentioned in quite a few articles; conservatively speaking an experienced weightlifter gaining 0.5lbs a week – I take it that that is 0.5lbs also has a decent amount of fat and is not all muscle? Hence the need for cutting eventually after bulking?

        6) The article on protein absorption was sick btw (http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-protein-absorption-how-often-you-should-eat-protein-to-build-muscle/)!! Many thanks!!! I came across this article online (http://www.precisionnutrition.com/rr-whey-too-much) but it talks about digesting the protein in liquid form. Does this affect/have any implications for the conclusions drawn in your article?

        7) Is it possible to increase cardiovascular fitness while bulking? I may be confusing cardio with fat loss… but can I realistically be looking to be able to increase my running speed from 14.5-16.0km/h on the treadmill when I’m consistently dding weight each week? Would the adding of the weight hamper any gains I could make in my cardiovascular fitness? ( In kow HIITs is a better way of losing fat, but I’m focused on increasing my running speed)

        Phew, that’s me covered everything now! Done enough reading over these past 2 days to last me a lifetime!

        Thanks very much again – keep up the good work and the education, all the best!!!

        • Haha.

          1. Oh okay that’s cool.

          2. Genetics and such play a role here so you can always give it a go and see what happens.

          3. In the end energy balance dictates it all. No amount of fasted training can undo the fat storage that occurs with a calorie surplus.

          4. 8 lbs per year might be a bit high. We’ll have to see how your body responds. It’s possible.

          5. Yeah 1:1 fat:muscle ratio is pretty standard.

          6. Thanks! I’ll have to check that out.

          7. Sure. If you want to.

          • Ryan B

            Hi Mike,

            I’m terribly sorry for the late reply. Illness, death, family etc. have all got in the way.

            Thanks very much for your detailed reply once again. Superb! Just a final few points for clarification that I’d be really appreciative for for your help.

            [In accordance with the above points]

            2) . Is a calorie deficit always necessary to lose weight? Regardless of genetics or/and how long one has been lifting? Or is it possible to be in a calorie surplus and still lose weight due to either a) genetics, or b) how many years one has been lifting?

            3) I’m a little confused with the whole energy balance thing. Are you saying that the fat storage obtained throughout the week cannot be compensated by a couple of days of fasted training? If so, would it still not stop me from accumulating as much fat if I didn’t do the fasted training? I realise that this is not the same as a cut, but I’m just wondering if fasted training in a calorie surplus will at least reduce the amount of fat put on throughout the week.

            6) What did you think of the article on liquid protein assumption? Is that a different bodily mechanism that’s digesting the protein? Or do the same rules apply then for both liquid and solid protein consumption? I.e. not taking more than 50g protein per meal (as you recommended in one of your previous articles although I can’t remember which!)

            7) So, just to confirm, it is possible to increase cardiovascular fitness while in a bulk? I.e. a calorie surplus won’t completely inhibit an increase in cardiovascular fitness? (I imagine it wouldn’t be the easiest way to increase cardiovascular fitness – I guess a calorie deficit is needed for the best/easiest way to increase cardiovascular fitness – but I just want to be sure it isn’t close to impossible).

            Additional: What’s the best way to maintain muscle mass with little food? I know a high protein diet is the best way to go, but what if that’s not possible? For example,sometimes I’m away with work and there’s hardly the time to eat, and sometimes there’s not healthy choices either. Is it possible to maintain muscle mass with minimal calories (say 1000)and just lots and lots and lots and lots of HMB?

            Many thanks again!! I hope you don’t take as long replying as I did. Terribly sorry about that again.

            Keep up the good work!!!

            Best,

          • Damn I’m sorry to hear that. 🙁

            2. Yup. Always. You will never lose fat in a calorie surplus. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/best-diet-plan/

            3. See the above article. This will lend insight too:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/calorie-cycling/

            6. Didn’t have time to dive into it sorry. But I guarantee you it doesn’t matter. Just hit your daily protein numbers and you’ll be fine.

            You can eat more than 50 g per meal:

            https://legionathletics.com/how-much-protein-do-i-need/

            7. Definitely can. Surplus won’t get in the way of that.

            8. Just save your calories for later meals when you can eat what you need. Have powder at work.

            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • El

    Thank you! I’m by no means a bodybuilder, but I was looking at BCAA because I read it was good to take when on a low carb diet (I am currently on this diet) to avoid losing muscle. Now, I’ll go with either the straight-up leucine or HMB.

