What are BCAAs? Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of protein that help reduce muscle soreness, encourage muscle growth, and prevent protein breakdown. They are comprised of the essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are are not metabolized to any significant degree by your liver, meaning they are able to make it to your bloodstream intact to be used by your skeletal muscle.
When do you use BCAAs?
• Pre Workout • Post Workout • During Training
The best time to take BCAAs are before or during workouts to promote muscle building and prevent muscle loss. Another good time to use is as a meal replacement if you are trying to lose weight.
Why use BCAA supplements?
BCAAs are one of the more widely studied sports nutrition supplements. It’s popularity has continued to grow as more athletes are realizing the benefits. Whey protein naturally has only 20-23% total BCAAs per gram. As a result athletes are turning to high quality BCAA supplements to increase their intake.
BCAAs role in athletics has been widely studied in relation to sparing muscle mass while dieting, improving immune system function, limiting fatigue, and promoting protein synthesis. We’ll be taking a look of the few highlights of BCAA benefits.
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During workouts our body uses amino acids in our muscles for output. Replenishing the amino’s being used increases your performance, resulting in a reduction of fatigue and increased endurance in athletes. Amino enriched shakes increase muscle protein synthesis by a whole 30%. (Wolfe, 2018). The primary function of muscle protein synthesis is to help repair and build new muscle tissue. While you’re breaking down your muscles you’re also feeding it the nutrients it needs to repair itself.
Not only are BCAA’s physically beneficial they also help with mental performance and clarity. There were mental tests taken of two groups of marathon athletes, a group that BCAA’s were given during race, and a placebo group. Subjects that were given the BCAA’s improved their scores while the placebo group were similar before and after the race. (Blomstrand E., 2018)
BCAA’s are a great source of energy too. After your body has depleted its glucose store you can rely on the energy provided by a BCAA shake, giving you close to 40% more energy than having nothing. Studies show that aminos can compete as an energy source with glucose (Tessari P., 2018). So an amino acid shake during your workout or before will give you that extra energy to keep going. Who doesn’t want a secondary energy source?
As an athlete we’re looking at ways to get stronger. Not necessarily getting swole and bulky, but increasing our output. Increasing reps on lifts translates to being better equipped in our competitions. A study in 2009 showed that ingestion of supplements rich in BCAAs over a period of 8 weeks of resistance training increased the 10- rep max in participants bench press and squat (Stoppani., 2018). Taking BCAA’s while working out or 30 minutes before provides your body with the energy and strength to get the most out of your workouts.
It’s a given that if your able to exercise harder and longer than you’ll be able to burn more body fat. But a study in 2011 proved that BCAA supplementation enhanced lipid oxidation in glycogen-depleted subjects (Gualano AB., 2018). Taking BCAA’s between meals, especially on a diet will help keep muscle on and help your body remain in a fat burning state.
Immune System Benefits
Like glutamine, BCAAs are heavily involved in the function of your immune system. In one study of triathletes, BCAAs helped reduce the incidence of infections following a triathlon (6).
Reducing Central Fatigue
BCAAs may also help reduce central fatigue by preventing tryptophan from entering the brain, and keeping serotonin levels incheck. By maintaining BCAA levels high, athletes can perform long without becoming fatigued (7).
So that’s it. We covered the highlights of what BCAAs do as well as the research behind the benefits of supplementing with BCAAs. In future posts we’ll be covering what makes our plant-based BCAAs unique when compared to the traditional BCAAs out on the market.
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1. Tessari P, e., Inchiostro S, Biolo G, Duner E, Nosadini R, Tiengo A and Crepaldi G (2018). Hyperaminoacidaemia reduces insulin-mediated glucose disposal in healthy man. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3910497 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
2. Stoppani, J., Scheett, T., Pena, J., Rudolph, C. and Charlebois, D. (2018). Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss. [online] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Available at: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-6-S1-P1 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
3. Gualano AB, e., Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F and Herbert Lancha Junior A (2018). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21297567%20 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
4. Blomstrand E, Hassmén P, Ekblom B and Newsholme EA (2018). Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise--effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1748109 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
5. Wolfe, R. (2018). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?. [online] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Available at: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
6. Bassit RA et. al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and the immune response of long-distance athletes. Nutrition. (2002) 18(5):376-9.
