Minimal Essential Dose: Protein

Do you take supplements?

In particular do you take a protein supplement? If so, you may be interested to know that there is another version of your protein you can take that requires you to eat or drink less than you may be used to and still get all the benefits.

And this other version is essential amino acids or even more specifically branched chain amino acids.

Let’s just take a moment here and define what we’re talking about.

Without getting into too much detail an amino acid is a chain of carbon atoms with an amino group, -NH2, at one end, and a carboxyl group, -COOH, at the other end. Some of the amino acids our bodies can’t make so they are called essential amino acids. And within this group of essential amino acids there is a sub-group of amino acids called branched chain amino acids or BCAAs with functional group bonded to one of the carbons.

Clear as mud?

Don’t sweat it too much. The take home message is that when we supplement with protein there are a few options that will all achieve the same end goal.

1. You could take 20 grams of whey protein
2. You could take 6 grams of BCAAs
3. You could take 2 grams of leucine

Leucine is an example of a BCAA.

So all three options above have similar effects which one would you choose? Think in terms of minimal essential dose.

Obviously we would go with the third option, right? Why take ten times the amount of something i.e. 20 grams of whey protein to get the same effect as a much smaller dose i.e. 2 grams of leucine?

Alright so if we’re in agreement that less is more when it comes to supplementation the next step is to determine what to look for when buying a supplement. Most likely you will have better luck finding a BCAA supplement than just leucine. And this is fine but just check the label to see how much leucine there is in it.

Consider the following story of a friend who showed me the supplement he was using. It listed on the ingredients 1 gram of essential amino acids per serving. But if we assume there to be 10 essential amino acids in the formulation than it’s possible there could be 0.1 gram of each in a serving.

But who knows?

Just like mixed nuts you want to know the breakdown of the amino acids in a supplement.

Just like mixed nuts you want to know the breakdown of the amino acids in a supplement.

It’s kind of like buying a jar of mixed nuts that doesn’t say how many peanuts are in the container. Good quality nut brands will highlight the fact there are few nuts in the package by stating ‘less than 10% peanuts’.

In this case you don’t know what the breakdown of each of the amino acids is in the container. So make sure to check the label to see if it gives the breakdown of constituent amino acids.

And if you’re looking for the best value choose plain varieties rather than the flavoured ones.

Lastly, on the label if it lists the amount of leucine you’ll see it designated as L-leucine which is the correct form and refers to something called a stereo-isomer.

But you’ve probably had enough at the chemistry lessons for today so I’ll leave it at that. Just remember you’ve got other options than just your traditional protein supplement.

Chris [fb-like]

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2 Responses to Minimal Essential Dose: Protein

  1. Jennifer says:

    I grew up on grass fed beef and buffalo. There’s nothing like eating meat straight off the farm! Supermarket meat just can’t compare. Hope you guys enjoy!

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Jen! I can’t wait to taste and get used to healthier meat. Haven’t tried buffalo yet though.

      All the best,


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