    Anything else you’d suggest for a woman who’s not looking to lose her curves or have that vascular muscled look, but who wants to preserve muscle, become (flabby now) tighter and who best loses weight on the low carb diet?

  • Alex Wunder

    Mike,

    If I was doing my workout fasted in the morning with HMB before and a coffee, does trivia stimulate enough of an insulin response to counteract any fat burning effects?

    Also, if I was going to have a post workout meal with 50 grams protein (24 whey, 10 egg, 15 in whole grain bread i eat) creatine and 70 grams of carbs would there be any need to take leucine or HMB again post workout if I planned on fasting for 8-12 hours after that until my next meal?

    If so, which one HMB or leucine?

    I know there won’t be any muscle breakdown within the 8-12 hour period but would it help my muscles continue to recover?

    • Alex Wunder

      Also, during that period today i took an hour long walk at a low intensity

      Will this lead to muscle breakdown?

      Would subbing one hitt session a week for an hour long walk be a poor idea if my goal is fat loss?

      For the record i really appreciate you putting up with all my questions!

      • Probably not, no. Wouldn’t worry about it.

        That’s fine if you want.

        No worries my man.

    • Nope it doesn’t.

      Nope don’t need extra.

      HMB>leucine.

      No additional benefits no.

  • Sonia

    Hi. I’m a 44 year old woman who wants to loose belly fat and gain muscle. I’m 5’2 ,123 pounds. I’m a vegetarian and my body can’t tolerate any dairy or whey. I use to work out before but lately ( 2 years ago )I stopped. Last month I started with this routine that I found in a blog
    ( Monday and Thursday fasted HIT training : sprints for 30 sec and recover walking fast for 1minute :6 times in a row follow it by a 20 minutes Jogg at my 60%. Saturday upper body :5 sets with a weight that allowed me to do 5 reps without reach for failure ,perform 4 or 5 different exercises ,Wednesday lower body same reps and sets as upper body. And rest Tuesday ,Friday and Saturday.
    They suggest this amount of calories to reach my goal 1680
    46 grams from fat =414 calories
    123 grams of protein = 492 calories
    193 grams of carbs = 773 calories.

    I would like to know your opinion about the calories And your advice about the BCCA before my HIT training. Or if you think I just should buy the leucine or the HMB.
    I don’t know much about supplements and I would like to know if they are good for vegetarians too. Thanks for your help and forgive me for the long question.

  • Peter Zejda

    Hey Mike. Right now I am eating about 4000 calories per day and mostly I am able to gain lean muscle with very little fat gain. I am 5 foot 8 155 pounds. I am working out intensely, with a 5 day split and then 1 day off (maybe about 70 minutes each workout). My split is 1.chest/triceps 2.back/traps 3.legs 4. chest/shoulders 5. back/biceps 6. rest. It is working very well for me, I am trying to catch up my chest and back to my arms and legs in proportion.

    I want to continue my splits plus add to that ninja warrior type training, which is a lot of hanging, monkey bar stuff, and pullups. Do you think your bcaa supplement would help me in recovery so that I can do the ninja warrior training more often and overall get quicker results? I want to train as much as possible. Also, how often do you think I can train normal body weight pullups, and maybe my forearms with hand grippers without over training? I drink 4 protein drinks per day plant fusion because I can’t eat dairy and my recovery works good but I haven’t started the ninja warrior stuff yet. Thanks!

    • Peter Zejda

      I didn’t notice Forge is a fat burner too. I am trying to maximize my muscle gains in my chest and back would that reduce my muscle gains since it is a fat burner? I was mostly interested in it for the muscle recovery but if it could burn some fat without slowing down muscle gains that would be an extra benefit (though I am under 10% body fat already).

  • Thomas Wang

    How much of Leucine would i need if I train fasted in the morning to preserve muscle? I’m debating whether to get pure HMB or Leucine. Which would you recommend? Leucine is cheaper when bought in bulk. Thanks!

    • 3-5g of leucine is good. HMB is better, but if you’re trying to save money, you can go with leucine.

