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The Benefits of BCAAs

Daniel Brady | November 18, 2012 in Supplements

BCAAs have two main benefits in relation to strength training: decreased DOMS / decreased muscle damage, and increased protein synthesis. Read on to learn more about each.

Reduced Muscle Damage

While DOMS does indicate that you’ve had a good workout and lifted more weight than your body is accustomed to, it can still be beneficial to minimize DOMS through supplementation. DOMS reduces the force production of your muscles for several says as well as the soreness.[1] Therefore you will be unable to train at your full potential until your DOMS is fully healed. If you are training each muscle group 2 times per week for example, your DOMS may still be lingering on the second training day, limiting your force production. Supplementation can improve this.

BCAAs are an effective supplement for reducing DOMS when taken before and/or after exercise.[2] In addition to the footnotes above, here is another study that shows untrained females who took BCAAs had reduced DOMS compared to those who didn’t.[3] The exercise performed was high volume squats.

Increased Protein Synthesis

BCAAs help to promote protein synthesis, providing an anabolic effect to your muscles.[4] It does this by sending a signal to your muscle tissue to begin protein synthesis after exercising.

When to Take BCAAs

It is best taken before and after exercising.[5] Before exercising to minimize muscle damage, and after exercise to maximize protein synthesis. Powder form is my preferred form, so Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is a good choice, including 24g protein, 5.5g BCAAs and 4g Glutamine per serving.

Cheapest Sources

Bulk Powder (Amazon) is the cheapest option, about 50% cheaper than Capsules (Amazon). However, powder tastes quite bad, so capsules may be the preferable option.

  1. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2002 Nov;81(11 Suppl):S52-69. Exercise-induced muscle damage in humans. []
  2. J Nutr. 2004 Jun;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. []
  3. Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K Dept. of Applied Molecular Biosciences, Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism [2010, 20(3):236-244] []
  4. Wataru Aoi1, Yuji Naito and Toshikazu Yoshikawa. Exercise and functional foods []
  5. Wataru Aoi1, Yuji Naito and Toshikazu Yoshikawa. Exercise and functional foods []

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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