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Research Brief: BCAAs Reduce Muscle Soreness

The branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are unique in that they make up a significant portion of muscle proteins and they are preferentially oxidized (burned) for fuel especially during exercise.
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Not surprisingly, there levels drop in blood and muscle with exercise. Leucine in particular has been shown to directly stimulate the rate of protein synthesis in muscle. For all these reasons, athletes may need more BCAA. Previous work has explored whether BCAA could alleviate muscle soreness and muscle function associated with eccentric exercise, but results were equivocal. Therefore researchers from the University of Birmington tested the effects of BCAA supplementation on the potential to ameliorate the negative effects associated with unaccustomed exercise in untrained men. The subjects were normal weight non-weight trained men who were assigned to a supplement or placebo group. The supplement group received BCAA (each dose contained 3.5 g leucine, 2.1 g isoleucine, 1.7 g valine). Doses were taken 30 min before exercise, 1 hour after exercise and periodically over the next 4 days. This amounted to about 30 grams BCAA supplement per day. Both groups performed a bout of damaging exercise consisting of eccentric knee extensions. Ratings of muscle soreness in the quadriceps muscle were significantly lower 48 and 72 hours after exercise in the BCAA supplement group. Despite reducing muscle soreness, BCAA supplementation did not prevent the loss in muscle function compared to placebo. The results provide evidence for taking relatively large amounts of BCAA around a bout of intense exercise for reducing post-exercise muscle soreness. The authors suggest that high amounts of BCAA may be needed to show reduced muscle soreness and may explain why previous studies that used lower amounts of BCAA failed to see an effect.

.   Jackman SR, Witard OC, Jeukendrup AE, Tipton KD. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):962-70.