  • Kris

    Hey Mike. What if I’m eating a meal that is not very high in proteins (may happen e.g.15g of beef prot.) and I don’t have whey or for some reason I don’t want to take whey (because for example I may overrun the daily needs for protein leaving no room for carbs),would it be wise to take bcaa to get enough leucine to trigger protein synthesis?

    • Not a problem. I wouldn’t supplement, no. Just hit your protein needs every day by the time you go to sleep.

      • Kris

        ok,what is much of these proteins are plant based. Don’t they have less leucine than animal products? There is quite a lot of plant proteins that I eat everyday(even if I don’t really plan them into my diet,but they’re there coming from breads, cereals, brocoli,beans,seeds etc.). that’s at least 40-50g daily. And we know animal proteins are better for building muscles than the plant ones.

        • Yeah many plant proteins aren’t as good for our purposes as animal protein.

  • Steve D’Agostino

    Hey, Mike. So I work out 3 days/wk for about 30-35 minutes (4 days if scheduling allows) in the morning. I eat 4 large eggs every morning about an hour before the workout and a 60g whey isolate protein shake after (I add 1/4 avocado, half a banana, 1/4 cup berries, 8oz whole milk and a handful of greens). I generally get around 150-160g protein per day, and I’ve weighed around 140lb at 5’8″ for the last 2.5 years that I’ve been working out. I’ve put on about 1/4″ on my arms over that time. That seems like nothing, and other gains are similarly small. I haven’t been supplementing, but I add almonds, Greek yogurt, and meat every day. Is there a recommended supplement or tweak here that might help me gain without adding fat? I’ve tried mass gainers (bad, bad, horrible idea), but all they did was add fat around my belly. I’ve been doing all the “right” weightlifting routines (complex, big movements – squats, deadlifts, bench, etc), and I seem to get stronger – until I plateau forever. Is there a supplement that can get me over the hump?

    • Cool on the foods you’re eating and the type of training you’re doing!

      To improve results I recommend increasing the workout volume and setting up and sticking to a proper meal plan. Check these out:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

      Keep this in mind for the plateau:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      Let’s start with that and see how it goes. Thoughts?

      • Steve D’Agostino

        Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the feedback. I went ahead and bought your book, too, so I’m hoping the program will do it for me. Quick question as I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet: if I’m doing the 5-day plan, are my workouts going to take an hour, or is a 30-40 minute routine a reasonable expectation? Also, just to be sure I’ve got it, am I doing 3 sets of 4-6 reps at 80-85% of 1RM for each exercise?

        • YW. Cool!

          Workouts will take about 60 minutes on the 5-day split.

          Yep, that’s right on the sets, reps and intensity.

          I look forward to seeing your results!

          • Steve D’Agostino

            Awesome. So, your answer leads me to one other question. Because of when I can get to the gym and where I have to go, I can only get in 40 minutes for 3 of those sessions (I have to work out before work). The other two would be on the weekend, so I have more flexibility then. Will that schedule have a significant impact on my ability to make gains, or is that other hour something I can make up for on the weekends when I have more time?

          • That’s totally fine. The workouts are only supposed to take 45-60 minutes anyways.

            Get in 9 heavy sets on the days you only have 40 minutes and you’re good.

            You can save the bigger workouts for the weekend and do the smaller workouts with none of the optional sets on the 40 minutes days.

            Sound good?

  • Danieruhezā• Maiyāzu

    Hi so I do intermittent fasting, but as a student on a budget I can’t afford hmb or bcca right now. Is it completely necessary or can I just eat alot of protein right after my daily workout?

    • Cool you’re doing IF.

      That’s fine if you can’t get HMB or BCAAs, but I don’t recommend training fasted without them.

      You can still do IF, but without those supps, you’ll lose muscle with the fasted training.

  • John

    Hey, thanks for answering our questions! Anyways, on to mine. I fast all day (21-22 hours), then workout (resistance/weight training), and eat all of my calories for the day after my workout. Currently, I take 3g calcium HMB powder with matcha green tea pre-workout. So is taking HMB before fasted weight training still effective for gaining muscle? Or would leucine be better for this purpose? I do get some leucine post-workout via whey protein and meat/eggs. I know it might not be optimal, but I really do not like to eat anything before I workout, and I do feel fine lifting on an empty stomach.