7. Bloomstrand E. A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. (2006) 136(2):544S-547S.
“Gaining muscle is primarily two components = heavy weights + extra calories. They key is to gaining muscle without gaining excess fat is monitoring your caloric intake. (Note: you’re gonna gain a small amount of body fat whenever bulking -- just don’t let it get out of control). If you’re taking too many calories in, you’re gonna start gaining fat. Most athletes can only gain about 1lb of muscle mass a week, at most.
Each pound = 3500 calories. So if you divide that by 7, that’s 500 calories extra a day over your maintenance level that you need to take in.”
After your heavy lifting session, you’ll be wanting to consume a shake in the ratio of 2:1, carbohydrates to protein, to gain muscle mass and to provide your body with extra calories.
In order to offer the flexibility an athlete requires, we developed the POST to be easily combined with our BUILD for athletes looking to gain muscle mass. One scoop of BUILD in addition to the POST will give you a total servings of around 60g of carbohydrates, and 40g of protein, total calories = 430, exactly what you need to build muscle mass.
On normal training days where you aren’t lifting, you can use the POST by itself to help with your recovery. The BUILD is also great by itself when you don’t need the extra carbohydrates: maybe you’re cutting weight, or using it as a meal replacement.
Of course you’ll need to have a solid lifting program. More on that later.
Got a question about training? Email us or leave a comment below!
Your shoulders take a beating on a daily basis, especially grapplers, and are usually the hub for many injuries.
Because we often sit and slouch, our muscles and tissues get thrown off balance and end up in a place of compensation. If this balance is not corrected in the body, we end up overusing and fatiguing certain muscles, while exposing weaknesses that eventually lead to strain and injury.
Taking the time to warm up, work on weaknesses and posture, and cool down are very important tools to prevent injury. Before doing activities that require the shoulder girdle, here are three essential exercises to add to your workout (or warm-up) in order to achieve maximum mobility and stability.
SHOULDER EXTENSION STRETCH
This stretch will loosen up the front of the chest helping to correct that rounded posture we often get caught in. Make sure to take a deep breath in as you pull your arms back. On the exhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together to gently complete the stretch. Hold until you feel your tissues and muscles release. Repeat a few times until your shoulders feel loosened up, but be careful not to overstretch.
This move targets the shoulders and stabilizing muscles in the upper body. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine by keeping your glutes tight and bracing your abdominals throughout the exercise. Perform the exercise slowly and try to increase the range of motion each time. Switch directions after 5-10 reps. If you are not familiar with the exercise, start with a lighter weight.
THE KETTLEBELL ARMBAR
One of my favorite exercises. This exercise requires great shoulder stability and focus. If performed correctly, this move can provide a deep stretch to the anterior shoulder and improve mobility through the thoracic spine. Hold the end position for 3-5 seconds and repeat for up to 30-35 seconds on one side.
As with all exercises, you want to make sure you perform them correctly to get the most success. Learn the movement first, start light, and then progress slowly when you have mastered that movement.
When you first step on the mats, you quickly realize how exhausting grappling arts are. One of the most common questions you hear is, 'What can I do to improve my conditioning?'
1. ROLL MORE
What's the best exercise to improve my conditioning? I can hear you say, "Roll more!"
True, rolling more will help you become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. It will also teach you to relax when you need to rest and how to tighten up when you need to explode. By rolling more, you'll also learn to manage your gas tank which is often the most understated part of the game. But what else can you do to improve your conditioning? and is just rolling the most efficient way to improve your conditioning?
2. DRILLING VIA TABATA INTERVALS
Of course by rolling more you'll be more comfortable on the mat and also improve your physical conditioning at the same time. But taking it a step further and adding in drilling via the form of Tabata intervals is one of our favorite ways to improve my physical conditioning for BJJ.
