What is the best BCAA ratio ?

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During the last years the diversity of BCAA’s supplements has arrived at the market in very diverse ratios, in this article we will try to decipher what is the best ratio.

At present we can find BCAA supplements in very different ratios from 2: 1: 1, 4: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1 and even the exotic 12: 1: 1. The reason for this change in trend is the multiple studies showing the benefits of L-Leucine. The 2: 1: 1 ratio has been popularly used, as this ratio is the closest to the BCAA ratios in animal protein . However in recent years L-Leucine has become the star of amino acids, and for this reason have been popularized supplements of BCAAs that increase the content in Leucine.

  • When we speak of BCAA ratio, we refer to the ratios of L-Leuicina, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine contained in the powder or capsules BCAAs .
  • Reviewing the scientific literature so far we have not been able to find any studies that base their research on ratios other than 2: 1: 1.

Why is L-Leucine the star of BCAA’s amino acids?

During the last few years, L-Leucine has become the most prestigious branched amino acid and today it can be considered as one of the most important and researched BCAAs. Among the various studies that have popularized L-Leucine, the following statements stand out:

  • L-Leucine is suggested as the only amino acid capable of inducing muscle protein synthesis as an independent nutrient. L-Leucine and its metabolite HMB are considered for their great anabolic and anti-catabolic properties.
  • One of the most famous studies demonstrating the benefits of L-Leucine was made by Koopman in 2005. In his study he showed that the ingestion of carbohydrates, proteins and L-Leucine was better than a supplementation with proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Another study conducted in 2011 by Ipsoglu showed that 4g per day of L-Leucine could increase strength by 9%.
  • In 2006, Crowe found that supplementation with L-Leucine at a rate of 45mg / kg body weight a day increased plasma L-Leucine concentration, total BCAA concentrations, increased upper-arm power as well as decreased of tiredness.
  • L-Leucine is also able to improve the synthesis of muscle proteins, this is the mecansimo by which L-Leucine promotes protein synthesis in the muscle is through the mTOR signaling pathway .
  • Also, the Leucine regulatory research translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise points to the possibility that muscle protein synthesis may be maximally stimulated with 3g of L-Leucine or 0.05g per kg of body weight.

The BCAA ratios (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine)

As we have previously indicated, the most popular ratio on which all studies are based is 2: 1: 1 and in this proportion most BCAA amino acid supplements have been designed to date since it is the closest ratio to the relationships found in animal protein . However, with the interest of recent years in L-Leucine, many supplement companies have invested in supplements with 4: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1 and even 12: 1: 1 ratios. However, not all studies on L-Leucine are favorable, for example, the study of Professor Yoshiharu Shimomura and colleagues Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise, notes that supplementation exclusively with L-Leucine could be toxic and cause imbalances in the body.

Although leucine is the most potent amino acid among BCAAs to stimulate protein synthesis, leucine supplementation alone can cause branched-chain amino acid imbalance through the activation effect of its keto-acid in the BCKDH complex

The controversy: the price of ingredients

Following our review of scientific literature and various opinions that influenced the new proportions to provide more benefits to supplement companies, we consulted the rates of the three amino acids in their form L- Ultra Pure on the website of Affymetrix (formerly USB Coorporation) , which offers products for use in biomolecular research.

According to the prices of Affymetrix, the production of a supplement of BCAA (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine) is made more expensive than Valine and Isoleucine added to the BCAA formula.

Table of prices

Compound Affymetrix
L-Leucine $199.41/ kg
L-Valine $365.70/ kg
L-Isoleucine $478.04 / kg

Table of prices of the three BCAA in USB Coorporation.

Economic benefits according to ratios as compared to 2: 1: 1

Ratio Benefit
4: 1: 1 + 33%
8: 1: 1 + 41%
12: 1: 1 + 44%

Table with the supposed benefits to commercialize the BCAA at the same price.

Our conclusion “2: 1: 1 is the optimal ratio”

1. The 2: 1: 1 ratio is the most studied

So far there is no study that shows that the consumption of BCAAs in ratios other than 2: 1: 1 is better. Nor has science been made in other proportions.

2. L-Leucine alone, without more BCAA or amino acids can cause imbalances

There is no doubt that L-Leucine could be considered the most essential amino acid , since it is widely studied and brings great benefits. The recommendation to consume L-Leucine is established between 3g-4g daily or (50 mg / body weight). On the other hand there is research suggesting that L-Leucine alone can cause imbalances. In addition, for optimal muscle development there must be a full spectrum of amino acids that act as blocks for muscle growth. With L-Leucine, without Iso-Leucine and without L-Valine there will be nothing to build.

3. The ratio 2: 1: 1 is found naturally in animals

The ratio 2: 1: 1 (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine) has always worked, because this proportion is usually found in nature in the muscle tissues of animals. So if the ratio 2: 1: 1 is the most studied and the one with the highest proportion in nature, why consume different proportions with which we are most naturally constructed?

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