Today, we take another look at branch chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements and their ability to improve muscle recovery from training.

Long story short, the title in the image gives quite a lot away.


Short story long…

It’s been well establish that a high(er) protein intake initiates muscle repair, remodelling and growth after weight training.
Knowing this, many individuals supplement with certain amino acids found within protein known as BCAA’s. These amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Of which, the amino acid leucine is considered most important as this has been coined ‘the anabolic trigger’. Cool names aside, leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to start building new muscle.

So, BCAA’s found within the diet are important for the muscle, but not necessarily BCAA supplements.

This was demonstrated very nicely in a recent study by Estoche et al (2019) where they recruited untrained university students to supplement with BCAA’s or a placebo for 5 days alongside weight training sessions to determine how well supplementation works for recovery.

Btw, untrained people tend to have higher muscle soreness and a greater loss in muscle function Vs more trained individuals (after training)…so a good testing population to use, imo.

When we think of recovery, it’s the return of performance after damaging exercise. In this study, recovery was measured by ratings of perceived muscle soreness and the return of muscle function.

Eight grams of BCAA were consumed 15 mins prior to training as this amount and timings previously showed:

1) BCAA concentration peaking in the blood after 30 mins.
2) A greater post exercise MPS response.
3) A decrease in muscle breakdown.

In addition to this, both groups consumed 1.5g per kg of protein, which is considered at the lower end of the ‘optimal range’ of protein for building muscle, but still sufficient for this population.

For the scientists in the room, calorie intake was very similar also. Therefore, any changes in recovery would most likely be down to BCAA supplementation.

As this week’s D2EW title would suggest, there wasn’t any difference in recovery, i.e. muscle soreness and return of muscle function over a 5 day period.

Reason being, the participants consumed a decent amount of protein (and by default BCAA’s) in their diet and rendered the BCAA supplements void. If they however didn’t consume adequate protein, an improvement in recovery would most likely have happened…but you’d never suggest someone eat less protein to get the benefits of BCAA’s.

So…just eat your protein? 

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