The Effects of BCAAs on Exercise Induced Muscle Soreness: A Review
In recent years there have been several studies published which show that BCAAs (Betaine, Calcium, Creatine & Arginine) are able to increase muscle protein synthesis when administered before or after exercise. These findings have generated much interest among researchers and athletes alike. However, it’s not just the results that are interesting; it’s the methodology used to obtain them!
One problem with most of these studies is that they don’t use a double-blinded design, meaning neither the subjects nor the investigators know whether or not the subjects received any particular supplement prior to or during their workout. Another issue is that many of these studies were conducted using untrained participants and thus may not accurately reflect what happens when training loads are increased. Finally, some of these studies did not measure all the relevant variables in order to determine if one variable was responsible for an effect.
To address these issues, I’ve compiled a list of questions that need answering when examining the effects of BCAAs on exercise induced muscle soreness. If you’re interested in learning more about how to maximize your performance while avoiding overtraining, then read on…
1. What is
Exercise Induced Muscle Soreness?
Although many people believe that exercise induced muscle soreness (EIMS) is just “part of the game” of weight training, it can actually be an indicator of several underlying problems. EIMS has been linked to:
degradation of skeletal muscle tissue during exercise, especially when lifting weights. This is caused by a phenomenon known as “microtrauma” in which small tears in the muscle fiber membrane allow ions such as calcium to enter the muscle cells leading to an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis and a growth in the size of the muscle (Minden, E. & Miller, S.
release of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1b, TNF-a and IL-6 from immune cells.
rupturing of the connective tissue between muscle fibers.
a depletion of muscle glycogen.
2. What are
BCAAs and why are they important?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are essential amino acids that humans cannot produce on their own so they must be ingested through food or supplementation. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs cannot be stored in the body for later use so it’s important to consume them on a daily basis.
During exercise, BCAAs play an important role in nutrient and energy metabolism as well as increasing muscle protein synthesis. Ingesting BCAAs before and during exercise can increase levels of glycogen in the liver (and possibly muscle) and help to prevent fatigue by decreasing ammonia build-up and decreasing the degradation of muscle tissue.
Recent studies have also found that BCAAs can help to prevent decreases in muscle protein synthesis that normally occur as a result of endurance exercise. The mechanism of this effect seems to be through decreasing the degradation of mRNA translational machinery (He, W. & Li, D.
3. What is the difference between
BCAAs and normal amino acids?
BCAAs have been shown to have great benefits when it comes to strength training. As explained in question 2, BCAAs play an important role in energy and amino acid metabolism. They have been shown to decrease fatigue and increase the amount of time people can exercise before becoming fatigued.
In addition, BCAAs have been shown to help decrease muscle soreness after exercise by increasing the levels of glycogen in the liver and muscles (Tessitore, A. 2009).
However, not all amino acids are the same. Some amino acids are critical to proper human function while others (the majority) are not. Of the 20 amino acids that are used to build proteins, 9 of them are called “essential” because the body cannot produce these on its own so they must be ingested through food or supplementation.
The remaining 11 amino acids (which can be found in foods such as meat, eggs, etc.) can be produced by the liver.
4. Why are branched-chained amino acids important?
As explained in question 2, BCAAs are essential for proper muscle and liver function. They help build muscle while preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue, they help to prevent the loss of muscle glycogen (energy storage in the liver and muscles) and they help prevent decreases in endurance due to fatigue. In addition, BCAAs play an important role in maintaining proper nitrogen balance in the body.
5. How much do
I need and when do I need it?
The amount of BCAAs you should take is the amount that results in extra muscle protein synthesis without any extra fat gain. At this time, no studies have been done to figure out appropriate dosages, however, some companies have done studies with their own products so we can get a rough idea.
In general, most studies have used a dosage of about 6 grams per day. This seems to be the point where fat gain is minimized while muscle growth is maximized. Some companies, such as E-Pharm* seem to have good results with 3-6 grams per serving while other companies, such as Prolab* use up to 20 grams per serving.
It’s all up to you and what you can afford.
As for when to take the BCAAs, you have two choices:
You can take all of your daily dosage at one time or you can split it up into two separate servings. Most people seem to prefer splitting it up into 2 servings so that the cost of the product is decreased and the amount of space it takes up in your stomach is also decreased.
6. Are there any side effects?
There are no real side effects other than some minor stomach pain and nausea. Most people tolerate BCAAs very well even in the amounts that most research says are required for muscle building purposes.
Some people can’t tolerate the taste of BCAAs very well. Most times, this problem is circumvented by creating flavored tablets or capsules that contain the proper amount of BCAAs for muscle gain.
