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Tip 360: Take BCAAs and Protein to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat For Summer

Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:02 AM
Take BCAAs, protein, and other key nutrients to achieve the best hormone response from training if you want to gain muscle and lose fat for summer. By ignoring pre- and post- workout nutrition, you won’t get the best body composition results from training. With attention to nutrients, you can increase testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1(IGF-1) for muscle gains and fat loss.

To build muscle, you need to support the anabolic response to training. This is best achieved by taking branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and protein. For example, a 2010 study showed that trained men who took 6 grams of BCAAs a day with glutamine for 4 weeks had significantly higher testosterone levels after high-intensity resistance training than a placebo group. They also had a lower cortisol response than the placebo group, which is significant because both strength gains and a decrease in protein degradation are more correlated with a better testosterone-to-cortisol ratio than total testosterone levels.

A second 2010 study showed that the BCAA leucine may be the most effective for activating protein synthesis pathways in older adults. Researchers compared the effect of taking 10 grams of protein that was 18 percent leucine with a similar drink that was 35 percent leucine on older participants (no resistance training was done). The higher leucine concentration resulted in greater anabolic protein signaling, which means less muscle breakdown from the degrading effects of cortisol.

For the best body composition, you need to build muscle and burn fat, which is done by boosting growth hormone along with testosterone. Getting adequate amino acids like arginine, will support growth hormone. Research shows that taking a large whey protein  dose is more effective than just taking EAAs for stimulating protein synthesis and growth hormone.

For example, a recent study showed that a 20 gram dose of whey produced greater protein synthesis than taking a small 6 gram dose of whey with essential amino acids added.  This is likely due to the extra nonessential amino acids in whey such as arginine and the precursors of ornithine, both of which have been found to elevate growth hormone more than a placebo after a large volume of squats.

IGF-1 is the often ignored, but just as important, anabolic hormone that will improve body composition. When released, IGF-1 is though to “kick start” protein synthesis for maximal lean mass gains. BCAAs and extra protein ingestion will support IGF-1 release, but what many people don’t know is that you need adequate magnesium for optimal IGF-1.

An Italian study from 2011 showed that low magnesium was directly related to low IGF-1 in older men, possibly because both magnesium  and IGF-1 are involved with eradicating inflammation in the body. The thought is that adequate magnesium decreases inflammation, allowing more IGF-1 to be available for protein synthesis.

Take away the understanding that protein before and after training, and at key points throughout the day is critical if you want to get in shape fast. Opt for whey powder shakes for workouts and get the rest of your protein from meat. Take BCAAs and make sure you have adequate magnesium to boost fat loss and protein synthesis.

Of course, you can’t out-train or out-supplement a poor diet. Read the Five Best Diet Tips for Optimal Body Composition.

Glynn, E., Fry, C., Drummond, M., Timmerman, K., Dhanani, S., Volpi, E., Rasmussen, B. Excess Leucine Intake Enhances Muscle Anabolic Signaling but Not Net Protein Anabolism in Young Men and Women. The Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 140(11), 1970-1976.

Sharp, C., Pearson, D. Amino Acid Supplements and Recovery from High-Intensity Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(4), 1125-1130.

Maggio, M., Ceda, G., Lauretani, F., Cattabiani, C., Avantaggiato, E., Morganti, S., et al. Magnesium and Anabolic Hormones in Older Men. International Journal of Andrology. 15 June 2011. Published Ahead of Print.

Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Kang, J., Gonzalez, A., Beller, J., Craig, S. Effect of Fifteen Days of Betaine Ingestion on Concentric and Eccentric Force Outputs During Isokinetic Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(8), 2235-2241.

Kraemer, W., Bailey, B., Clark, J., Apicella, J., Lee, E., Comstock, B., Dunn-Lewis, C., Volek, J., Kupchak, B., Anderson, J., Craig, S., Maresh, C. The Influence of Betaine Supplementation on Work Performance and Endocrine Function in Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. March 2011. 25(Suppl 1).

Zajac, A., Peprezecki, S., Zebrowska, A. Chalimoniuk, M., Langfort, J. Arginine and Ornithine Supplementation Increases Growth Hormone and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Serum Levels After Heavy-Resistance Exercise in Strength-Trained Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(4), 1082-1090.

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