    One more question. I occasionally do protein-sparing modified fasts to lose fat quickly, and I still fast all day and weight train during a PSMF. Would it be beneficial to take HMB throughout the day during my fast to prevent muscle breakdown, or should I just stick to taking HMB only as a pre-workout supplement?

    There is so much conflicting information on the web regarding fasted training and using HMB vs leucine vs BCAAs vs nothing. I’d really appreciate your advice!

    • YW!

      Interesting. Why do you do it this way?

      Neither HMB or leucine will help you gain muscle but they will help mitigate the muscle wasting effects of fasted training.

      Yes on the PSMF. Again, why do this though?

      And check this out too:

      https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/

  • Swapnil

    Hello sir, I get up in the morning and take 1/2 Scoop of Muscletech Nitrotech and hit the gym………and 1/2 Scoop post workout. Is this fasted training. and if so should i increase protien intake or take leucine instead. Confused

  • Azouri

    Hey mike about your supplement forge, I recently got it and I’m wondering for full dosage use how many capsules should I take i weigh 164 pounds on the bottle it says 6 caps for 150 pounds and 8 caps for 200 so should I take between those two or round to the closest number?

  • محمد الدوسري #Gaza

    Hey Mike, I’m an extremely skeptic in terms of supplementing anti-catabolics, you’ve just cleared a lot of misconceptions of what I’ve read in the internet, believe me, you have no idea how much this helped me. Before I tell you what I’m doing so far, I have no interest in losing weight -in general-, but in burning fat and preserve (and/or gain) muscle-mass. Yesterday was my third IF day (20h+) in this week, I cannot workout in the morning due to my career which I start work at 7am to 4pm, when I wake up at 6:30am in the morning, I drink at 7am more than 600ml of water containing 5.5g BCAA, ingest HMB (as directed) and thermogenic agent (Lipo 6 Black), at 12:30pm I repeat the same except for BCAA I double 5.5g, after finishing my work at 4pm, I exercise for an hour low intense of cardio and medium intense “fusion” of HIIT+Lifting, after all this by 15mins, I ingest 1tbsp of organic raw honey, then eat my postworkout protein of 6 scrambled eggs (Coconut oiled), veggie-spicy soup with Quinoa and 400ml of water containing 5.5g BCAA + HMB. So far, I feel great, I don’t feel fatigued, no side effects whatsoever, but I’m wondering, am I doing this right, in terms of burning fat and preserve (and/or gain) muscle-mass? I also intent to perform IF 3 times per week, please advise.

    Conclusion:
    07:00am – 600ml Water BCAA + HMB + Thermos.
    12:30pm – Repeat, and double 5.5 BCAA.
    04:30pm – Fasted state workout.

    Thanks.

    • I’m really glad you liked the article.

      This looks pretty reasonable. Personally I would do another 10 grams of BCAAs before training but all in all a sensible layout…

  • Katie

    Hi Mike!
    So I went to bulk supplements like I’m pretty sure you mentioned on your podcast when talking about pre workouts and taking just leucine instead of BCAAS. in the directions on this site though, it says it’s important to take valine and iso-leucine with it. 🤔 Now what? Are they basically misinformed or trying to sell their other bulk powders lol. Trying to save money here but don’t want to hurt my health.

    • Haha you don’t need the other two if you’re eating enough protein. You’re not taking a lot of leucine–just a few grams per day.

  • Glen

    Hi Mike. Good article. One thing I’ve been unable to find out is whether it is safe (or not) to take high amounts of bcaa’s at once (say, 20g or so)? This is something that someone like Poliquin would suggest doing. Is it safe though?
    Thank you!
    Glen

  • Mark Bell

    pre wrkout for leucine if i can nly afford one which do i go with force or the legion.

    • If you’re training fasted, Forge. If you’re not training fasted, Pulse.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • JD22

    Since Leucine tastes so bad, would you recommend taking it in pill form? Or would it take too long for the body to absorb and thus defeat the purpose of taking it postworkout?

  • Spencer Pool

    awesome article! love the detail. couple questions…
    1. what kind of protein would you recommend for lactose intolerant people such as myself? i have experienced issues with whey.
    2. when is your app coming out?
    thanks very much.

