W.O.W. 3/12/11-BCAA and The American Werewolf in London

I performed my workout late Saturday morning with the family in tow.  I had to work a 3pm-11pm shift later in the day, so we were trying to get our workouts in and maximize some family togetherness as well.  This was a chest/back/calves emphasis.  It was a great workout overall.  I forgot my workout journal, so I took the opportunity to focus only on form and “emptying the tank”.  The lack of external benchmarks really seemed to increase my focus and intensity.

Nautilus Pullover with SS retrofits

MedX Chest Presss

Compound Row

MedX Chest Press (pinned at 7 holes, top 1/3 only)- yeah, I know…just because

SuperSlow camless Pulldown

Calf Raise on MedX Leg Press

On the recommendations of some of the participants of this blog (and Arthur Devany), I have been experimenting with Branch Chain Amino Acid supplementation.  Today I took 15 grams before my workout, 15 grams after and 15 grams at bedtime.  The next day I took 10 grams in the AM only.  I experienced a very unusual sense of growth.  Recovery was quick and despite some considerable soreness I felt energetic.  This morning I had the very rare experience of being awoken by a sense of muscle growth that “feels like rice crispies sound”….an almost “American Werewolf in London” experience.  I spent some time on PubMed and reviewed numerous articles that suggest this is not just an n=1 placebo effect.  A sample article appears below.

J Nutr. 2009 Dec;139(12):2279-84. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

Essential amino acids increase microRNA-499, -208b, and -23a and downregulate myostatin and myocyte enhancer factor 2C mRNA expression in human skeletal muscle.

Drummond MJGlynn ELFry CSDhanani SVolpi ERasmussen BB.

Department of Physical Therapy, Division of Rehabilitation Science, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555, USA. mjdrummo@utmb.edu


Essential amino acids (EAA) stimulate muscle protein synthesis in humans. However, little is known about whether microRNAs (miRNA) and genes associated with muscle growth are expressed differently following EAA ingestion. Our purpose in this experiment was to determine whether miRNA and growth-related mRNA expressed in skeletal muscle are up- or downregulated in humans following the ingestion of EAA. We hypothesized that EAA would alter miRNA expression in skeletal muscle as well as select growth-related genes. Muscle biopsies were obtained from the vastus lateralis of 7 young adult participants (3 male, 4 female) before and 3 h after ingesting 10 g of EAA. Muscle samples were analyzed for muscle miRNA (miR-499, -208b, -23a, -1, -133a, and -206) and muscle-growth related genes [MyoD1, myogenin, myostatin, myocyte enhancer factor C (MEF2C), follistatin-like-1 (FSTL1), histone deacytylase 4, and serum response factor mRNA] before and after EAA ingestion using real-time PCR. Following EAA ingestion, miR-499, -208b, -23a, -1, and pri-miR-206 expression increased (P < 0.05). The muscle-growth genes MyoD1 and FSTL1 mRNA expression increased (P < 0.05), and myostatin and MEF2C mRNA were downregulated following EAA ingestion (P < 0.05). We conclude that miRNA and growth-related genes expressed in skeletal muscle are rapidly altered within hours following EAA ingestion. Further work is needed to determine whether these miRNA are post-transcriptional regulators of growth-related genes following an anabolic stimulus.

I strongly suggest giving it a try.  Post your WOW’s and your thoughts.

44 thoughts on “W.O.W. 3/12/11-BCAA and The American Werewolf in London”

  1. Dr. McGuff-any tips on quality brands of BCAAs? I assume you are using a powder and not a pill form (that would be a lot of pills).

    I’ve also been doing some workouts without tracking weight, reps or TUL-just concentrating on pushing as hard as I can till failure (and emptying the tank quickly). Doing this helps reduce some pre-workout anxiety that comes with constantly trying to best your last performance. If you are constatly pushing hard, and not overtraining, you could really get by without tracking progress at all (arguably), as there really is no cause and effect between tracking your progress and gains. Maybe tracking monthly progress would be better-set aside one workout per month to compare (via TUL, or reps) to the previous month. Otherwise just go in and work hard (you would have to know your weights). I guess this is where a trainer really helps-let them track you progress and adjust accordingly.