Tabata intervals are basically high intensity intervals that were first made popular by Professor Izumi Tabata while training Olympic speed skaters. The template calls for 20-30 seconds of work (depending on the drill) and 10 second rests for 5-8 sets with one minute of rest in between sets. The best way to do this is to pick a high intensity drill, like Toreando guard passing, takedowns, etc, and switching off with a partner.
3. IMPROVE YOUR STRENGTH
The number three answer is to improve your strength. As Pavel Tsatsouline says, "Strength First." The stronger you are, the less exertion required. Steve Maxwell, one of Pavel's students of the Kettlebell preaches 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions of big compound movements.
I can hear the nay sayers saying, "I don't want to be too bulky!" A protocol such as above will improve your strength, while minimizing muscle growth, which is important for weight class sports like BJJ. Ie: You want to be as strong as possible, but still remain in the same weight class. When it comes to muscle endurance, an example you can think of is this: If your one rep max is 225 on bench press, how many times do you think you could press 185? Now, imagine what if your one rep max is 315?
Number four is to improve your aerobic conditioning. You'll naturally get a lot of anaerobic training in by rolling more, but aerobic conditioning is less taxing on the body and can be beneficial for your recovery. It can also be thought of as the foundation of your energy systems and improve your resting heart rate.
The last thing you want to do is have your training outside of jiu jitsu take away from your actual training. Adding in one or two 20 minute aerobic sessions in your targeted heart range can improve your conditioning while not taking away from your skill training. We personally like Phil Maffetone's take on heart rate training which describes how you can find your targeted heart rate by subtracting your age from 180 and modifying the number based upon your health & fitness profile.
We go more in depth about specific training in our free 4 week Conditioning for BJJ PDF. Click the button below to have it emailed to you.
Finally, a bonus exercise that you can do to improve your conditioning is by practicing your breathing. While drilling (& training), focus on exhaling throughout the movements with your lips 'pursed'. You should try to keep a normal inhale through your nose as much as possible. Avoid holding your breath when drilling. Breathing using pursed lips increases the back pressure in your airways which allows them to stay open during exhalation. It also calms you down and slows your breathing. The more you pay attention to your breathing, the more you'll realize that you were probably holding your breath a lot.
Bonus, bonus, exercise: This is a drill I learned from Relson Gracie - roll with a mouth full of water. This will make you focus on breathing through your nose and will help you stay relaxed during your training. At the end of the round, spit out the water into the grass. If you're spazzing out, you'll struggle holding water in your mouth.
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One of the keys to longevity and injury prevention in a sport like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is proper mobility and strengthening. If your joints are functioning correctly with a full range of movement, you're less likely to be injured. Simple as that. Here's our top 5 exercises that you can add to your training. As always, shoot for progression and program properly. If there's a movement that is too advanced, progress up to it. Self improvement is the key!
#1 COSSACK SIDE LUNGE WITH KNEE DROP
This exercise is more advanced and you may need to program up to doing a full rep. The low side lunge with knee drop strengthens and increases your mobility of your hips while simultaneously loosening up your hip flexors and knees by doing an internal rotation knee drop. (Video of Cobrinha demonstrating below #2...)
a) Full mobility, but not strong enough for KB? Start with just your body weight. b) No full ROM(range of movement)? Try this:
Once you build up mobility, advance to adding strength.
#2 PISTOL SQUATS
Your knees take a beating in BJJ. By strengthening your legs, you'll build up the surrounding muscles that protect your knee and prevent injuries.
A Judo instructor of mine that trained in Japan said whenever athletes had knee problems, the sensei would make them do a couple hundred bodyweight squats a day. They key here was strengthening the muscles supporting their knees.
Adding in a KB adds weight to increase the difficulty of stabilizing yourself.
a) Not enough strength? Start off with either two leg squat or use a wall/pole for assistance. Another option you can do is to box squat with a single leg until you build up the strength.
This is one of our favorite drills for warming up your shoulder capsules and increasing your shoulder mobility. Begin by lying on your stomach, rotating to your side and move your arms in a swimming motion as you gain ground on the mat. Use before you train as well to warm up.
