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Bulletin #131 – BCAA’s: Activating Muscular Growth

One of the greatest peaking ironies and challenges is that you must be in a calorie deficit to stimulate fat loss, yet in order to drive muscle growth you must supply all the nutrients and energy muscles require for growth. Can you do both at the same time? Absolutely. Of course, the easiest way to lose fat is to just starve yourself. Starving people are not fat. But the problem with this approach is that during severe caloric restriction, you lose about half muscle and half fat. Your body tries to hang on to the fat as long as it can so it won’t run out of energy. At the other end of the spectrum, it is pretty easy to gain weight if you just eat like a pig. There are very few people who can’t gain a lot of weight if they just eat enough calories. This is what the hoard of “weight gainer” powders out there are for.

Parrillo Performance

If you add 1,000 calories a day to your diet, you will gain weight. The problem, of coarse, is that if you just indiscriminately add calo-ries to your diet most of them (probably about 75% by most estimates) will end up as fat. What’s the answer? How can you at-tain a really spectacular physique? How do you do it? The answer is nutrient partitioning, a method of directing food toward your lean compartment and not to fat stores. The idea is to have your food energy go to build muscle while drawing on your fat stores to fuel activity. Achieving this requires two things. First is a very specific eating program which supplies energy in a way that supplies nutrients to build muscle but does not supply calories that are stored as fat. There are certain foods you should eat and specific foods you should avoid. Each meal must be structured according to fairly narrow parameters. The nuts and bolts of how to do this is described in the Parrillo Performance Nutrition Manual, which is the cornerstone of the program. The second requirement for nutrient partitioning is a training program .

Train-ing provides the stimulus to build muscle as well as activating the body’s fat-burn-ing pathways. How does it work? What happens is the nutrition program and the training program merge to have certain ef-fects on your body’s hormones. And these hormones control muscle metabolism and fat metabolism. If you follow the program faithfully, you can actually modify the hormonal environment inside your body in such a way as to signal your muscles to grow and simultaneously signal fat loss. And by supplying nutrient energy in a specific pattern you can direct this energy to the lean compartment while at the same time burning body fat. Now, where do you start? You start with the Nutrition Manual and a solid train-ing program which includes lifting weights and aerobics. It ís virtually impossible to achieve the results of my program with-out the Nutrition Manual. Many advanced level bodybuilders in the world are on this program, and that’s no exaggeration. You have to start there. I’ve spent over thirty years researching this area and experi-menting with advanced level competitive bodybuilders.

My approach has been to assemble all of the scientific information on muscle and fat metabolism, and then try different strategies in real athletes to find out what really works. The Nutrition and Training Manuals give you the benefit of twenty years of research and work right at your fingertips. Are there any supplements that can help? Yes, definitely. One in particular that fits into this program is called Muscle Amino . Muscle Amino is a pharmaceuti-cal grade, ultra-pure, crystalline, free-form amino acid mixture of leucine, isoleu-cine, and valine. These are the so-called “branched chain” amino acids, because their side chain contains a branched carbon structure. The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the essential amino acids. Of the twenty amino acids common in human proteins, twelve of them can be made by the body and are called “nones-sential” amino acids.

The other eight can-not be made by the body and are called “es-sential” amino acids because it is essential they be obtained from the diet. Obviously, bodybuilders need to be attentive that their diet supplies all of the essential amino acids they need, because they are required for muscle maintenance and growth. There are two special things about the BCAAs: they are among the most abundant amino acids in muscle proteins (1) and they are heavily catabolized (broken down) during exercise, especially intense aerobic exercise (2). These two reasons plus the fact the body cannot make its own BCAAs increase the need for BCAAs by athletes, especially athletes concerned about achiev-ing maximum muscle mass. BCAAs seem to be preferentially taken up by muscle tis-sue and stored there, providing an anabolic effect as well as a nitrogen-sparing (anti-catabolic) effect (3).