  2. I’ve taken BCAAs but I wonder what downsides, if any, there are. For instance, would it be advisable to take them if one has a elevated risk of cancer? How much do “rogue” cell lines benefit from the added aminos? I doubt that there are any data on this question, but such trade-offs seem to be a persistently annoying fact of our Universe.

  3. Posting for John D:


    Super timing. I just received my shipment of BCAAs after having read
    up on them (and having been introduced to them by Franco here and
    atperfecthealthdiet.com). Looking forward to using.

    Also curious about the need for week-over-week progression. I had an
    awful workout last week as measured by progress (down in TUL
    everywhere despite static weights) and my natural reaction is to
    assume I have receded somewhere “important” — muscularity, fat %,
    diet, etc — rather than somewhere temporal, e.g. sleep or stress (it
    wasn’t a particularly stressful or sleep-deprived week, and I’d had 10
    days off).

    Now I have requisite stress now going into my next workout — which
    will be after a few more days of recovery — because I fear
    regression. Lots of tips in the books (have both) I know, but still
    helpful to consider alternatives to the week-over-week TUL.

    (Any chance we can enable Akismet on this blog and turn down the
    spam-flagging? Would be happy to help!)


  4. Posting for Dean:

    Lyle McDonald covers BCAAs extensively in “The Protein Book”, written several years ago. UD2 covers it as well. IOW, this is not new info outside of HIT, so you would not be trying anything outside the mainstream. Bodybuilders and football players have taken BCAAs around training for decades.

    The book covers the biochemistry at a high level, with specific recommendations for dosage and timing. The debate is whether BCAAs alone or just more protein do the same job. IIRC a complete protein is app. 45% BCAAs. I do the latter. Training on empty can be good at times for insulin sensitivity and carb depletion for loading, but for hypertrophy it is not near as good as having the amino acids ready at the wait. There have been mounds of studies to support it.


  5. On Saturday night we hosted a paleo and HIT dinner discussion for charity. The attendees knew how my wife and I had been eating and working out and were intrigued by the results. The 14 guests were mostly over 60. 2 MDs, a DDS, 2 vegans and all high carb and SAD.

    During the cocktail hour we each did a 10 minute presentation with handouts on our diet and BBS style workouts and then answered questions for 40 minutes until my wife had to leave to oversee the salmon.

    Throughout we streamed Doug’s video.

    The menu consisted of guacamole and various cooked and raw veggies, sauteed bison cubes, wine and Norcal Margheritas for appetizers; Wild salmon-grilled, mashed cauliflower with butter and cream (my favorite potato substitute), grilled and basted peppers, carrots and broccoli, marinated chicken kebob w/ wild mushrooms; green salad.

    Desert was a slightly frozen strawberry, banana, coconut whipped with heavy cream.


    Aside from a few tense vegan moments our guests had some really good questions about fat, what our typical weekly menu looks like, do we really not crave bread, etc. They did love the meal.

    Much of the open skepticism was for our workouts. Not a single person does any resistance training & once every 8 days seemed to them stranger than eating beef and butter. A couple want to join us to observe my wife’s workout-which should scare the devil out of them.

    Finished off by raffling of my last copy of BBS. All for charity.

    Change comes slowly but we had great food and conversation.

  6. Off topic, sorry, but still at least nutrition related:

    re: paleo diet, I’m sure pasta and corn tortillas are certainly not preferred foods, but I checked the glycemic index (GI) for these and was surprised to see that both score solidly “moderate” (i.e. below 70), so I’m wondering, is the avoidance of these more to do with the idea that seed heads are not designed to be digested, rather than due their GI? (especially surprised to see the score of regular pasta -not whole grain or anything special- being in the 40 to 60 range!)I’m asking because when given the choice between eating grains and eating low GI foods, one might have to make some trade-offs… thanks!

  7. I’m currently reading the Paleo Diet for athletes and he strongly reccomends the use of BCAA supplementaion, as has also been noted BB’ers have been using them for years, but to me they always seemed just another fad, to empty our wallets, however in light of this information I’m looking into buying some and even investing in some whey protein powder.

    I’m currently on my second week of a Paleo based diet and while it may be all in my head I do feel slightly more energetic, I’m definately less bloated in the gut area and I’m looking much fuller overall..

