Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) have been an extremely popular sport supplement for many years. Your body, for growth and repair, needs protein. Bodybuilders use BCAAs to encourage muscle growth and prevent muscle loss when dieting. Endurance athletes use them in an attempt to prevent muscle breakdown from prolonged cardiovascular exercise.
A recent study (J. Smith et al, 2017) explored the changes in muscle thickness, resistance training performance, perceived soreness after a workout and markers of muscle damage following ingestion of BCAAs. Although they used a small participant size, the findings were interesting and should not be ignored. They found that their data demonstrated ‘no direct benefit or detriment’ from drinking BCAAs around resistance training.
So what does this mean? The research is patchy and conflicting to say the least. But here is our advice:
Firstly, your number one priority should be consuming enough dietary protein from real food sources. If you are struggling to consume your desired amount of protein we would recommend a high quality whey or vegan protein shake to make this process easier. If you have money to burn then there may be some benefit to consuming BCAAs around a weight-training workout. If you are looking to lose weight, then they also might help, however, if you’re on a tight budget, we certainly wouldn’t bother with BCAAs. If endurance exercise is more your bag, then consuming BCAAs during or after a prolonged exercise bout should help to prevent muscle breakdown. They may also help reduce the ratings of perceived exertion, making those long and gruelling workouts feel ever so slightly easier.
We are aware that this may throw up more questions than answers, but that’s the joy of scientific research: it is never ending. If you would like some help with your diet, or if you have any questions regarding this topic, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
J. Smith et al (2017), Ingestion of an Amino Acid Electrolyte Beverage during Resistance Exercise Does Not Impact Fluid Shifts into Muscle or Performance, Sports 2017, 5(2), 36