#4 GRANBY ROLL
Getting comfortable being inverted and improving your lower back and neck mobility is key in BJJ. The best way to learn the granby is to start seated on the mat with your feet facing a wall. Then tuck your neck, roll onto your shoulders, while keeping your feet on the wall. Use your feet to 'walk' you onto your shoulders. Once you get the hang of it, you can do it without a wall as shown below:
The number one question we get is, "how do I recover after a tough training session?"
1. HYDRATE BEFORE TRAINING, REHYDRATE AFTER TRAINING
A lot of BJJ fighters do a poor job of rehydrating after training. If you've ever cut weight before, you realize what a huge difference a small percentage of dehydration can make. A drop in water as small of a percentage as 2% of your body weight can reduce your endurance (and slow your recovery). At 4% your capacity for muscular work greatly declines (Art and Science of Making Weight).
Now how much water should you hydrate and rehydrate with? Studies have shown that water loss through sweat (and electrolyte loss for that manner) during training can vary 10-fold between athletes (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp). The best method is weighing yourself before and after training to get your amount of fluid weight loss. Then drink 1.5 liters (48 oz, 6 cups) throughout the day to replace every 1kg of weight lost (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp).
It is also important to note that water by itself is one of the worst rehydration drinks out there because of its lack of electrolytes (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp). The amount of fluid retained from water would be minimal if you were to rehydrate with plain water (Milk as an effective Post-Exercise Rehydration Drink).
Therefore, POST training, you should always choose a recovery shake with electrolytes to improve fluid retention. When looking for a recovery shake, compare them for sufficient amounts of critical electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus. Most sports drinks or recovery shakes contain only Sodium and Potassium. Often overlooked electrolytes like Magnesium and Phosphorus can have huge impacts on your performance.
We look for a recovery shake with at least 200mg of Magnesium in a ratio of 2 Magnesium per 1 Calcium, 400mg of Potassium, and 200mg of Sodium (Supplements Part 1). Besides recovery shakes like our POST, there is also milk.
There are some downsides to milk (most notably spoiling, fat, and lactose) but it can be an effective choice if you're on a budget. (Milk as an effective Post-Exercise Rehydration Drink).
Consuming an electrolyte drink throughout the day can help prevent cramps and keep you properly hydrated for the next workout. We generally look for a low carbohydrate, high electrolyte content sports drink. We designed our LYTES with this in mind by adding in Vitamin C, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Chromium, Sodium and Potassium. The carbohydrates from Organic Sugar Cane provide you with the energy during your training session, but you don't need a whole ton (we use 10g per serving).
If you'd rather bootstrap your own sports drink, one option you have is using sea salt in your water. Table salt doesn't contain these same trace minerals, so for optimum benefit, use a sea salt version or use Lite-Salt which contains sodium and potassium. Still, you're going to be missing out on any meaningful amount of electrolytes other than sodium and potassium by only using sea salt.
2. A CLEAN DIET IS THE FOUNDATION TO SUCCESS
Having a healthy diet is the foundation to your performance. Everyone knows that, but how exactly can you take scientific studies and apply it practically into your everyday life? Being a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, you're often on the go and not preparing your own meals. The best tip that I can pass on is to eat at least one salad a day with all the colors of the rainbow inside it. That means making your plate as colorful as possible with the different variety of fruit and vegetables.
3. HIGH / LOW TRAINING
You can have the perfect diet but if you aren't monitoring your training intensities you will overtrain. MMA Strength and Conditioning coach Joel Jamieson uses the term High Low from track coach Charlie Francis. It basically means you need to vary training intensities. A good rule of thumb is 80% of days you will focus on lower intensity sparring and drilling and 20% of the time high intensity sparring and drilling. The point is, alternate your training intensities to get the most out of your training while not beating up your body. I've trained with some of the best BJJ fighters in the world, and every one of them practice this simple principle one way or another. You can't train hard every single day. Even guys like Leandro Lo, who are notorious for training hard, will have a high and a low day.