Muscle Amino is selectively taken up by muscle, so it will add to muscle mass and not fat mass. It provides essential building blocks which are used to build muscle pro-tein, having a anabolic effect. And it blocks the breakdown of existing muscle tissue during intense exercise. This is a perfect example of positive nutrient partitioning. Muscle Amino provides nutrient energy that is specifically targeted to building up muscle stores while not contributing to fat stores . Exercise induces changes in the body’s pattern of energy metabolism, and these changes are driven by energy needs, sub-strate availability, and hormonal regulation (2). This change in the pattern of energy flow in the body is what brings about the change in body composition we seek. En-ergy to fuel to body is derived from oxida-tion (burning) of the carbon chains in car-bohydrates, fats, and proteins. The ratio of the fuel mixture that is oxidized depends on the nutrient ratio consumed as well as exer-cise type and intensity (2). In other words, whether you burn fat or carbs or protein for energy depends on what you eat and how you exercise.

During normal conditions, 80 100% of the body’s energy requirements are sup-plied by fats and carbohydrates (2). This means that amino acids can provide up to 20% of energy needs on a daily basis, and more during intense exercise. In one study, protein breakdown and use of amino acids for fuel were measured in men following a 10 mile run. It was found that 57 grams of protein were consumed as fuel during the run, accounting for 18% of the energy cost of the run (2). This means that as much as the entire USRDA for protein can be burned during a single intense aerobic ex-ercise bout. If you want to build a firm, hard body, you require ample protein. One reason is that if you’re very active with an intense weight training program and an equally intense endurance/aerobics program, you are actually burning protein for fuel. If you don’t supply enough protein in your diet to make up for this increased demand then the body will actually break down muscle tissue to supply the amino acids to use as fuel. This is your worst nightmare. Since the biggest demand for amino acid fuel is during aerobic exercise, it turns out that en-durance athletes actually have even higher protein requirements than bodybuilders (2). Very few people realize this, including very few endurance athletes.

This is why endurance athletes usually have a very thin (sometimes referred to as “stringy”) look they burn more protein than they take in, so their muscles get catabolized as fuel. Muscle mass is determined by the bal-ance of protein synthesis and protein deg-radation (2). When synthesis exceeds deg-radation, protein mass accumulates and the body is said to be in positive protein bal-ance (or positive nitrogen balance). When degradation exceeds synthesis, the body is in a negative protein balance and muscle mass is lost . The proteins in your muscles are not exceptionally stable over time, but rather are in a constant state of “turnover.” This means that every day some of your body proteins are broken down and de-stroyed to be replaced with new proteins. Proteins are the mechanical workhorse of the cell, being responsible for doing the physical work of life. For example, during muscle contraction what happens is protein filaments called actin and myosin slide past each other in opposite directions, thus mak-ing the muscle shorter. Like any mechani-cal parts that move and rub against each other, they get worn out. After a while the old proteins are broken down and replaced with new ones. This coupled with the fact that the BCAAs are among the most abundant amino acids in muscle protein make it obvious why athletes have increased need for the branched chains.

They use more for energy, plus they need more for protein synthesis. Virtually every book and article about supplementation for athletes suggest the BCAAs as one of the core supplements. Of all the supplements out there, Muscle Amino is certainly one of the most high-tech, because it specifically targets the metabolic problem at hand. By supplying more BCAAs to the body less muscle tis-sue is catabolized during exercise, helping to maintain positive protein balance and net gain of muscle tissue. This is a prime example of a low calorie nutrient which specifically targets metabolic pathways to have a positive partitioning effect. Muscle Amino is selectively taken up by muscle where it acts to promote protein synthesis and prevent protein breakdown. Since it is taken up by muscle and not by fat, this is a way to supply nutrient energy which will be partitioned to the lean compartment. It should be emphasized that endurance ath-letes will benefit from this supplement at least as much as bodybuilders, if not even more . To see a real noticeable effect from Muscle Amino you need to take a fair amount of it. At least ten grams a day, and twenty would not be too much. I suggest two to three capsules with each of six meals per day. Smaller amounts will have a smaller effect, but this is a supplement where the effects accumulate over time. It is best to take Muscle Amino with meals to increase absorption.


1.Rombeau JL and Caldwell MD. Clini-cal Nutrition: Parenteral Nutrition, Second Edition. W.B. Saunders Company, Phila-delphia, 1993 .

2.Wolinsky I and Hickson JF. Nutrition in Exercise and Sport. CRC Press, Boca BCAA’s: Activating Muscular GrowthRaton, 1994.

3.Bucci L. Nutrients as Ergogenic Aids for Sports and Exercise. CRC Press, Boca Raton, 1993.

2018-03-13T11:10:25-04:00 July 23rd, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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