    Workout wise I’m now down to once per week and I’ve even convinced a work colleage to give it try, after he approached me about reducing his training frequency..I gave him the Ultimate Exercise Bulletin to read prior to our workout this Friday..


  8. Too Much Rest

    WOW 11th March

    Chest & Back

    Pull Ups
    Assisted Pull Ups
    Weighted Push Ups
    Push Ups
    Bent Over Back Row
    Bent Over Back Row
    Push Ups
    Reverse Flys

    Last Chest & Back session was 20th February and all exercises were done on a slow cadence.

    I had planned on doing the workout on 10th but had a migraine/headaches so postponed it to Friday. Still, after seeing the results I think it was way too much rest anyway. ALL TULS were low, sub 60 seconds. Was weak and exhausted very quickly, however still felt like I had a good workout.

    Have been taking Vitamin D3 for several weeks now, am considering taking supplements. Does taking Whey protein off-set the benefits of Paleo? i.e. Is Whey Protein high carb and refrain the body from going into ketosis?

  9. When I first saw the post title … I thought you were referring to me and The 21 Convention in London. Considering how hairy I am, and how much I love my country, this actually makes a lot of sense as a temporary nick name.

    Thanks for the idea Doug =D.

    Had an awesome WOW today. Will post momentarily.

  10. 3/14/11

    Wall sit: 90×2/50
    — Up 6 seconds

    Reverse lunges: 45×2 L=19 R=16
    — Up 5lbs, up 5 reps, up 1 rep

    Tricep press: 25lb L=11 R=11
    — Up 1 rep, up 1 rep

    Nitro Pullover: 185/50 13
    — Up 10 lbs, down 11 seconds, up 2 reps

    Nitro Chest Press: 220/38 9.5
    — Up 1.5 reps (10th was real close), stable TUL

    Bicep curls: 40×2/32 4
    — Up 5 lbs each arm, down 9 sec, down 2 reps

    Heel raises: 70lb R=11 L=10
    — Up 1 rep, up 1 rep

    Quasi MAE forearm curls: 25lb L=26 R=28
    — Up 5, up 7

    Lower back flex: check+

    Feel fantastic, physically, psychologically, and everything in between.

    Absolute sense of life comes to mind.

    Food was great to. 2 hour gap between workout and dinner. Dinner was grilled pasture raised lamb, grilled white sweet organic potato, grapefruit juice, dark chocolate, grass fed butter on the tater, bit of cinnamon, and full fat yogurt /w coconut.

    Supps included 6,000 IU of D3, fish oil, and a mag/zinc/calcium combo.

    — Anthony

  11. Doug,

    Sorry I’m going off topic here but hoping for some input.

    I was reading in you Q and A book and came across the little section about your “most productive workout” I am wondering how long you continued on this program. An obvious question in my mind is why are you not doing it any longer?

    Another question that I have been wondering about is why does HIT not make one as sore as conventional set and rep training? Is it because conventional training with its faster movements, and higher repetitions cause more micro tares and therefore more inflammation?

  12. I told you! :)

    Training on sunday, 13th:

    1. Lever Calf Raise
    2. Decline Press
    3. Chin up

    All R/P-static holds.
    15g of BCAA ~30min. before and 1 h after.

    “Feels like rice crispies sounds” I know only during execise, mostly in biceps, sometimes in brachioradialis or chest. I always thought it feels more like muscle fibers splitting. When it happens I get tiny red bumps (like needle pins) on my biceps sometimes too.
    I didn’t grew any additional hairs there though.

    I couldn’t sleep with 15g of BCAA before bed! They really alert me.

    Oh, I use “dymatize bcaa 5050”. Pure powder with a bitter but clean taste, less chalky then other brands and no foul taste or smell. I just take it by the teaspoon and wash it down with water.

  13. March 15, 2011

    exercise / nr. of holes pinned / cadence / weight

    1. Leg Curl / 2p / 5/5 / 240 lbs
    2. Compound Row / 1p / 10/5 / 380 lbs
    3. Chest Press / 1p / 5/5 / 392 lbs
    4. Leg Press (reclined) / 3p / 5/5 / 680 lbs (too low)
    5. Lateral Raise / 0p / 10/5 / 106 lbs

    duration: about 14 minutes

  14. The BBC Frontiers story on Muscle Wastage talked about a 1-2 hour window after working out for optimal protein consumption. They also mention in that program that resistance training stimulates protein synthesis in older people.

