Arnold Schwarzenegger Reveals If BCAA Supplementation Is Overrated or Underrated for Muscle Growth

Schwarzenegger discussed if the essential amino acids offered by BCAAs are needed to enhance muscle growth and workout performance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Photo Credit: Instagram: @schwarzenegger YouTube: Men’s Health)

Athletes and IFBB Pro bodybuilders are always looking for an edge to enhance performance and muscle-building efforts — including Arnold SchwarzeneggerIn the latest Arnold’s Pump Club Newsletter, Schwarzenegger examined branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and determined if they are overrated or underrated for muscle growth. 

BCAAs come in a variety of forms including capsule, powder, and liquid. They consist of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Our bodies don’t naturally produce these amino acids, which is why they are critical to our overall well-being.

The proposed benefits of these supplements include positive effects on recovery, fatigue, soreness, protein synthesis, muscle maintenance, and performance.

While those benefits appear enticing, bodybuilding legend Schwarzenegger is not sold on the supplement.

Although BCAAs play a crucial role in muscle growth, ‘The Austrian Oak’ explains below why they are an inferior option to whole foods or a quality protein powder.

Should You Supplement With BCAAs for Muscle Growth? Here’s What Arnold Schwarzenegger Has to Say: 

Despite BCAA’s role in helping build muscle, Schwarzenegger doesn’t believe supplementing with them will provide additional benefits.

“Overrated Or Underrated: BCAAs
Step into any supplement store, and you will find many BCAA products. And that’s because research suggests BCAAs are one of the four most used supplements by athletes and bodybuilders.”

“However, just because BCAAs play an important role in muscle growth doesn’t mean supplementing with them provides any additional benefit. And a new study suggests that BCAA supplements are — at best — inferior to any complete protein and — at worst — a complete waste of your money.”

While athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts have bought BCAAs for years, Schwarzenegger pointed to research that suggests they aren’t ‘all that useful.’

“BCAAs — or branched-chain amino acids — are a collection of three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that stimulate muscle-building.

And amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins in your body. One of the three BCAAs — leucine — is especially important in muscle protein synthesis. Naturally, supplement companies started selling expensive BCAAs, and people have been buying them for years.”

“But the research found — over and over again — that BCAA supplementation isn’t all that useful, especially when you get enough total protein in your diet.”

Even if you don’t meet your ideal protein intake daily, Schwarzenegger says BCAAs won’t nudge you toward muscle growth. He underscores that all 20 essential amino acids must be present to build muscle.

“You might wonder, “But what if I don’t get enough protein, should I supplement with BCAAs?”

“And the answer is still no because of how your body processes amino acids. Even though BCAAs help turn up muscle protein synthesis, muscle-building, and recovery is a team sport.

There are 20 amino acids, some of which your body creates and others you need to get from your diet.

 To build muscle, all 20 amino acids must be present. So, when you use a BCAA product, it’s like buying a fancy engine and acting like you don’t need any fuel.

 Both are needed to make the car — or, in this case, muscle building and recovery — work effectively.”

Instead, Schwarzenegger advised his audience to take quality protein powder or whole foods to accelerate muscle-building efforts.

“Because of how your body works, BCAA studies tend to fall flat, and you’re better off getting protein from whole foods or a protein powder.”


As an alternative to using BCAAs or EAAs, Schwarzenegger says to consume at least 20-30 grams of protein at each meal.

“A good protein powder will give you all the BCAAs and EAAs (the essential amino acids your body can’t produce on its own) but at a fraction of the cost. If you’re having trouble getting enough protein, this is our go-to whey product and our preferred plant-based protein (use the code PUMPCLUB for 20% OFF). Or, make sure you consume at least 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal, which is about 3 to 4 eggs, 4 ounces of lean animal protein (chicken, beef, fish), about 1.5 cups of lentils, or 8 oz of Greek yogurt.”

Having looked at the evidence carefully, Schwarzenegger determined that BCAAs are overrated as a standalone supplement for muscle growth.

“The final verdict: It probably comes as no surprise, but BCAA’s as a standalone supplement are overrated.”

Supplementation has become a topic of interest for Arnold Schwarzenegger in retirement. He took issue with supplement companies marketing fish oil, suggesting that they are significantly underdosing what individuals generally need for enhanced health benefits.

For individuals and athletes leading active lifestyles, supplementation can be a great resource for preserving the body. However, when it comes to BCAAs, Schwarzenegger believes you’d be better off without them and should aim for whole foods or a high-quality protein powder to meet your essential amino acids. 

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