A lot of low carb, paleo or ketogenic dieters are often concerned that BCAAS may raise blood sugar. No, BCAAS do NOT raise blood sugar or spike insulin. Can you use BCAAS during a fast? Yes you can and allow me to tell you why.
Amino acids are either defined as “glucogenic” or “ketogenic” based on a fancy metabolic cycle knows as the Krebs cycle.
Glucogenic refers to the metabolic pathway that leads to the creation of new glucose from non-carbohydrate foods
Ketogenic refers to amino acids that are directly taking into the acetyl-CoA cycle.
What does this have to do with branched chain amino acids and your blood sugar?
Everything. Of the three BCAAs only one,valine,is gluconeogenic. Leucine is purely ketogenic and isoleucine is partially ketogenic and gluconeogenic.
The Physique Formula BCAAS are in a 2:1:1 ratio, leucine, isoleucine and valine. If we scored each BCAA by amount and type (ketogenic or glucogenic) then we clearly see that BCAAS are more KETOGENIC and do NOT raise blood sugar.
But okay, maybe you don’t like my math.
Let’s say you decide to have a big bowl of pasta, As the white bread raises your blood glucose, your pancreas releases insulin in the first transient, SHORT TERM, phase followed by a longer second phase. People with type II diabetes for example, show issues with this release pattern (study).
Branched chain amino acids, if they cause any insulin spike at all, will only result in the first transient increase. Your body can and will clear whatever any amount of insulin that is released. Still, no long spike in your blood sugar.
Could it be that BCAAS have more metabolic benefits? Why yes it does. BCAAs control hormone release in the GI tract and in fat deposits. BCAAs also enhance glucagon peptide-1 (GLP-1) which is a satiety mechanism involving the communication between the brain and gastrointestinal tract. Basically, the more GLP-1 that you have the less you eat.
A 2016 paper concluded that “Furthermore, the signaling pathways and metabolism of BCAAs could be therapeutic targets for the treatment of insulin resistance and T2DM.”
In both my opinion and the very real science, branched chain amino acids do not negatively impact blood sugar levels and are a safe supplement for any low carb, paleo or ketogenic dieter.