Branched-chain amino acids (Bcaa) and delayed muscle soreness

Scientific debate continues on whether short-term dietary supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA, leucine, isoleucine, valine) can maintain a short-term net anabolic hormonal profile and decrease muscle cell damage during training, thereby enhancing recovery.

The key reasons for the controversy are simple and difficult at the same time; there are too many factors that influence exercise outcome and recovery. Among those, differential exercise models, differential intensity of exercise (unfortunately one has to exercise…), divergent doses of BCAA, single doses versus chronic intake, different ratios of BCAA, timing of ingestion (before, during or after exercise!), age, background nutrition and so on. Too many factors to count …

However, clinical testing with subjects (both genders) ingesting at least 5 grams of BCAA shortly prior to high-intensity resistance training are reasonably straightforward: BCAA substantially decrease muscle soreness, enhance recovery from exercise and consequently improve long-term performance. See:

BCAA (mainly leucine) are the literal keys to starting muscle synthesis, but there is very little non-protein BCAA in your muscles. Plus, their oxidation is triggered directly by physical exercise. The mechanism responsible for this phenomenon is attributed to activation of the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) complex, which catalyzes the key reaction of the BCAA catabolic pathway and is the rate-limiting enzyme in the pathway. So, if strenuous exercise starts the process of BCAA oxidation and you need BCAA to make new muscle, it is clear that BCAA have to be provided from other (read, dietary) sources.

Taken together, supplementation with sufficiently high doses of BCAA (at least 5 gram, out of which at least 2.5 gram should be leucine) immediately before intensive exercise has beneficial effects of decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis.

Among others: For those focused on overall nutritional balance … it does not really maters how much BCAA you are ingesting over long term in your proteins, what matters is the single drink of a high BCAA dose taken immediately prior to strenuous resistance training … the key messages were underlined!