Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) supplements are heavily marketed within the fitness community. They are
becoming more and more popular but is there a reason for this? Do BCAA supplements work?
Luckily there have been numerous studies on the benefits of BCAA supplementation and it is pretty conclusive that they work. They aid in reducing muscle damage during workouts and increasing the rate of recovery. BCAA supplementation is beneficial both before and after exercise.
To take a closer look at BCAA supplementation benefits, lets take a look at a recent study by Glyn Howatson et al. that was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Glyn Howatson, a neuroscientist from Northumbria University, has 120 publications to date in credible science journals such as that mentioned. The findings in this study are credible and backed by numerous other studies.
Twelve male athletes were chosen for this study. All were rugby or football players that participated in resistance training on a regular basis. They were subject to a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Each subject supplemented either BCAA’s or the placebo throughout the study with a 7 day “loading” period before the tests.
Supplementation of BCAA’s
The test group’s supplementation consisted of 10 grams of BCAA’s at a Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine ratio of 2:1:1 both before and after training. The control group ingested a placebo with artificial sweetener of 10 grams before and after as well. To avoid other nutritional variables leading to inaccurate results, the test subjects had recorded their diets and kept them the same as they were before the study.
The chosen exercise was box jumps because it as been shown to significantly increase muscle damage, according to indices. Each participant performed 5 sets of 20 box jumps. The tempo was regulated to keep the exercise uniform from person to person. Each test subject completed one box jump every 10 seconds with a 2 minute break between sets. The box jumps were performed in the way of stepping off the box and jumping up immediately upon contacting the ground.
The analysis was well rounded and employed 5 different methods. Plasma CK tests of blood samples were used as an index of muscle damage, a a visual analogue scale was used to determine muscle soreness, a strain gauge was used to test the maximal voluntary contraction of the subjects’ knee extensors, a Vertec instrument was used to test their maximum vertical jump, and lastly their mid-thigh and calf were measured using a anthropometric tape measure to determine the amount of swelling.
All of the analysis methods showed significant muscle damage after exercise through the plasma CK index. However, with supplementation the BCAA test group showed much lower plasma CK levels than the placebo group, meaning less exercise induced muscle damage.
There was no difference shown between the participants of either group’s leg girth and vertical jump. One of the most noteworthy findings was that of the maximal voluntary contraction that was measured by a strain gauge. The group that supplemented BCAA’s showed less or a reduction in this force and also showed an accelerated recovery time.
Conclusion on BCAA’s
They work! This is just one of many studies that proves BCAA supplementation can decrease exercise induced muscle damage and it accelerates muscle recover.
BCAA supplementation will keep you going hard in the gym longer and it will help you get back in the gym sooner. There are many fitness supplements out there that you think might work, but you aren’t all that sure. Well if you get some good BCAA’s you won’t be thinking, you will be knowing that it works. BCAA’s have really aided in muscle recovery for me, and this goes a long way, helping you get bigger, faster.
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Do you supplement BCAA’s and have a review? Or do you have a comment or question? Either way, comment below.
Glyn Howatson, Michael Hoad, Stuart Goodall, Jamie Tallent, Phillip G Bell and Duncan N French. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:20