    • Thanks!

      1. Whey protein isolate is normally fine for lactose intolerant people. Egg protein is also a good option.

      2. Should be ready in March/April! Stay tuned. 🙂

      My pleasure!

  • Tracy

    Valine reduces and delays fatigue. Seems fairly important. Particularly if you’re going to do fasted training.

    • Effects are very minor and seem to be applicable more to untrained persons than trained.

  • tom35

    I just happened to be looking for articles to help me decide if I want to buy some BCAAs or Biogro or anything besides protein powder. This article helps with my decision. Thanks.

  • K Crompt

    Hi Mike,

    Great stuff… Very informative! I too was another person looking at BCAAs and came across the Forge product. My question is this: Would consuming a high calorie recovery protein shake immediately following a fasted workout negate the effects of taking Forge before my workout? Should I wait some fixed amount of time after a workout to both eat and consume a recovery product like Vega Performance Pro? Thanks and cheers.

  • J Ringo

    Hi Mike,

    I’m interested in fasted training to lose some stubborn fat that won’t seem to go away. I’m not able to workout until roughly 11:00 am each day. As you can imagine 11:00 is a hard time to workout in a fasted state because its longer than I want to go into my day without eating. My question is…if I have some whey protein or some eggs in the morning will I be in a fasted state by 11:00 am (or possibly 12:00)? Suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Cool you want to train fasted, and I completely understand not wanting to wait till after an 11:00AM workout to have your first food for the day.

      Eggs wouldn’t work, but whey would be fine if it’s 3 hours or more before the training.

      Hope this helps! Welcome.

  • Rouge Surreah

    Hey Mike,
    Actually bulking right now, so looking for that “BCAA-like” steady stream, to enhance protein synthesis and accelerate gains.
    Should HMB alone only be taken for fasted exercise, though? Or is it something that can be taken at anytime and will be beneficial?
    Also – leucine does taste like hot garbage… what would you say would be the best DIRECT replacement for it?

    • I wouldn’t bother with HMB outside of fasted training and BCAAs aren’t likely to help much either, mainly due to the refractory response to a steady supply.

      Haha just eat enough protein? 🙂

  • Hi Mike. Thank you for this information. I was using BCAAs for some reason I can’t even remember right now. I’m passing this article along to my better half since I had recommended BCAAs and – after your article – need to recant.

    Also, I am asking your advice: This is going to sound like I’m trolling and I’m not. I’ve seen men get laughed out of forums for it but since I’m female, maybe you’ll appreciate my issue: I am too lean. NOT skinny, but cut. I’m not muscle like the hottie femmes in ads but just bone and muscle and a little pad on the rear. My back shred is obvious as is my 6 pack I don’t do anything for.

    I practice and teach yoga regularly. I spin class three or 4 times a week (fasted) and have a soy protein shake afterward (have cut the protein down to 25% of a scoop and have added non fat-free yogurt instead). Also, have recently started running.

    Before I began spinning (2 yrs ago), I didn’t see veins poking out my arms, in addition to having no rear. Now I have the rear – which I like – and my legs have gained size (not appreciably, but I like them) BUT I have veins. Veins on my forearms, noticeably. Veins coming down my bicep. Veins coming up from my bikini line, etc, and etc. I don’t like the veins.

    Do I need more fat? Do I need to murder some muscle. If so, how? (Which is fine!) Do I need to stop the shakes altogether? I eat anywhere from 1700 – 1900 calories a day. Do I need to eat more? If so, which macros? S.O. just says ‘eat more’ but I can’t – unless it’s sugary pastries or cookies. I have no desire to eat more real food. It’s difficult enough to eat what I DO eat.

    I’ve been on this quest for about a year now and haven’t yet found any answer except the one in my mind which says “Go back to eating junk food. Quit going to spin. Quit running. Quit yoga.” (And I REALLY don’t want to quit yoga!)

    I’m so lost. Thank you for any direction – in advance. I mean it: ANY direction.

    • Hey hey!

      I’m glad you liked the article.

      I’ve actually come across this with several women before and it sounds like we just need to put some fat on you!

      I think your cal intake is just too low. What are your macros like?

