Can muscle soreness be reduced with BCAA’s?

If you lift weights, or if you plan to lift weights, then you should familiar with the soreness experienced the day (or days) following a good workout.  Sometimes its just a moderate amount of discomfort.  Other times you may have trouble sitting on the toilet for a couple days because of the muscle soreness after squats (damn you leg day).  People are always looking for ways of reducing this muscle soreness.  If you search for reducing muscle soreness on google, it returns almost 1 million results.  Researchers wanted to find out if Branch Chained Amino Acids have the capability reducing muscle soreness after exercise.

The methods

Science has already confirmed exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) decreases muscle function and causes soreness and discomfort.  When you exercise, your damaging your muscles and causing an inflammatory response which makes you sore.  The theory here is if you can reduce the amount of EIMD, you could also reduce the soreness experienced after the workout.  Researchers wanted to check if BCAA’s actually reduced muscle soreness after exercise (specifically resistance training).

The methods explained

Twelve trained males who were competitive national league games players (rugby and football) and familiar with resistance training volunteered to participate.  They randomly assigned 6 to the BCAA group and 6 to the placebo group.    For 7 days they consumed either 10g twice a day of the BCAA 2:1:1 ratio or the placebo for what they called the loading period.  The placebo group was careful in selecting a placebo that contained no carbohydrates that could alter protein metabolism or rises in insulin.  The researchers took several proven methods of inducing enough muscle damage.  If you could like to know more about the methods they took you can read the full text article at the bottom of the article.

The results

The results of this study are pretty significant and indicate BCAA’s do indeed reduce EIMD.  At 24 hours post exercise, both groups peaked at the highest amount of muscle damage seen from the exercise.  At 48 hours the muscle soreness peaked in both groups.  The interesting thing is what happened to the BCAA group. The BCAA group showed a significant group effect (F = 9.9, P = 0.010) where the decrement in force was lower and recovery of force was greatest.  The overall results can be seen in the graphs below.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.05.00 PM
Graph showing the reduction in muscle soreness 96 hours post exercise from the consumption of BCAAs
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.05.27 PM
Graphs comparing the MVC and Plasma Creatine Kinase levels between the BCAA and Placebo groups
table of bcaa study results
Table showing the vertical jump height, thigh and calf measurements before and up to 96 hours post exercise

Conclusions

BCAA’s have once again shown to provide great benefit to individuals who lift weights.  If you want to reduce muscle soreness after exercise, you should really consider taking up to 10 grams surrounding a workout to ensure you are recovering the most effective way possible.  Various other research studies have show other proven benefits of taking BCAA’s.  If you want to reduce muscle soreness on your next squat day, take 10 grams and see how you feel.

View the research study here

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