7. How long do they take to work?
This is a difficult question to answer since everyone’s body responds differently to things. In addition, some people build up a tolerance to certain supplements faster than others.
However, most people who take BCAAs before their workout will begin to notice an increase in energy during their workouts by the second or third day. Others have reported feeling less muscle soreness after their workouts on the first day.
Most people begin to see actual physical gains in muscle mass within two weeks. However, some people take longer than others to build muscle.
In your case, since you’re already in great shape and you have a fast metabolism (which is a good thing most of the time) it might take a little longer than the average person. Don’t start panicking if after 30 days you don’t gain ten pounds of muscle mass. If you do nothing else, keep taking the BCAAs and keep up your regular workouts and you should see gains eventually.
If you want to speed up the process, there are a few tricks you can use:
Take the BCAAs every day. Don’t stop after 30 days, keep going. The more you take them, the better your results will be.
Eat more food and particularly eat more protein. If you aren’t gaining muscle mass, you’re not eating enough. (But don’t go overboard and eat too much.
That will lead to fat gain rather than muscle gain.)
Try creatine. This is a very popular supplement for increasing muscle mass in athletes and you can read about it in the section on sports supplementation.
If you’re serious about gaining muscle mass, you can always go see a doctor and get a prescription for steroids. They work wonders.
In any case, just keep working out and keep up your BCAAs and you should have no trouble gaining muscle mass in no time.
Continue to read our informative and detailed guide on how to take BCAAs for maximum muscle gain…
By the way, if you’re a woman who wants to get big and strong, this article gives you all the information you need…
Muscle Building Supplements
Part of building muscle mass is getting enough food, but the other part is supplementation.
You can get a little bit of extra nutrition in your diet by taking pills and chemicals, which might help you gain a little size. However, supplements should never replace real food, and most of the stuff advertised for bodybuilders to take is worthless and a waste of money.
However, there are a few supplements that actually work to build muscle. In fact, some of the stuff you can get over the counter is just as good (or better) than the steroids that athletes sometimes take.
1. Whey Protein
Whey is a type of protein that comes from milk. There are two basic forms of whey: concentrate and isolate. Concentrate has more fat and lactose in it while isolate has virtually none.
For our purposes, you want to always take isolate because there’s no need to pay for extra stuff that you don’t need.
Protein is a vital part of your muscle building process. Without enough of it, your body won’t have the raw materials it needs to actually build the big muscles you want.
Muscle is basically built out of proteins. Your muscles are made up of many microscopic protein strands. When you work out, your body feels the pressure and sends proteins to the area to help build them back stronger and bigger.
This is how you get stronger and bigger after working out.
However, when you work out, you usually use up a lot of the protein in your muscles. This means you need to replace it quickly or not only won’t your muscles grow, but they’ll start to break down as well.
This is why protein supplements are so popular. You can easily take in more raw materials to help you get bigger and stronger. Whey protein is particularly good because it’s in a very easy-to-digest form.
You can drink whey just before, during, or after your workout to give your muscles what they need to grow. You can also drink it any other time of the day as well. Many people like to drink their protein as a substitute for breakfast.
In any case, you can get whey protein in the form of powder, which you simply mix with water, or in a more solid form, such as protein bars. Either way, you’re getting a nice dose of easily-digested protein.
Creatine is an organic acid which occurs naturally in the body and is also found in foods such as red meat. It’s stored in the muscles and used as an energy source for intense muscular contractions.
For example, if you do a bunch of curls, your biceps are contracted intensely for a while, using up creatine as the energy source. If you don’t get enough creatine, you can’t contract your muscles as intensely, so your curls won’t be as strong.
Of course, bodybuilders also take advantage of creatine to increase their strength. By supplementing your diet with creatine, you can increase your strength without increasing the intensity of your workouts.
This is because your muscles retain more creatine, so they have more energy for intense muscular contractions, allowing you to workout at a lower intensity yet achieve the same (or even better) results in strength and size.
This allows you to increase strength and mass from the same workouts without actually working out any harder.
It should be noted however that creatine requires a loading phase where you take higher doses for a few days as well as a maintenance phase of lower doses afterwards in order to see maximum benefits.
While creatine monohydrate is the most common and cheapest form, it’s not the only form. There are various advanced forms of creatine which claim to be more effective.
Carnosine is a combination of creatine and beta-alanine (another amino acid) which claims to have a more positive effect on muscular contractions. Carnosine is not just a filler, like some companies claim their creatine blends are. It does actually work, although not much research has been done on it.
3. Branch-Chain Amino Acids
Branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids, meaning your body cannot produce them on its own, so you need to supplement with them. There are three types of BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
These three amino acids work together to give your body enough energy for muscle growth and repair.