      • Thank you for responding! That could be the case that cal intake is too low because S.O. says the same thing. Oh he’ll be happy you agree with him. 🙂

        I don’t know what else I can eat or not eat. I am a mesomorph (ballerina physique) and desire tone, not large muscles, small breasts (yeah, they’re disappearing, too) & veins. Before gymming regularly, I kept a 6-pack and thinnish but cut arms which is why I think I’m a mesomorph. But before the gym I had a softness on me that is gone, I tell you, gone! (And I’m not a ballerina so I have NO awesome lighting following me around, tutu or pointe shoes to even offer the illusion of softness on me anymore.)

        Typical macros:
        week carb fat protein
        jan23 45% 35% 20%
        jan16 42% 32% 26%
        jan09 41% 34% 25%
        jan02 45% 30% 25%
        july12 44% 33% 23%
        july5 42% 27% 31%
        june28 45% 27% 28%
        june21 41% 31% 28%

        Tell me what to eat? Am I still okay drinking the [correction to original post; WHEY protein] shakes (with almond milk + low GL fruits) after fasted spin classes? Could that be contributing to my muscle growth and excessive fat loss? Should I start eating before cardio?

        I’m scared to eat more calories because I fear I’ll start to bulk. I’m only 5’3″ for the luvva… Tell me I’m ridiculous for thinking that? 🙂

  • 吳凱蒂

    Hi Mike,
    What if I don’t have BCAAs or HMB and still doing fasted HIIT or weightlifting? (I’m currently doing the 8/16 hour fast, and workout in the early morning then break my fast after workout)
    Any suggestion? Thank you: )

    • I don’t recommend that. You risk losing muscle.

      I suggest changing your workout time so you can have the proper pre-workout nutrition or picking up the supps to train fasted.

      Happy to help. 🙂

      Thoughts?

  • Nick Michaels

    Hey Mike, I’ve recently bought BCAA’s to supplement with before my fasted training and noticed they had a negative affect on my mood. I read that the leucine can inhibit tryptophan receptors and therefor affect serotonin. Have you heard of this happening? If so, do you think HMB would have the same effect. Any other options for sparing muscle during fasted training? Thanks

  • iamsammylou

    great article! and thanks for sharing it with us. i am:

    – 41 yr old woman
    – eating a mostly primal/paleo diet with white rice + oats
    – crossfit 3-4x per week at 9-10am, usually fasted
    – generally aim for the 16/8 IF protocol, sometimes 14/10, but I will default WHEN if i’m super hungry, my first meal PWO isn’t usually until 11am/noon
    – already lean, at an ideal weight, happy with my current level of strength and muscle mass.
    – i workout to stay healthy, reduce stress, anti ageing, etc. i do not care for competing or gaining muscle anymore.

    so that being said, is it really necessary for me to introduce HMB/BCAAs pre-workout if i am fasting before and after? or am i doing actual harm? just wondering if most people’s fear of the catabolism that may occur is because they are already doing everything they can to increase muscle? it does seem most of what i have found has been aimed at men who want to bulk up. struggling to find better info for women, and for those like me who are happy to maintain. my IF is primarily motivated by feeling better when i do it and for the longer term benefits such as cancer prevention, autophagy, longevity, etc.

  • TylerL

    I am training fasted and currently take 3g HMB preworkout or forge to preserve muscle. My weight workout is usually about 45 minutes to 1 hr. Do I need to take more HMB or BCAA(Luecine) before starting a 25 minute HIIT cardio session? I usually just jump right into the cardio portion without taking anything. I am concerned about muscle loss during cardio.

    • Cool!

      Nah, that’s fine. No need to take more HMB or anything before the HIIT. You’re good.

  • TJensen

    You had me going up to the point where you started advertising you own snake oil. So why should I believe your reports when you, like so many others, use the data to support your own agenda?

  • RobO__9

    Hi – what do you think about mixing the BCAAs with OJ in the morning 15-20 minutes before training (fasted)? Should I stick to water instead or doesn’t make a difference? Thanks! – Rob

    • The OJ would break the fast so it wouldn’t work. 🙁

      Welcome!

      • RobO__9

        Thanks for the reply. Any tips on making unflavored taste better? Or just suck it up and chug it? Ooof…..

        • YW! There are a few 0 cal drinks that could work. Have you tried the 0 cal Vitamin waters?

