Best Time To Take BCAAs: Branched-Chain Amino Acids



By: Chris Lockwood, PhD, CSCS

Are you new to the gym, a competitive athlete, bodybuilder, CrossFitter, endurance enthusiast or weekend warrior?

If you fall into any of those categories, there’s a good chance you’ve supplemented with, or have considered using a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) to improve your performance or promote faster recovery.

Best Time To Take BCAAs

The best time to take them is during workouts by adding 5-10 grams to your shake regimen, both pre-workout or post-workout, to fuel your body and repair your muscles.

When a high quality, high protein supplement or meal isn’t on the menu, a BCAA supplement can help amplify the benefits of those aminos to your muscles.

In other words, you can occasionally consume less protein and likely still reap the muscle-supporting benefits of an otherwise high-quality, high protein load. At the very least, you minimize the catabolic (muscle breakdown) effects of too much protein.

The most critical time to take them is around workouts, so add 5-10 grams to your pre- and post-workout shakes.

2:1:1 BCAA Ratio

While you can take a single amino acid supplement to get the benefits, by taking a 2:1:1 (leucine-to-isoleucine-to-valine) ratio you get more bang for your buck.

The all-star when it comes to amino acids is the essential amino, Leucine.

'Essential' meaning the body cannot produce the amino naturally. 

Additionally, researchers in one study found that 4.2 grams of the BCAA leucine, when added to a low-quality and low-protein (10 g) drink, significantly amplified the anabolic effects of weight training in both younger and older adults. [Atherton PJ et al. Clin Nutr 2016; S0261-5614(16)30071-1]

A Natural Fatigue Fighter (An Ode to the Holidays) 

If you’ve gorged on Thanksgiving turkey, you know the feeling of fatigue that sets in and makes you want to crawl into bed.

In addition to the extra protein, that all-American bird feast provides the cathartic benefits of a high-dose of the essential amino acid, tryptophan; the amino acid responsible for increasing the sleep-inducing hormone, serotonin. 

However, that same tryptophan that makes family holidays bearable by putting you into Sleepy Town also increases within your brain as you exercise.

By blocking or delaying the uptake of tryptophan into the brain you can delay exercise fatigue and increase your total training volume.

Increasing training volume is the necessary variable for achieving your goals! Since this is an article about the best time to take BCAAs, it probably won’t surprise you that BCAAs directly compete with tryptophan for uptake into the brain.

In fact, in a recent systematic review, researchers concluded that supplementation with BCAAs prior to or during endurance exercise reduces fatigue, perceived effort, muscle damage, and pain sensation, increases the anabolic response to exercise, and improves recovery and the immune system response to exercise. [Salinas-Garcia ME et al. Nutr Hosp 2015;31:577-89.]

Oxygen Scivation Feature

About Chris Lockwood

Dr. Lockwood is president of LOCKWOOD, LLC, an innovation, research, and consulting firm within the dietary supplement, nutrition and fitness industries. Beginning in Fall 2017, will also begin serving as an Adjunct Professor at Auburn University, School of Kinesiology. He has raised over $1.04MM in cash donations toward protein and dietary supplement research, is the lead inventor on five patents and pending applications, co-authored 58 peer-reviewed manuscripts and presentations, has authored 100s of consumer and trade articles, and is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts in sports nutrition and dietary supplements. He has previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Muscle & Fitness and M&F Hers magazines, Senior Category Director of the Diet, Energy, Food and Beverage category of GNC, Senior Brand Manager of ABB, and as Chief Scientific Officer of 4Life Research. 



The world’s most personalized pre-workout.
What is your stimulant tolerance?
zero
no stims for me thanks
low
a standard energy drink or cup of coffee is enough for me
medium
I drink multiple energy drinks or cups of coffee a day and/or I take pre-workout before the gym
high
I drink pre-workouts or energy drinks all day long
What is your goal?

Enhanced Performance
start a fitness program and/or take it to the next level

Weight Loss
fat loss and cutting

Muscle Growth
gain strength and size
Do you play collegiate or competitive sports?
yes
no
Alpha Amino BCAA

Alpha Amino is the ultimate performance, hydration and recovery sports drink powder. Its premium formula is built on the power of amino acids and formulated with ingredients that promote healthy fluid balance. Alpha Amino has 14 Amino Acids including a well-studied 2:1:1 BCAA ratio. These Amino Acids support the body’s ability to fuel skeletal muscles, preserve muscle glycogen stores and reduce protein breakdown.

