In our definitive guide on BCAA, we touched upon the best BCAA ratio. We discussed how research suggests the 2:1:1 ratio for best muscle-building results. However, we didn’t go into many details.
Today is your chance to find out all about the BCAA ratio and its nuances. In this article, you will learn-
- What is BCAA ratio
- The BCAAs you need to build muscles
- What is the best BCAA ratio
- Why 2:1:1 ratio is the best
First, we will start by throwing some light on BCAA ratio for newbies out there, and then dive into detailed analysis.
What is BCAA Ratio
BCAA ratio simply refers to the number of amino acids that you take in the form of supplements.
When we speak about the 2:1:1 ratio, we mean-
- 2 parts leucine
- 1 part isoleucine
- 1 part valine
Or in other words, your BCAA supplement should contain 50% leucine, 25% isoleucine, and 25% valine by weight. If you take 5-grams of BCAA supplement in the 2:1:1 ratio, you will get-
- 2.5-grams leucine
- 1.25-grams isoleucine
- 1.25-grams valine
We hope the concept is clear to you now. Next, let’s move ahead with our discussion.
Leucine and Muscle Building
BCAAs lay the foundation for protein synthesis in our muscles. However, among the three amino acids, leucine contributes most to build muscle mass.
Leucine activates the mTOR pathway that turns on the process of muscle protein synthesis or MPS. It’s this protein synthesis that finally builds muscle protein and leads to muscle growth.
Research also concludes leucine is the king of muscle building. But what does it have to do with the best BCAA ratio?
Just because leucine activates muscle growth, people think they should take more leucine. The idea is the more leucine you take, the more protein your muscles synthesize, and the more mass your muscles build.
For this reason, many supplement companies increase the amount of leucine in their BCAA supplements. You may find high leucine ratios like 8:1:1, 10:1:1, and even 12:1:1. The supplement companies claim the high amount of leucine will help you build more muscles.
But is that the truth?
Let’s see what science has to say!
How to Build Muscles Effectively (As Per Research)
Leucine is undoubtedly crucial for building muscles. However, taking high amounts of leucine may not be effective for building more muscle mass. You need all essential amino acids to optimize protein synthesis, and in turn, grow your muscle size.
Scientists at Baylor University conducted a study to determine the best BCAA ratio. They divided participants into groups and gave them either-
- A leucine supplement
- A BCAA supplement in 2:1:1 ratio, or
- A placebo
What did the researchers find?
They found that the BCAA supplement with all three branched-chain amino acids increased protein synthesis more than placebo or leucine alone.
Sean Felenczak, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and nutritionist, agrees on the same.
He says you need all essential amino acids to develop muscle mass. Sean also adds to his Quora answer that leucine has a threshold for maximizing protein synthesis. So, even if you take more leucine, it will not help you build more muscle.
Summary: We obviously need more leucine to build muscles, along with isoleucine and valine. But taking more leucine without meeting minimum requirements of isoleucine and valine can be counterproductive.
What is the Best BCAA Ratio
We saw how we need all three branched-chain amino acids to fulfil our muscle-building goals. That means you shouldn’t compromise isoleucine and valine for the sake of more leucine. It won’t help you synthesize more protein or build more muscle mass.
So the best BCAA ratio is 2:1:1.
Taking BCAA supplements in high rations like 8:1:1 or 12:1:1 is useless and a waste of money. So, stick with the ratio that all experts and scientists recommend, i.e.-
- 50% leucine
- 25% isoleucine
- 25% valine
Why 2:1:1 is the Best BCAA Ratio
The 2:1:1 ratio serves more purposes than just help you build muscle. We will explore more reasons that prove the best BCAA ratio is 2:1:1.
More Energy and Less Fatigue
Our muscles directly use BCAAs to produce energy. The amino acids are also responsible for lessening fatigue and improving recovery. Among the three amino acids, valine plays a big role in helping you recover and maintain alertness.
How does valine achieve the results?
During working out, our brains take in a lot of tryptophan. The tryptophan is then converted to serotonin in our brains. And as we know, increased levels of serotonin makes us feel fatigued. Spiked serotonin in blood also reduces muscle strength and endurance.
Valine limits the production of serotonin by restricting the entry of tryptophan in the brain. As a result, you can work out for longer, push yourself harder, and increase the intensity of your exercises.
Valine even helps us maintain focus and stay alert when you are at rest.
Enhanced Fat Loss
Isoleucine is an important amino acid for those looking to lose weight. Animal research in rats showed isoleucine to promote fat burning and discourage fat storage. So, the 2:1:1 is the best BCAA ratio in this case too.
Natural Muscle BCAA Ratio
According to Shawn Wells, Director of R&D at The University of Tampa, BCAAs are present in our muscles in the ratio of 2:1:1. Most research on BCAAs that show positive results also uses the same ratio.
Sticking with the natural BCAA ratio of our muscles seems to be the best way to replenish the essential amino acids.
What Experts Say
What do experts think is the best BCAA ratio?
We already know sports nutritionist Sean Felenczak recommended the 2:1:1 ratio in his Quora answer. In the same thread, other experts also expressed their opinions.
Sabrina Ashten, the Product Expert at BulkSupplements.com, thinks 2:1:1 is the ideal BCAA ratio to take as your supplement. This helps you get enough leucine to promote muscle building while ensuring the required amounts of leucine and valine.
Jim Stoppani, Ph.D. in exercise physiology, wrote a whole article on the best BCAA ratio. He also suggests going for the 2:1:1 ratio for maximum gains. Additionally, he thinks athletes can also follow a 3:1:1 ratio for promoting more protein synthesis.
Optimum BCAA Consumption Amount
We know the best BCAA ratio is 2:1:1. However, Shawn Wells thinks the optimum amount of leucine to take is between 2 – 3.5grams. This amount helps you maximize your protein synthesis and builds more muscle.
Jim Stoppani also recommends taking 3-grams of leucine per serving of your BCAA supplement. Along with that, we should ensure a minimum of 1-gram of both isoleucine and valine in each serving of BCAA supplement.
BCAA Safe Dosage
You need at least 144mg of BCAA per kilo of body weight, as we saw in our best time to take BCAA post. A healthy human being will need at least 20 – 25-grams of BCAA in each serving to build muscles and aid recovery.
Dangers of Taking Too Much Leucine
We saw taking too much leucine is not favourable for building muscles. Additionally, too much leucine can lead to adverse effects, according to Sabrina Ashten. It can lead to muscle discomfort and pain and interrupt your workout routine.
High doses of leucine may also cause-
- Low blood sugar
- Digestive problems
- Skin lesions
- Hair loss
So, always stick with the best BCAA ratio- 2:1:1.
BCAAs build muscle, prevent fatigue, and facilitate recovery only when you take it in the ratio of 2:1:1.
Scientists and experts also suggest the same and recommend taking a balanced amount of all three branched-chain amino acids. You should also stick to the safe dosage and never take high amounts of leucine. It will only cause negative effects and won’t contribute t your fitness goals. So the best BCAA ratio by all means in 2:1:1 (leucine: isoleucine: valine).
We have also selected the best BCAA supplements in India just for you after a lot of research. You can check out our recommendations and choose a product meeting your needs by clicking here.