Have you ever tried to find research on this topic using an ordinary Google search? Wholly shhhhhugar! Why Do Athletes Use It?*Some athletes say that branched-chain amino acids helps improve strength-training and endurance results.
What Do the Advocates Say?*A good deal of research has been done on branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) in athletes, but results are quite mixed. BCAAs do not seem to enhance training benefits or exercise performance in most situations. Some athletes, however, may experience increased mental clarity during exercise or may be less susceptible to infections caused by the stress of exercise. Performance under extreme conditions, such as high altitude or heat, may also be improved with BCAAs.
*Athletes and fitness advocates may claim benefits for this supplement based on their personal or professional experience. These are individual opinions and testimonials that may or may not be supported by controlled clinical studies or published scientific articles.
Well after hours of research I have come to several conclusions. While researching this topic there are many research articles out there that demonstrate that BCAA infusion not only fails to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis in human subjects, but actually reduces the rate of muscle protein synthesis and the rate of muscle protein turnover. The catabolic state in the two studies was not reversed to an anabolic state. Further, a sustained reduction in the rate of muscle protein turnover would be expected to have a detrimental effect on muscle strength, even if muscle mass is maintained. Muscle protein turnover renews the muscle fibers and results in increased efficiency of contraction at the single fiber level, which is reflected in increased strength in vivo, independent of muscle mass.
Here is the link to the study with the negative results.
Because many of you do not want tot take the time to read boring lengthy studies, here is the conclusion
A physiologically-significant increase in the rate of muscle protein synthesis requires adequate availability of all amino acid precursors. The source of EAAs for muscle protein synthesis in the post-absorptive state is the free intracellular pool. Intracellular free EAAs that are available for incorporation into protein are derived from muscle protein breakdown. Under normal conditions about 70% of EAAs released by muscle protein breakdown are reincorporated into muscle protein. The efficiency of reincorporation of EAAs from protein breakdown back into muscle protein can only be increased to a limited extent. For this fundamental reason, a dietary supplement of BCAAs alone cannot support an increased rate of muscle protein synthesis. The availability of the other EAAs will rapidly become rate limiting for accelerated protein synthesis. Consistent with this perspective, the few studies in human subjects have reported decreases, rather than increases, in muscle protein synthesis after intake of BCAAs. We conclude that dietary BCAA supplements alone do not promote muscle anabolism.
Another study shows several benefits. These benefits were broken down based on different factors such as cancer, immunity, intestinal health, cardiovascular disease, and much more. Although this research showed many positives it seemed the main link to the results was due to the amino acid Leucine.
What About Leucine?Given that leucine has proven more effective than the other BCAAs at promoting protein synthesis, there have been a number of studies to look at the effect it has by itself.
At first, leucine showed a lot of promise, especially in studies that looked at short-term changes in muscle protein balance. But it hasn’t delivered the goods when it comes to producing measurable gains in muscle mass over longer periods of time.
Here’s how one group of scientists summed up the research so far:
“Studies in both elderly humans and rodents subjected to free leucine supplementation have shown that such supplementation's indeed acutely improved muscle protein balance after food intake by increasing muscle protein synthesis and decreasing muscle proteolysis in the postprandial state. However, the few chronic studies conducted with such free leucine supplementation's did not succeed in promoting an increase in muscle mass.”
Unfortunately, most of the data they looked at comes from research on elderly subjects and rodents. What happens when leucine is given to a group of young, healthy men lifting weights for 12 weeks?
That’s exactly what happened in a Leeds Metropolitan University study, where a group of 26 untrained men received either four grams of leucine per day or a placebo on top of their regular diets .
After 12 weeks of lifting weights, the leucine group got better results across the board. Strength gains were around 30% higher compared to the placebo group. They also gained 40% more muscle mass, despite the fact that both groups followed the exact same training program and much the same diet.
Check out my video on how I lost 8lbs in 1 week
All of which sounds pretty compelling.
If I wanted you to buy some leucine, this is exactly where I’d insert the “buy now” button.
But once again, the devil is in the detail. The average weight of the men taking part in the trial was 172 pounds. Yet they were getting just 94 grams of protein per day, or the equivalent of 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
A couple of scoops of whey protein would have bumped up their protein intake by around 50 grams per day, as well as providing around 50% more leucine than they were getting from the supplement . While leucine may have proven effective, it did so only against a background of an insufficient protein intake.
In fact, follow-up studies show that as long as you’re getting enough protein in your diet, taking extra leucine has no effect on muscle growth [10, 11].
Summary: Do BCAAs Work? In summary, there’s plenty of research out there to show that BCAAs have a number of benefits as far as muscle growth is concerned.
But there’s little evidence to suggest that it matters where those BCAAs come from – a chicken breast, a scoop of whey protein or a BCAA supplement. Once they’ve made it to the bloodstream, they’re going to do exactly the same thing.
Moreover, most studies have measured short-term changes in protein synthesis, rather than long-term gains in muscle mass. Very few have looked at the effects of BCAA supplements on top of an adequate protein intake, or compared free-form BCAAs with an equivalent dose of BCAAs from a milk protein supplement or even just food.
It’s true that taking BCAAs before and after training can reduce markers of muscle damage and soreness, as well as accelerating the recovery of muscle function.
But if you compare large doses of BCAAs with large doses of nothing, particularly in someone on a low protein intake, this shouldn’t come as any great surprise.
Personally I will consume them when I am trying to lose weight. I have always taken them when I have been in a caloric deficit and seem to always have great muscle gain or maintenance while losing anywhere from 15-25lbs of body fat. I prove this year after year and decided to video tape my results. I notice a huge difference in soreness when I do not take them. I tend to cycle all of my supplements in an effort to create the need for them that my body may want not to mention the few bucks that I save by doing so.
Click here to watch my results here.
Here is another study with positive results. This one was geared more towards weight training.
Positive BCAA Study.
Although this study seems like it may be product endorsed, this study is what I go off of and is relative to the goals of bodybuilders, strength and endurance athletes. The product used in this study was made by Scivation, a science based supplement company and product that I use and recommend. I also like it because they have a BCAA option that does not have
pre-work out ingredients.
Scivation BCAA's can be purchased for a great price here on Amazon.
Hope you enjoyed this article.