by Matt Weik
There seems to be some confusion in the sports nutrition industry on whether BCAAs are good as an intra or post-workout supplement. Many people use them intra-workout to help with recovery as well as reduce soreness post-workout. However, researchers are now saying that BCAAs have a very limited role on building muscle and that some brands are even wrong with how they are positioning their product.
Best used for recovery and soreness reduction
We have all come to know that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. But, researchers are now saying that BCAAs don’t truly play a role in building lean muscle mass. There is very limited data to prove that someone supplementing with BCAAs can actually increase their lean muscle mass simply by supplementing with additional BCAAs (says research).
A researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences mentioned after looking at studies from the 90’s that, “The few studies in human subjects have reported decreases, rather than increases, in muscle protein synthesis after intake of BCAAs.” These were studies where participants were given BCAAs intravenously (not the conventional use of a powder like what we see and use today). The researchers stated, however, that intravenous or conventional powder form will show the same results when it comes to protein synthesis.
Both of the studies mentioned above failed to increase protein synthesis which aids in new muscle growth and formation. And in fact, interestingly enough, researchers have found it to actually decrease protein synthesis.
So, how should BCAAs be used? According to the research, intra-workout is your best bet. There are many brands out on the market today who already promote this, but for those of you who are using it post-workout to help build muscle will unfortunately be disappointed with the findings from this study. Not all is lost, though, if you’ve been using it incorrectly (according to these studies). All you need to so is shift your timing to use your BCAA product during your workout instead of after. Mix your BCAA powder with water and sip it throughout your workouts.
Not a ‘muscle building’ supplement
The study hasn’t deemed BCAAs worthless, rather just that there is a right and a wrong way to use the supplement and what results should be expected. BCAAs should not be marketed as a muscle building supplement according to the most recent research findings. BCAAs when used during your workout will reduce muscle soreness as well as improve your overall recovery time. The nice thing is, most of the BCAA products on the market these days taste great, which will make you want to drink your intra-workout beverage. This also helps ensure you stay properly hydrated during your workouts as that’s extremely important—especially when exercising in warm and hot environments.
1.) Menayang, Adi. “Limited Evidence Backs BCAA’s Muscle Building Benefits, Says New Study.” NutraIngredients-USA.com, 25 Aug. 2017.