Do BCAAs Work?

Resistance training is important for maintaining lean muscle mass and bone density as we age, improving our body composition, increasing strength, and of course for athletic performance.  There are also many health benefits to boot (like lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and feeling better about yourself, to name a few).

A simple yet commonly misunderstood concept about training is that you are actually damaging your muscle tissue when you work out.  They get stronger, denser, and bigger afterward which is why speeding up the recovery process is key to reducing soreness and maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts.

Intense resistance training exercise causes:

  • muscle damage
  • increase in free radicals like reactive oxygen species (molecules that damage cells and receptors)
  • increase in cortisol hormone
  • decrease in testosterone hormone levels
  • increased muscle breakdown (catabolism)

Researchers from Ball State University recently did a study to see if taking Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) after intense weight training would have an effect on muscle recovery.  They studied 10 guys who regularly lifted weights and randomly put them into 2 group.

For 4 weeks Group A received BCAAs and Group B received a placebo. Then the participants did a 5 week washout period, meaning they didn’t take either supplement during that time.  Finally, the guys did another 4 weeks in the study but this time they took the opposite treatment as the first time.  The study was blinded so the participants did not know if they were taking the BCAAs or the placebo until after the study was over.

What did they find?  Supplementation with BCAAs:

  • decreases serum cortisol levels
  • increases testosterone levels
  • increases protein synthesis (anabolism)
  • enhances recovery!

The effects were really dramatic!  BCAA supplementation had a HUGE effect in the opposite direction compared to not taking it, supporting the use of BCAAs for recovery and preventing muscle breakdown 😀   This study also shows that using low amounts of BCAAs have a very potent effect so you don’t need that much!

If you train hard I definitely recommend adding BCAAs to your workout supplementation!  It is a worthwhile investment and you will feel a big difference in your energy levels during and after your workouts.
~Live Inspired~!




Sharp, CPM and Pearson, DR. Amino acid supplements and recovery from high-intensity training. J Strength Cond Res, 24(4): 1125–1130, 2010—