List of Branched Chain Amino Acids as Percent of Calories

This is the list of foods sorted by percentage of calories supplied by branched chain amino acids. In general, branched chain amino acids are proportional to protein as a percent of calories. Most protein is between 16-23% BCAAs, and this is the same for plant foods and animal foods.

BCAAs are of interest because they are elevated in obesity and associated with insulin resistance. (Zhou, 2019) On the other hand, BCAAs are broken down by an enzyme called alpha-ketacid dehydrogenase, which is an ROS producing enzyme (Quinlan, 2014). This gives BCAAs the potential to be highly thermogenic.

In torpor, animals have downregulated enzymes that break down the BCAAs (Nelson 2009) and low levels of a TCA cycle intermediate called alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG). Supplementing AKG helps to break down the BCAAs, reducing insulin resistance and activating thermogenesis. (Tekwe, 2019) I offer it as a supplement at

The other approach to the problem of high BCAAs is a protein restricted diet. Hibernating animals don’t eat protein during hibernation. Perhaps you should minimize it as long as you are in torpor. Amino acids such as the BCAAs and tryptophan – which activates the Aryl Hydrocarbon Recpetor (AhR) via its metabolite kynurenine – seem like hugely important actors in keeping your metabolism torpid. BCAA restriction in both mice (Cummings, 2017) and humans (Fontana, 2016) causes rapid fat loss. In humans, a target of around 1% of calories as BCAAs has been shown to be beneficial.

I have made two videos on this subject and below you can find the list of BCAAs as a percent of calories of different foods as well as BCAAs as a percent of PROTEIN of different foods. The notable exceptions to the rule that BCAAs are 16-23% of protein are gelatin and fruits. Gelatin is pure protein but only ~7% BCAAs. Fruit protein is low in BCAAs, which makes plantains (for instance) an interesting source of starch that is low in BCAAs.

Video 1: BCAA and Alpha-Ketoglutarate

Video 2: The Pre-Emergence Diet

The Files

Cummings, N. E., Williams, E. M., Kasza, I., Konon, E. N., Schaid, M. D., Schmidt, B. A., Poudel, C., Sherman, D. S., Yu, D., Arriola Apelo, S. I., Cottrell, S. E., Geiger, G., Barnes, M. E., Wisinski, J. A., Fenske, R. J., Matkowskyj, K. A., Kimple, M. E., Alexander, C. M., Merrins, M. J., & Lamming, D. W. (2017). Restoration of metabolic health by decreased consumption of branched-chain amino acids. In The Journal of Physiology (Vol. 596, Issue 4, pp. 623–645). Wiley.

Fontana, L., Cummings, N. E., Arriola Apelo, S. I., Neuman, J. C., Kasza, I., Schmidt, B. A., Cava, E., Spelta, F., Tosti, V., Syed, F. A., Baar, E. L., Veronese, N., Cottrell, S. E., Fenske, R. J., Bertozzi, B., Brar, H. K., Pietka, T., Bullock, A. D., Figenshau, R. S., … Lamming, D. W. (2016). Decreased Consumption of Branched-Chain Amino Acids Improves Metabolic Health. In Cell Reports (Vol. 16, Issue 2, pp. 520–530). Elsevier BV.

Nelson, C. J., Otis, J. P., Martin, S. L., & Carey, H. V. (2009). Analysis of the hibernation cycle using LC-MS-based metabolomics in ground squirrel liver. In Physiological Genomics (Vol. 37, Issue 1, pp. 43–51). American Physiological Society.

Tekwe, C. D., Yao, K., Lei, J., Li, X., Gupta, A., Luan, Y., Meininger, C. J., Bazer, F. W., & Wu, G. (2019). Oral administration of α-ketoglutarate enhances nitric oxide synthesis by endothelial cells and whole-body insulin sensitivity in diet-induced obese rats. In Experimental Biology and Medicine (Vol. 244, Issue 13, pp. 1081–1088). SAGE Publications.

Quinlan, C. L., Goncalves, R. L. S., Hey-Mogensen, M., Yadava, N., Bunik, V. I., & Brand, M. D. (2014). The 2-Oxoacid Dehydrogenase Complexes in Mitochondria Can Produce Superoxide/Hydrogen Peroxide at Much Higher Rates Than Complex I. In Journal of Biological Chemistry (Vol. 289, Issue 12, pp. 8312–8325). Elsevier BV.

Zhou, M., Shao, J., Wu, C.-Y., Shu, L., Dong, W., Liu, Y., Chen, M., Wynn, R. M., Wang, J., Wang, J., Gui, W.-J., Qi, X., Lusis, A. J., Li, Z., Wang, W., Ning, G., Yang, X., Chuang, D. T., Wang, Y., & Sun, H. (2019). Targeting BCAA Catabolism to Treat Obesity-Associated Insulin Resistance. In Diabetes (Vol. 68, Issue 9, pp. 1730–1746). American Diabetes Association.

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5 thoughts on “List of Branched Chain Amino Acids as Percent of Calories”

  1. I am a type 2 diabetic but would be too scared to lower my protein and up my carbs. Was any study done on diabetics?


  2. Nathanael Schulte

    You mentioned the study in pigs, noting that if the ratio of amino acids was correct, the actual total amount of protein required could be much, much lower.
    Has that type of research been done in humans and do you have some idea of what you should be eating to get the essentials?

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