  • Performance BCAA’s with 0g Sugar
  • 14 Amino Acids
  • 5g BCAA’s in the clinically studied 2:1:1 ratio
  • Electrolytes for hydration
  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
C4 Sport

C4 Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete or play sports competitively, C4 Sport is the perfect pre-workout for you because it is NSF Certified for Sport. C4 will help you tackle your training in the gym and on the field.

  • Boosts energy + focus
  • Enhances muscular endurance
  • 135mg of caffeine
  • Contains CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, an amino acid, patented and clinically studied form of beta-alanine that has been shown to support muscular endurance
  • NSF certification is trusted by the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA, and everyday athletes alike
C4 Original

C4 Original! This is our best-selling pre-workout with more than 1.3 billion servings sold! C4 Original is perfect for you if you are new to the pre-workout game or you are seeking a lower stimulant C4.

  • Perfect for energy, focus and pumps
  • Good if you’re at the start your fitness journey/want to step up your workouts
  • 150mg of caffeine

Pro tip: If you are just starting out on a pre-workout, take half a scoop to assess tolerance level.*

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

C4 Ripped

C4 Ripped! If your goal is to lose weight, C4 Ripped is the perfect pre-workout for you.

  • Helps you train harder while supporting your body’s ability to burn fat
  • Creatine-free
  • Includes ingredients like Green Coffee Bean Extract to support weight loss
  • 150mg of caffeine
  • L-Carnitine Tartrate

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

C4 Extreme Energy

C4 Extreme! If you love energy drinks and are always on the hunt for higher caffeine levels, C4 Extreme is for you.

  • C4 Extreme is the most stimulating C4 pre-workout
  • 2x as much caffeine than C4 Original
  • 2x as much CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine (tingles) than C4 Original
  • 300mg of caffeine
C4 Ultimate

C4 Ultimate! If you’re a seasoned gym goer who loves pre-workouts and you’re looking for a fully-loaded, high-impact pre-workout, C4 Ultimate has what you need.

  • The most powerful C4 created
  • Per scoop: 300mg caffeine, 6g Citrulline Malate, 3.2g of CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, 1.5g Nitrosigine®, 1.5g Creatine Nitrate, plus a powerful blend of nootropics
  • Fully-loaded formula packs a heavy punch of ingredients for focus, endurance, and pumps to help push you to your ultimate limit
  • Formulated for the ultimate – not entry level

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

BCAA Sport

BCAA Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete – or play sports competitively, BCAA Sport is a perfect stimulant-free option for you, because it is NSF® Certified for Sport®! BCAA Sport supports all day hydration & recovery, to maximize your workout results

  • All Day Hydration & Recovery
  • Supports All Day Hydration & Recovery
  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
  • 4G BCAA’s, 2.25G Added Amino Acids, 2G Added Glutamine, and Added Electrolytes
  • NSF® Certified for Sport®
CN3

CN3&trad; combines 3 forms of Creatine into a stimulant-free 3-in-1 Creatine complex! Providing 6.25 total grams consisting of micronized Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine Hydrochloride. CN3&trad; is an amazing product to be taken before, during, or after a workout. Looking to amplify Strength & Pumps? CN3&trad; has got you covered!

  • Strength & Pump Amplifier
  • Stimulant free
  • Includes Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine HCL
  • Unflavored or flavored
CLK

Cellucor CLK® is a stimulant free toning and sculpting supplement built on the power of four all-star weight loss ingredients: CLA, Raspberry Ketones, Carnitine, and the latest in diet support; Slimpro®.

  • Stimulant Free Fat Loss
  • Stimulant free toning and sculpting formula
  • Powered by four ingredients to support weight loss
  • Can be taken standalone, or paired with C4 Ripped (C4 Ripped contains stimulants)
  • Raspberry flavored softgels

Share & Contribute

Do you have a story or would you like to be a contributor? We'd love to hear from you.

Learn How