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Sport performance and ingestion of BCAA

Due to absence of standardized models to evaluate the impact of a diet component on athletic performance, as well as due to plethora of confounding factors (gender, age, previous training, basal diet, altitude, liquid intake …); controversy remains about the effect of key amino acid groups on sport performance. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), arginine and glutamine are the most frequently evaluated amino acids. A brief look at the recent findings from four different sport categories tells a lot…

Among recent studies, researchers in Taiwan few well-trained handball players of both genders with app. 12 g BCAA and 3 g arginine before training sessions on two consecutive days. BCAA and arginine supplementation improved performance in handball sprints on the second consecutive day of simulated handball game www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25803783.

In athletes trained for strength performance, BCAA (20 g) administered acutely before and following intensive gym training attenuated a drop in power-producing ability. The apparent significant effects on functional strength suggested that BCAA made for an effective ergogenic aid for athletes who required augmented recovery following intensive exercise www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26853239.

In trained endurance cyclists, 12 g of BCAA given daily for several weeks before and during long-term cycling trainings had broad positive effects on select body compositions, performance, and immune variables. Specifically, this chronic BCAA supplementation improved not only sprint performance variables, and protected lean body mass, but also blunted the neutrophil response to intense cycling training, thus benefiting immune function during a prolonged cycling season www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26553453. Very similar effects were observed in a study that used a combination of BCAA and glutamine in active rowers www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25202189 .

Not all clinical tests revealed produced positive effects of BCAA in exercise and some older studies suffered with problems of design and interpretation. Yet, the summarized clinical evidence from the last decade points to a strong positive correlation between performance/recovery on one hand and BCAA intake on the other. The optimal dose of BCAA (10 – 20g?) remains unclear and there are too many variables to make this conclusion stronger and applicable to all sub-groups of sports-men and -women.