          Otherwise, just chug it. 🙂

  • Lawson McDonald

    Ive been reading online and see some people say BCAAs count towards your daily protein intake and calories and some say you don’t have to count them. In your book I noticed you didn’t count for the BCAAs in one of the workout plans (cutting for a 220 lbs male). what are your reasonings for this? Thanks!

    • BCAAs don’t count toward your protein intake. The calories do count, though.

  • john

    hey mike, just wondering im training fasted and taking ON amino energy, but i saw a video saying that bcaas dont mix well and taste bad, if they dont they are just bcaas. What is your position in this? I trust ON and i like this product because is relatively cheap and it also has caffeine and beta alanine, so it gives me energy. Also hmb is very expensive, i would take your supplements but unfortunately i do not like on United States so shipping and all that sucks, also the guy who was saying bcaas have to taste bad and not mix well was promoting his product, thanks!

    • Plain BCAAs are pretty gross, yes, but you can just gulp them down…

  • Evan

    Does leucine go bad if left mixed in water for an extended period of time? Leucine mixed with water tends to have a strong “bitter” smell but if I leave it in my shaker bottle for over 24 hours I think it gets even worse… Is it still edible or should I just be pouring it out?

  • beebugmel

    Mike, thanks for the info! I’m 44yo gal, and I’ve been strength training since mid-January working up from 2 to 5 times per week. And while I’m gaining muscle, I don’t seem to be losing much, if any, FAT. Admittedly novice to building, fasting, and all these tweaks and tricks, but know the basics of diet/exercise and trying to do as much self learning as can, even bought your book but just through 1st chapter (is available in audio version???).

    So, I’m stronger each week, and body ‘shape’ is better, but not smaller as in I’m putting on some muscle but no fat lost. Started out at 162lbs and I’ve actually put on, now at 167 🙁 My goal was and is to put on muscle via strength training and lose fat weight. Ideally in a lean state I’d be 132-135 (I’m 5′ 7″). Sure thought I’d be a lot closer to that after four and a half months. Usually i have a whey protein shake breakfast, mid-morning snack and for lunch (30g protein each, 5g carb, lowfat), then at 5p I take BCAAs with 20gm whey before and after w/o which is 5:30-6:20pm ,then a fish/salad style meal around 7:30p. Too much protein? No BCAAs? Add in Cardio? Try IF?

    I’m not going to give up but this is becoming very disappointing in terms of no results on fat loss after this amount of time!

    Any feedback you have time for will be appreciated.

  • Dan Taylor

    Hi Mike,

    Forge contains Yohimbine which is, unfortunately, illegal in Australia… Do you know if any of your other Australian customers have received it successfully? Or, alternatively, do you recommend a particular HMB supplement and dosage for fasted training?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Dan! We do have issues occasionally, but for the most part, people receive Forge just fine over there. 🙂

      Welcome!

  • Russell Farnham

    I have to disagree with BCAA’S not being effective. Branch Chain Amino Acids are vital to strength training. Scivation is excellent with its Xtend line, I have noticed increases in my lifts, increase in strength, and recovery time. Currently taking GNC Whey Extreme 60 for Protein. GNC hypercharge for pre workout, and Xtend for my BCAA supplementation. I have noticed size and strength increase.

    • Mitch

      BCAAs are pointless. a good/decent whey protein has bcaas in it, just like the author mentioned. Actually, most supplements are crap. The only useful one is creatine and protein (for the convenience). Ive been lifting seriously for the past 8 years. I used to buy into the supplement hype when I first started working out….

      • Outside of fasted training, limited application for BCAAs. Good point about the whey protein, Mitch.

    • I’m glad to hear you’re doing well but I promise the gains you’ve seen are not due to the BCAAs.

  • Makonem Hurley

    Hey Mike,

    I am currently on an IF but I have a dilemma.. I train at 5:30am every morning. I started my IF diet where my eating window would be 6:30am to 2:30pm… The issue I am having is when I go out with my wife or my friends I am stuck sipping on soda water, walking with my BCAAs to mix or eating ice.. My question to you is. If I wanted to push my window to later in the day like 1pm or 2pm. How can I do this safely, still train at 5:30 in the morning and maintain muscle mass? Can I just drink BCAA’s after I train until the 1pm window comes around?? Also I am very interested in your FORGE can I use this along with my BCAAs?