  15. W.O.W. –Nailing true inroad

    SS Linear spine
    SS Leg press
    SS Lat pull
    SS Ventral torso
    Nautilus pullover

    The amazing thing about this workout was I had only 4 hrs. sleep per night for the previous two nights due to a crazy work schedule. Al Coleman put me through this workout and normally he encourages me to go for that last rep, amplify my effort and empty the tank. Normally, I fail before getting through the rep and am then disappointed that I didn’t push hard enough. On the fourth exercise (ventral torso), however, I finally think I achieved true maximum inroad as I completed the “last rep” and then did two more in good form. Al later said that I had “nailed it” on that exercise. It wiped me out to the point that I had next to nothing left on the pullover, but it was still a tremendous experience. I didn’t have any real soreness the next day but I did feel what Doug alluded to as a surge of muscular growth. I can only imagine what might have occured had I taken BCAA’s.

    Also, I came across a video of Doug from Bo Railey’s seminar last year which is included on his website. It may be from 2 years ago as the BBS book had just been out a short time. This is another quality lecture presented with utmost clarity from the best in this business. Check it out.

    Ed H

  16. “Does taking Whey protein off-set the benefits of Paleo? i.e. Is Whey Protein high carb and refrain the body from going into ketosis?”

    From what I understand, Whey may stimulate an insulin response but it doesn’t raise blood glucose much if at all.

  17. WOD:

    All work performed on Eccentric Edge pieces save for Russian Leg Curl, which was performed on a specific bench. All negative-only, all at a 3 to 5 second clip:

    Reverse Curl: + 40 x 10
    Calf Raise: +130 x 10
    Russian Leg Curl: + 20 x 8
    Bicep Curl: +50 x 10
    Shrug: +130 x 10
    Leg Press: + 170 x 10

    I ran Doug’s “Rice Crispy” analogy by our resident monster Keith Norris and he’s never noticed the feeling personally and he’s certainly grown a lot. Maybe my blood turns chocolately like cocoa pebbles when I’m anabolic. 😉


  18. Also, in case anyone is looking for a really interesting book, I suggest picking up Casey Butt’s “Your Muscular Potential” booklet. Casey’s research, which he claims was more and deeper than his Ph.D. studies on artificial intelligence, has lead to pretty convincing and specific formulas for determining…well, you muscular potential. He even classifies “hard gainer” in a way that is not dismissive or self-defeating. If anyone wants an idea of what they could achieve, I suggest the investment.


  19. WOW:

    Nautilus pullover w/Bobby Peru cam
    Nautilus incline press w/anti-lockout device
    Nautilus neck and shoulder
    Hammer leg press

    In the past,my personal problem with any supplements was that I always forgot to take them,and I’d end up with a drawer full of half used stuff.These days my only supplement is 120 oz. water each day.

  20. Greg,

    Probably any brand is OK. I’m not the expert on this, so wait for other board members to respond. I picked Xtend brand as it was the only one that I could tolerate taste-wise.


    I revert to my “most productive” a couple of times per year. Done non-stop I develop a mismatch between my strength and my metabolic condition that makes the workout too unpleasant. Also, I love to workout/play on my toys.


    GI is not a metric I rely on too much. Something can have a high glycemic load, but if absorbed slowly will have a low GI. Insulin issues are not the only issue with grain-based carbs. Lectins, antihormones and gluten all have negative effects, the least of which is decreasing sensitivity to leptin and thus appetite control.


    I doubt Keith would ever experience the “rice crispy” effect…his would probably feel more like carpet bombing over Berlin.


    Very cool approach to introducing paleo and BBS.

    Keep the WOW’s coming.

  21. Thanks so much for clearing that up, Dr. McGuff. I guess my question was ultimately rooted in my attachment to a hypertrophic outcome; I find it so difficult to put on any muscle that I am afraid to avoid grains and thus lose (what I perceive as) an important source of carbohydrate to fuel hypertrophy. Very difficult to overcome the attachment to hypertrophy -although I guess the point is that hypertrophy is definitely possible while still minimizing grains!

