What Is The BCAA Ratio To Choose? 2:1:1, 4:1:1, 8:1:1?

Updated on  January 8, 2023
William Toro

Published By:  William Toro

Fact Checked by: Bridget MacDonald, RDN

Everyone knows that branched chain amino acids are essential for muscle energy and growth, but you may not understand what is the best ratio of BCAA. Sports nutrition gurus will tell you this secret.

On the labels for sports nutrition, you probably saw inscriptions about the ratio of BCAA from 2:1:1 to 10:1:1. Which of them is the best? The best benefits of BCAA are manifested in three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. But different foods contain these amino acids in different combinations. Let's look at the basics of BCAA. (1)

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are named because of their structure: each of them has a forked protrusion resembling a branch. BCAAs provide energy assistance and even help to reduce body fat, but their main useful property is to have an explosive effect on muscle growth. And this is the main useful quality for all of us. When it comes to bodybuilding, BCAA becomes an extremely important amino acid. Of the three described above, leucine can be considered the main amino acid, because it plays an important role in growth signaling.

Leucine is the King.

Leucine can be compared to the ignition in a car. The car, in this case, acts as a muscle cell or fiber. Ignition triggers the process of muscle protein synthesis, which builds up muscle protein and thus promotes muscle growth. Scientifically, leucine activates the mTOR complex, which promotes muscle growth.

Studies have confirmed that the addition of leucine to the post-training protein-carbohydrate diet led to increased protein synthesis in the muscles, unlike the subjects who simply consumed protein and carbohydrate mixtures. Since leucine is the most important, every consumer would like a sports supplement to contain more of it than isoleucine and valine.

What is the best BCAA ratio?

A ratio of 2:1:1 of leucine to isoleucine and valine is recommended. Many BCAA products contain an increased amount of leucine, sometimes reaching up to 8:1:1 and even 10:1:1. Consumers are led to this, believing that the more leucine, which is so necessary for muscle growth, the better. But not everything is so simple and you should not rush to spend the last money on such a high BCAA ratio.


It is extremely important to take BCAA during your workouts, you can before, during or after. They are usually added to a protein shake. The important point is that you need enough leucine to initiate protein synthesis in the muscles. And this encourages many consumers to strive for products with the maximum amount of leucine or even in which only this one BCAA is present.

This is a mistake that research confirms. The subjects were given leucine in a ratio of 2:1:1, only leucine and an inactive substance. The results of those who took 2:1:1 were the highest. Also, BCAAs are needed to increase energy and reduce muscle fatigue. BCAAs are delivered to the muscle fibers and are a source of energy for them. And this is most important for intensive exercises. To reduce fatigue while working in the gym, it is very important to take valine.

During exercise, tryptophan is consumed by the brain in large quantities. Tryptophan is converted to 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), known as serotonin. An increase in serotonin levels is a signal that fatigue has set in. This leads to a decrease in muscle strength and endurance. Valine prevents tryptophan from passing to the brain and, consequently, the muscles remain strong longer until the onset of fatigue. Simply put, you will be able to do more repetitions, recover faster between sets and retain more strength for longer. Valine also allows you to sharpen your attention and keep your mind clear.

Thus, you should stick to the best ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine 2:1:1.

Burn fat deposits.

If you are striving for fast burning of fat deposits, then this is another reason to use BCAA with a ratio of 2:1:1, because there is isoleucine in this formula. This amino acid plays a major role among BCAAs in reducing fat reserves.

Japanese researchers have scientifically proven that when eating a large amount of fat in food and isoleucine at the same time, less fat accumulates in the deposits than in the absence of isoleucine in the diet. Isoleucine activates special receptors (PPAR) that burn fat and prevent the accumulation of fat in the body. PPARs involve genes that lead to a decrease in body fat, and also deactivate genes that, on the contrary, contribute to body fat.

Therefore, the use of those products that do not contain BCAA in a ratio of 2:1:1 can lead either to a loss of energy, or to a decrease in the effect of fat burning, or to weak muscle growth. Some foods with a high leucine content contain only 500 mg. and even less isoleucine and valine. Stay away from such products, because this amount is not enough to achieve peak muscle growth.


There is no second opinion that BCAA being part of essential amino acids helps in building muscles.

Thus the best BCAA ratio, as mentioned above, is 2:1:1 with a content of 1 gram of valine and 1 gram of isoleucine in each serving. But to achieve maximum muscle growth, you should consume 3 grams of leucine per serving, which is the minimum amount for better activation of mTOR and the best protein synthesis. (2)

Thus, you should take at least 5 grams of BCAA and a serving will contain 3 grams of leucine and over 1 gram of valine and isoleucine. It is better to take BCAA 30 minutes before training.

It should be noted that the 3:1:1 ratio also works perfectly, you just need to calculate the amount of leucine, valine and isoleucine consumed in a serving. It is also necessary to understand that this is an additive to your protein-carbohydrate cocktails and the amount of BCAA actually consumed will be higher. But, nevertheless, it will promote energy and maximum muscle growth.

William Toro

William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist

William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other. 


1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1766050/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28934166/

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