Crazy Benefits of BCAAs On Cutting Diet and Fasted Training

By Kyle Milligan / March 11, 2017

I've never been big on taking supplements. So when I decided to look into the benefits of BCAAs, I really looked into it. The more I read, the more impressed I was with what BCAAs can do for you. More specifically, I am really thrilled about the benefits of BCAAs while on a cutting diet and fasted training. 

Before I can jump into the specific benefits of BCAAs while cutting and fasted training, I have to go over the broad stuff. I will do this VERY quickly. The link in the first paragraph is an entire article on what BCAAs are and what they do. 

BCAA stands for branched chain amino acid. They are stringed together with peptide bonds and make up proteins. Proteins make you strong. BCAAs are essential amino acids, meaning your body cannot manufacture them, you must eat them. End of discussing what BCAAs are.

body builder fasted training with BCAAs

Not actually me.

Ordinarily, BCAA's benefits are twofold:

  1. They give your body extra fuel during your workouts
  2. They counteract the effects of muscle break down, reducing soreness and recovery time​

That's the end of BCAAs basics. Soon we'll discuss the awesome stuff: How BCAAs benefit you while on a cutting diet and fasted training.

First, let's discuss the pros and cons of fasted training while on a cutting diet. This way you can understand how BCAAs emphasize and enhance the pros, and reduce the cons. 

What is Fasted Training?

Fasted training means working out when your body has reached a fasted state. Your body reaches a fasted state when your last meal has been fully absorbed and your blood sugar returns to baseline. The fasted state can be at different times for different people, depending on your body chemistry and what you ate. 

I can't find conclusive evidence of when a "fasted state" really begins, and there are some pretty varied opinions. The sources I've seen say fasted states begin anywhere from 6 hours to 16 hours. For our purposes, let's say you are in a fasted state after 8 hours, and if you sleep 8 hours and go to the gym without breakfast, you are officially fasted training.

By this definition, ​I have been fasted training without even realizing it. It's not because I'm smart (though you could believe that if you want) it's actually because of my cutting diet.

I only train fasted because I am greedy with my macros while cutting and want to save as many calories as I can so I don't get hungry during the day. What I didn't realize was that I have been inadvertently priming my body to be in the optimal fat-burning state when I workout. I literally had no clue what I was doing until I started reading up on the benefits of BCAAs while cutting and fasted training.

Benefits of a Fasted State

​When you are in a fasted state, your body is not breaking down food anymore, and your insulin levels drop.  Insulin is the key player here. Insulin is important because it actually inhibits lipolysis, which is when your body breaks down fat.

Quick Breakdown

  • When you eat, your body produces insulin, which inhibits fat burn
  • When you are fasted, insulin levels drop, meaning you can burn more fat

When you eat too much and eat frequently, you can become more resistant to insulin’s effects. This has the potential to increase your risk to a host of health problems, like heart disease and cancer. Also, it just makes it a lot harder to lose body fat. 

Alternatively, when you eat less often your body has to release insulin less often. As a result, you can become more sensitive to insulin release, and it becomes easier to lose fat.

If you continue to fast longer and more often, your body will have an increased ability to break down fat. How neat is that? 

But there's a catch...

In addition to being able to burn more fat in a fasted state, your body will also burn more muscle. This is because a fasted state is the state in which your body is no longer absorbing nutrients from food in your belly. It has to get fuel from somewhere! Unfortunately, excess muscle mass is one of your body's favorite fuel supplies. ​This is where BCAAs come into the picture.

Effects of BCAAs When Cutting and  Fasted Training

If you are on a cutting diet and doing fasted training, your muscle mass is in greater jeopardy of being catabolized. It would be great to have something that could defend them from getting eaten up by your body for fuel. Oh wait, BCAAs do that!

We know that one of the basic benefits of BCAA powders is that it provides your muscles with energy during your workouts. This is crucial while on a cutting diet because BCAA powders are virtually zero calorie. And they still feed your muscles the amino acids your body would steal from itself and burn for fuel. With the excess amino acids from BCAA powder, you have both extra fuel and resources for muscle repair at no cost to your macros and calories.

But that's not all! (Wow, did I just say that...)

Not only do you get the benefits BCAAs when cutting provide for reducing muscle breakdown, you​ actually still get the increased ability to burn fat from fasted training!

Will Taking BCAA Break A Fast?

Taking BCAAs in powder form should not break your fast. You can naturally get your BCAAs from food protein, like dairy and meats. But when you take BCAAs as a supplement, it is usually in a form that is so low in calories that it does not cause insulin levels to rise. Therefore, when you take a BCAA supplement, you are actually feeding your body workout fuel without exiting the fasted state. You get the best of both worlds!

(Related: See my review of  Gold Standard BCAA Powder)

This translates to fasting in general. It means that you don't have to consume only water. For instance, you can (and I recommend you do) drink black coffee. I use it for an energy boost as well as an appetite suppressant. You can also have tea, or other supplements (like BCAAs) that are zero calorie or near zero cal. Even diet sodas won't break the effects of your fast. 

How Much BCAA Powder Should You Take?

One serving of any BCAA powder (for most brands) usually provides 5g of BCAAs with a ratio of 2:1:1 leucine to isoleucine to valine. This means you are getting a little over 2 grams of leucine and a little over 1g of isoleucine and valine. I have read varying opinions on how much BCAAs to take for every person (leangains writer Martin Berkhan says 10g), but one heaping scoop before or during a workout will give you close to 3g of leucine, which is better than none. Personally, I always break the fast and eat a protein heavy meal (full of BCAAs) right after my workouts as well. 

Gold Standard BCAA Train and Recover Powder

I am currently using Gold Standard BCAA

(Click to check out Gold Standard BCAA on Amazon.)

Really, I wouldn't get too caught up in the minutia of all this "when to take" and "how much BCAAs to take." The reason I say that is I have worked out for years without BCAAs and still had results. BCAAs provide awesome benefits and so does fasted training. But what matters the most in any exercise and nutrition plan is consistency.

If you have a good plan, that's all you need. No supplement or trick will get you great results. Sticking to your plan and working it every single day is what yields results.  Just take a scoop of BCAA powder right before your workout or bring it with you to the gym.

Also, don't just take my word for it. Don't just ever take one person's word on something. Be a student yourself. Call me out if I misspoke anywhere. I am human. It happens.

Conclusions

On their own, BCAAs and fasted training have great health benefits. But combined, the two provide enormous advantages and are great for those on a cutting diet. 

BCAAs

  • Reduce muscle soreness and recovery time​
  • Provide sustained energy during workouts, virtually calorie free

Fasted Training

  • Absence of insulin allows the body to break down fat more easily
  • Makes body more sensitive to insulin and decreases health risks

Together While Cutting

  • Get the benefits of fat burn without the drawback of muscle breakdown
  • Get health benefits of fasting without decrease in energy levels

What BCAAs do you take and how much? Let me know if you have any tips of your own in the comments!

And thanks for reading!

Summary
Crazy Benefits of BCAAs On Cutting Diet and Fasted Training
Article Name
Crazy Benefits of BCAAs On Cutting Diet and Fasted Training
Description
The more I read, the more I'm impressed with BCAAs. Specifically, I'm thrilled about the benefits of BCAAs while on a cutting diet and fasted training.
About the author

Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan. I really enjoy writing. I wrote a couple novels (The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series) and now I blog frequently on a bunch of different websites. I also enjoy lifting heavy things and and writing about it.

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