  22. @AHP,

    did you hear of that wonderful new muscle-growing supplement for paleo-dieters? It’s called “potato”.
    There are even 2 different flavours, the “sweet” and the “white” variation.
    Guaranteed grain and gluten free and full of glycogen-store-replenishing carbs!

  23. Ah yes, potato…
    Although Dr. McGuff has already commented that GI isn’t a metric he relies on too much, I was also surprised to see that the GI of regular white potato is around 80, definitely “high” (>70). Sweet potato is about 10-15 points less (“moderate”), so definitely preferred, I guess. Along with squash, what else we got? Thinking I might get tired of trying to fuel hypertrophy with just sweet potatoes and pumpkin…

  24. AHP,

    Why do you assume that carbs “fuel hypertrophy”? Glycogen stores can be replenished via gluconeogenesis, and almost all of the structural components in hypertrophy are protein.

  25. I guess I just have it my mind that “hypertrophy = gaining weight = need more calories = need carbs” …that and the feeling of “fullness”: after a meat and veg dinner, for example, I often still feel hungry (and try to assuage this with a before bed snack of dairy -yogurt, i.e.). But, you’ve inspired me to try something new, sounds like the satiety issues will get worked out. thanks so much for this, you have no idea how much time, energy and money I’ve spent chasing hypertrophy with little result.

  26. AHP,

    Watch the 21 convention video. Or link from anthony’s name above to read the transcript. See the part about “being the best you that your genome will encode for”.

  27. My workout yesterday looked like this:

    Hammer Strength v squat
    Hammer strength row
    Hammer Strength military press

    Tried to do some crunches at the end, but my tank was totally empty. My body was completely wasted, and I am sore from my eyelids down. This leads me to a question regarding previously mentioned musculo-metabolic mismatch. How do you know if this is taking place? Or is it more likely that I just went a lot harder than I an used to?

  28. AHP,

    Out of curiousity:

    1. How tall are you?

    2. What is the circumference around your wrist just below the styloid process, on the hand side. (The styloid process is the bony lump on the outside of your wrist.)?

    3. The circumference of your ankle at the smallest point between the calf muscle and the ankle?

  29. hey thanks for your interested,

    1. 6′
    2. 6.5″
    3. 8″

    (if you weighed me at a random point in the day, i’d be around 160, but my “empty” weight is more like 156, I think! around 13% bodyfat)

  30. AHP,

    You possess small bones; if you bend your arm (like making a bicep) at 90*, how many fingers can you fit between when you bicep ends and your forearm begins? Typically, small bones and short muscles/long tendons go together. However, some folks (think Flex Wheeler) get the genetic lottery: small bones, long muscle bellies and nearly zero myostatin.

    I ran your numbers through the Maximum Muscular Calculator I mentioned above and came back with this (based on your bone size, not muscle belly length)at 13% bodyfat:

    Weight: 180.7lbs
    Lean Body Mass: 157.2lbs
    Chest: 40.5″
    Shoulder Width: 18.7″
    Biceps: 14.9″
    Forearms: 11.9″
    Neck: 14.8″
    Thigh: 21.7″
    Calves: 14.3″

    Now compare that to the formula he’s come up with for the “average” male at 15% bodyfat. Note the correlation is not as strong due to the variety of activity that individuals who do not “train” perform:

    Weight: 159.5
    Lean body Mass: 135.6
    Chest: 36″
    Shoulder Width: 19.3″
    Biceps: 12.1″
    Forearms: 11.2″
    Neck: 14.3″
    Thigh: 20.1″
    Calves: 13.1″

    Measure yourself, see where you land, and set your sights on what (seems likely to be based on your hypertrophy comments above) a good target to shoot for.


  31. I decided to try the BCAA experiment as well. I will let you know how it goes if I notice anything.

    -MedX Pullover:
    -Push Ups: Got 6 super slow pushups (up 2 reps). I can’t believe I got that many. The last was far from SuperSlow, but somehow I got it to the top.
    -Nautilus Pull Up: Up 2 reps
    -MedX Chest Press: Ended with 3 assisted reps with negatives
    -MedX Compound Row:
    -Nautilus Dip: Up a rep.
    -Pull Up 10 Second Negatives: 25# plate attached by a belt. Did 8, up 2 from last time.
    -Wall/ball squats: body weight only, 20 reps. Good burn.
    -MedX Leg Abductor:
    -MedX Leg Adductor:
    -MedX Leg Press: Up 2 reps.