4. REPLENISH LOST NUTRIENTS
On top of rehydrating, ensure that your recovery drink has a correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein to rebuild muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. Energy requirements tend to rise as you go up from strength training through mixed sports (BJJ, MMA, Surfing) to pure endurance sports. Carbohydrates will scale up while protein requirements scale down. If you purchase just a regular ol' protein, throw in some carbohydrates by blending in a banana or two.
We designed our POST with a ratio of 3 carbohydrates to every 1 protein specifically for BJJ, MMA, and Surfing. As you go more towards pure endurance based workouts, you need a higher ratio (4 carbohydrates : 1 protein) and as you go more towards strength training you need a lower ratio (2 carbohydrates : 1 protein). A ton of marketed and gimmicked "recovery" drinks have insufficient amounts of carbohydrates to recover and are often opposite the recommended ratio containing 3 or 4 proteins to every 1 carbohydrate.
If a company is advertising a low carbohydrate or low calorie recovery shake, run away. Carbohydrates are critical to replenish muscle glycogen and to stimulate an insulin response to prevent muscle breakdown (Carbohydrate-Protein Complex Increases Muscle Glycogen Storage After Exercise). Studies have shown greater recovery effects (most notably muscle growth and decrease muscle soreness) when proteins are coupled with carbohydrates (Post Exercise Carbohydrate Protein Antioxidant Ingestion Decreases Plasma Creatine Kinase and Muscle Soreness).
This is the one time of the day that carbohydrates are critical to your recovery, especially if you are training twice a day. And no, it won't make you fat. I typically have a recovery shake after a hard training session, maybe blend it with a banana for even more potassium, then eat a regular meal about an hour later. That way I will continue to refuel for the next training session.
As an athlete, you need more sleep than your average person in order to recover from intense training. In one study conducted at Stanford University, tennis athletes who extended their nightly sleep to 10 hours a night increased their sprinting time, improved their drilling times and mood, decreased their reaction time, and increased their hitting accuracy (Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Performance and Mood).
They concluded that sleep is as much a significant factor in achieving peak performance as diet and practice! I know what you're thinking, '10 hours? I don't have 10 hours to sleep!' Sleep should be looked at as a training tool. Make it a priority just as much as training and eating. If you must, cut out other things of your day to ensure that you get around 10 hours of sleep. This is a rather intuitive tip but often overlooked tip; increase your nightly sleep to 10 hours - you'll feel better and perform better.
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1. A. Cosgrove. Art and Science of Making Weight. 2008. 2. C. Mah. Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Athletic Performance and Mood. Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. June 8, 2009. 3. Luden N, Saunders M, Todd M. POSTEXERCISE CARBOHYDRATE PROTEIN ANTIOXIDANT INGESTION DECREASES PLASMA CREATINE KINASE AND MUSCLE SORENESS. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. February 2007;17(1):109-123. 4. L. McDonald. What’s Causing My Muscles to Cramp – Q&A. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/whats-causing-my-muscles-to-cram.html 5. L. McDonald. Muscle Growth and Post-Workout Nutrition. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/muscle-growth-and-pos-workout-nutrition.html. 6. SM Shirreffs et al. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr (2007): Pg 1-87. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB 3rd, Ivy JL. CARBOHYDRATE-PROTEIN COMPLEX INCREASES THE RATE OF MUSCLE GLYCOGEN STORAGE AFTER EXERCISE. J Appl Physiol. 1992 May;72(5):1854-9.
All grapplers and surfers have one thing in common: their joints take a beating (I dislocated my shoulder twice wrestling). That's why we've been working hard on a new plant-based Joint capsule formula specifically designed for athletes like us. It is made up of Organic Turmeric, Pomegranate, Glucosamine, MSM, and bioperine to assist in the absorption of turmeric.
Our primary ingredient turmeric, also the base of our PRE workout, has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine to reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health and support proper immune function. Also referred to as Curcuma longa, recent Western studies have emerged supporting the efficacy of turmeric in the treatment of arthritis. In one study, curcumin reduced pain and improved function as well as ibuprofen.
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