Recently a client texted me to ask if she should start taking BCAAs for improved results. This is a typical type of question that I get from clients quite a bit once they start back into the gym after a layoff or even starting out for the first time. Since every person they run into is going to offer some type of tidbit on how to increase results, often I have to be blunt with people, as is my nature.
So I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject and share basically what I told her and would tell anyone in the same type of situation, and here it is in plain English:
If you aren’t doing the first 90% of what you need to do, don’t worry about the final 10%.
So then you ask: “What’s the first 90%?” of course. And here it is.
Exercising regularly – that means 3-5 times a week depending on schedule for at least 6-12 months without more than a week break due to holiday, illness or injury. Do you have your fitness time prioritized so that regular life doesn’t get in the way? No? Work on that.
Exercising properly – are you getting hurt or sore all the time? Do you know what you’re doing? Are you focusing on the right things ie strength training instead of hours of cardio? Do you track your workouts consistently? No? Consult an expert and work on that. Get a game plan and follow it.
Eating properly – that means within the caloric guidelines for either gaining/losing weight and/or body fat consistently every day. No? Work on that.
Eating for health – meaning real food, not relying on supplements like shakes and powders. Whatever eating profile you decide to go with, just make sure it is healthy – for you. No? Work on that.
Recovering properly – that means are you sleeping, taking rest days and trying to lower outside stress levels so that your body can repair itself. No? Work on that.
Enjoying the process – Life isn’t about suffering unless you’re a Buddhist. If you are forcing yourself to do things it likely isn’t a good choice for you. An example is people who are in a gym when they would much rather be outside or doing an active sport or other activity. Have you found what you enjoy? No? Go find it.
So here’s the thing. I get questions often where the answer is simply – it doesn’t matter unless you’re already doing the above. Do I need BCAAs? Should I do Wendler 5/3/1 or Starting Strength? What about Intermittent Fasting? Or (insert diet name here)? How many reps and sets? How long should I do cardio for?
Too many people focus on the details that aren’t important until the above is in place and consistently followed for a period of time. And as much as other people will moan and say it’s important and other trainers’ heads will explode, let’s the honest and say, the difference is generally negligible. If you’re not doing the things above consistently then you are much better off starting there.
Good luck – and feel free to contact me with any questions.