    Pretty amazing progress. I only mentioned the progress I remember being explicitly told by the trainer. Last workout of this type was 3 weeks or so ago and I was up across the board and gang busters. The good gains could partially be due to the time of day. I felt stronger than early in the morning. I also had 2 weeks from last HIT workout.

    I did other short, not to failure workouts in between as well, which may also help. Maybe 4 in that time period. Those workouts are an upper body push, an upper body pull, and a lower body exercise in a circuit for a total of no more than 15 minutes. Weights are always very heavy and reps low, and the cadence relatively slow due to high weights. If I get 5 reps I increase the weight for the next time. Only 4-5 rounds are done. I leave the gym feeling great. One thing to note there is that I am now up to 475#(5 reps on the first round) on the hammer strength dead lift apparatus. It is easy to load and gives a good workout. I have no idea how 475# translates to a barbell, but the progression is there, with 1-2 reps picked up each workout I don’t add weight and have added weight regularly.


  32. Due to taxes and funeral, I’ve taken two weeks off from training (the unavoidable death and taxes got me). I feel really good and can’t wait till next Monday’s workout.

    I have never taken any supplements until recently. Fish oil has definitely helped my shoulder and D3 has kept me from going insane during the worst winter I can remember.

    I have to think all the meat, eggs and fish I eat would give me more than enough BCAA’s. Is there any real evidence for supplementation?

    My question about the study posted by Doug would be how much protein were subjects consuming on a regular basis before they started the study?

  33. Bo,

    I hope everyone understands that I am not advocating my experience as science. This is pure anecdote AND I have had little interest in supplements, so I have not investigated the literature enough to answer your question. Other commenters have made reference to those who have thoroughly investigated the issue and I would refer you there.

    My experimenting has been positive, and I have no problem with invoking placebo effect for now. As busy as I am sometimes its cheaper to pay 35 bucks and try it than it is to spend several hours trying to ferret out the good from bad in the scientific literature.

  34. 8 Days rest since my last workout: W.O.W as follows:

    All sets timed with a stop watch using a 10/10 cadence and the deep inroad technique;

    Nautulus Duo Chest Press 220 lbs 5 reps TUL 1:40 Up in both reps and TUL
    Nautilus Seated Row 275lbs TUL 1:10 up in weight by 5lbs since last workout
    Nautilus Seated Shoulder Press 210 lbs TUL 1:20 up in TUL just couldn’t lock out for that 3rd rep, tank was starting to run out of gas by now…
    Pulldown Behind Neck (Not sure of brand but was very smooth in its action and had a really good feel to it) 220lbs 4 reps, forgot to time set!
    Incline Leg Press (different machine than I normally use) 500lbs for 6 reps: TUL was 1:50 seconds.

  35. I am not a big advocate of supplementing either. My biggest reasoning for taking a protien powder is convenience. Stopping to eat is not always in the cards for me, so I like to mix a shake and have handy all the time. My preference is for the MRM brand. The chocolate is really good. I like to mix it with cold coffee.

  36. …Back on the broader nutrition thread (which I learned a lot from!):

    Legumes. what’s your take? Are lectins really such a serious issue, and are they denatured by proper cooking, i.e. canned beans? aren’t there other major lectin sources in the paleo diet anyways? still too starchy for us? other issues? (just seems cutting out grains alone is pretty major, but legumes too?) ok enough, the complex world of nutrition is too much for Friday night

  37. Skyler,

    Can you get Keith’s measurements and plug into Casey Butts formula and see if it holds true for him. Plugging my numbers in, I am pretty much maxed out for my measurements. It would be interesting to see if Keith exceeds his predicted….i.e. are there other factors besides the anthropometrics?

  38. Doug,

    I’ll get his numbers asap. There are other factors; if you purchased the manual, Casey talks about how his “freak” formula isn’t achieved by non-steroid users in every body part…the “outlier” body part, if you will.

    I think if you combine this with your talk about phenotypic expression, a trainee (all but the most stubborn) will have a good idea about what they can actually achieve and get on with their life.

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