    • Hey hey! Hmm.

      It’s not ideal, but what you could do is a have BCAAs, leucine or HMB post-workout and every 2-3 hours until you do eat.

      Forge would replace the need of BCAAs pre-workout. However, if you don’t have your post-workout meal, you can take BCAAs post-workout.

      Have you considered not doing IF? You’d be able to have a proper post-workout meal and eat later. 🙂 Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/intermittent-fasting/

      LMK what you think!

  • Francisco Velasquez

    if i want to fast for 48-72 hours (and yes, i can “handle” it) will sipping on bcaas prevent- or minimize muscle break down while i lose fat from a deficit? If yes, how often should i sip on bcaas during these hours and how many grams? i have the bcaa product you recommend, but i use forge for fasted training (which i intend to use after a 46-72 hr fast)

    • Yeah it’s a good idea if you’re going to do that. I would say 10 grams every 3 to 4 hours after the initial 16 hours of fasting.

      • Francisco Velasquez

        thanks. Also, one of your teammates once told me when i use forge i should try to have my workout in about 45-60 minutes. Sometimes i drag out to 90-120 minutes (fatigued and take longer breaks from being fasted) so they recommend i dose after the initial 60 mins- instead of doubling the dose can i just sip on BCAAS? I find that its more cost efficient for me as i find your products to be on the more expensive side. But it’s all good, i buy about 70% of your product line :), you and your team are worth it and have helped me achieve 10% bf, now the. battle to sub 10% begins and i intend to do fasting and fasted training to help me with it

        • Totally a good option to sip on the BCAAs.

          Keep up the great work! You got this.

  • bandoogiemanz

    Mike, I wanted to ask you. Have you ever heard of the Jym line of products? Are they worth it?

    • I like that they use WPI. However, I don’t like the regular use artificial sweeteners and there’s no way of telling if they’re amino spiking or not…

  • Ricky Sommerfeld

    Hey Mike,

    I understand your position on this topic and I read the studies and came to the same conclusion as far as effectiveness goes. However: I can get fairly good quality BCAAS (musclepharm 3:1:2) which gives 3g leucine per serving. So I’ve priced it out, and my option for HMB-FA will cost me over $1/serving more to get 3g of HMB-FA. in your opinion is it worth the extra money for HMB? it seems like this article is aimed to help people save money by switching.. but in my case it will cost me more.

    Thanks, love your content!

    • Hmm good question. HMB is more effective than leucine and given MP’s financial woes, I’m not sure how much I would trust anything produced by them…

  • Cole Lomas

    Hi Mike, are there any benefits to taking BCAA’s before bed?

    • Cole, you’re better off with egg or casein before bed so you have a slow steady supply of aminos to work with as you sleep.

      • Cole Lomas

        Hi Roger, thanks for you response. Appreciate it. I vaguely remember the media hyping up cancer stuff associated with casein. Is this un-substantiated? Also I may have heard Mike say something about cottage cheese before bed. Is that because it has casein content?

  • Miz Eloise

    hello.

    i have been reading your articles like bible for the past 3 weeks. my question is how do i maintain muscle mass lose fat and probably gain some muscle along the process. i have 38 percebt body fat skinny fat actually.

    your supplements are not available in my country. it would be too expensive to ship here too.

    i am planning on taking hmb supplement along with whey protein. i am also on a calorie deficit now.

    pls advise what supplement component i should look for in buying

    • HMB, BCAAs, and Leucine all work to help preserve muscle in fasted training.

  • Maria

    So.. What I’m wondering here is: where are your references?
    Every article I’ve read about BCAA and how it BENEFITS the body during excercise, all have a great number of references to support their article. That makes the articles trustworthy.
    They support their opinion with evidence. So do you have that? Or is this just your opinion about BCAA?

    • Did you read the article? I link to the references throughout the article.

  • Chad

    Hey Mike,

    Training fasted sounds great since it helps to burn fat more effectively. However, during a cutting phase, you’ve stated that it is important to lift heavy to retain your muscle mass while you burn fat. Have your lifts suffered whenever you’ve trained fasted? Or are you able to push around as much weight as if you’ve eaten a preworkout meal?

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