You don’t need to worry too much about which brand of BCAAs to buy; they’re all pretty much the same, although some are more filler than others. Just make sure you buy the flavored ones because they taste good (especially if you mix it with your morning protein shake).
Most people know that vitamins and minerals are essential to a healthy body. However, most people don’t get enough of them in their diet.
If you want to be at your best and perform at your peak, then a multi-vitamin is essential to your long-term health and well-being.
Most people already get enough of the big three (Vitamins D, E, and C), along with iron, and that’s about it. They’re missing out on all the other essentials. Pick up a cheap bottle of Centrum or something similar and you’ll be covered on most of the essentials (though you may need to buy two bottles).
5. Fish Oil
Fish oil is another essential part of your diet that people usually forget about. While vegetarian diets can easily get B12 and other vitamins from various vegetables, they miss out on getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from fish, hence the name “fish oil”.
These oils are essential for lowering your cholesterol and preventing heart disease. They also increase fat loss, help with brain and eye development during pregnancy, prevents cancer, and lower the risk of depression.
Most people already get enough omega-6 fatty acids (which are found in pro-inflammatory foods like nuts and seeds), so they should focus on eating foods rich in omega-3’s like fish, or take a fish oil supplement.
Glutamine is an amino acid that’s involved in muscle growth, repair and maintaining your immune system. Your body already makes enough glutamine to keep you going, but intense exercise can deplete your glutamine level, hence supplementing with it.
This is great for when you want to get sick or the cold-season (or whatever the hell it is they have here) comes around. Glutamine has been proven to increase your immune system’s effectiveness in killing off foreign invaders like the common cold.
Whatever you do, make sure you get L-glutamine and not D-glutamine. Your body doesn’t recognize D-glutamine and uses it as an energy source rather than a building block for your muscles.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that’s used as a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormones). If you’ve ever taken NALT, it’s the stuff that makes your heart race before you go do something exciting.
Taking Tyrosine can increase focus and motivation, and if you ever feel yourself depleting of these vital hormones, take some extra Tyrosine to get your levels back up.
The best time to take Tyrosine is about a half hour before you plan on being in a stressful situation.
Choline is similar to the big three (DMAE, Vinpocetine, and Huperzine), in that it’s showing promise as a “smart drug”. Unlike the other two, however, Choline is already commonly available and taken with multivitamins.
Choline is showing promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, age-related memory loss, and even healthy individuals trying to increase their memory. It is showing promise in improving verbal memory and learning in elderly people.
The usual dose for Choline is about 500-2,500mg a day. You should be getting enough in your multivitamin or you can buy some separately at a drug store.
A Good Pre-Workout Drink
Most people go to the gym first thing in the morning, or right after work when they’re tired as hell and don’t have time to eat a proper meal. This is where a pre-workout drink comes in really handy.
You can easily buy one at any supplement store, but it’s way cheaper to make your own.
For a pre-workout drink, you’ll need:
1 scoop of whey protein (chocolate or vanilla)
1/2 tsp of Creatine
1/2 tsp of Glutamine (if not already in your whey)
1/2 tsp of Taurine
1/2 dose of Caffeine (if not already in your whey)
After consuming this 20-30 minutes before you work out, you’ll have explosive energy for your workout and it’s saved me on many occasions when I needed to kill my back because last minute plans got made.
You can replace the whey with milk if you want to, but I find that it’ll be cheaper in the long run to just buy a bunch of flavored whey and make yourself a big jug of pre-workout drink rather than buying individual milk every other day.
While I said this is a guide on how to get big fast, you should actually not drink this everyday. Your body can only handle so much at once, and sometimes you just have to eat real food instead of relying on supplements. Drink this stuff at least 3-4 times a week.
Note: I don’t really include creatine in my pre-workout drinks anymore because it makes me retain water like no other and I feel bloated all the time. That may not be the case for you, so just keep that in mind.
A Good Post-Workout Drink
You’ve just spent an hour lifting weights and you’re exhausted. You could really use a boost in muscle growth and recovery so that you can push even harder at your next workout.
Once again, you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing the best post-workout drink. You can either get one of the many popular post-workout formulas from the supplement store or you can make your own with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.
The best post-workout drink consists of:
A serving of Whey Protein (chocolate flavor)
A serving of Dextrose
A serving of Creatine
These three ingredients will help put back into your body what you’ve just spent at the gym.
The best way to take these is to buy a few one-liter bottles or jugs, and mix up a jug of the following:
16 oz. skim milk (or flavored if you can’t stand the taste)
1 scoop whey
1 teaspoon creatine
5 teaspoons dextrose
This will provide your body with the energy it needs to recover from your workout, as well as help it build muscle by giving it plenty of amino acids.