Branched chain amino acids

Branched chain amino acids have several names: BCAA, BCAAs, Isoleucine, Isoleucine Ethyl Ester HCL, Leucine, Leucine Ethyl Ester HCL, Leucine Isovaleric Acid, Leucine Methyl Ester HCL, L-isoleucine, L-leucine Pyroglutamine, L-Valine, N-Acetyl Leucine, N-Acetyl Leucine and Valine.

Uses for branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)

Branched chain amino acids are used for their inherent ability to increase exercise performance, prevent fatigue, improve concentration and reduce protein and muscle breakdown during extraordinary exercise.

There are also some medical conditions that utilized branched chain amino acids such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), latent portosystemic encephalopathy and chronic hepatic encephalopathy.

During prolonged bed rest BCAAs are also used to prevent muscle wasting. BCAAs have also be used by mouth to satisfy anorexia in cancer patients, tardive dyskinesia, McArdle’s disease (a genetic glycogen metabolic disorder) and spinocerebellar degeneration.

Are BCAAs safe? 

BCAAs have not been correlated with significant adverse effects in studies lasting from as little as one-to-two weeks up to 6 months. BCAAs are quite a staple in the health, fitness and bodybuilding community and have been taken year around by many athletes, fitness competitors and bodybuilders; however, clinical studies cannot assure that they are safe beyond 6 months because studies lasting longer than 6 months have not been scientifically conducted. 

BCAAs have been used safely even as an injectable product for which they are approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Children have used BCAAs safely in studies lasting 2 weeks. BCAAs are to be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

Are BCCAs effective? 

It is known and agreed that during prolonged exercise there is a total breakdown of whole body protein accomplished by a decrease in the rate of protein synthesis and an increase in the rate of protein degradation in the liver along with a total increase in the rate of non-contractile protein breakdown in muscle.

When BCAAs were supplemented into the diet of 5 people working out a one-legged exercise, after a total duration of 60 minutes, the group that took BCAAs were shown to suppress the rate of net muscle protein breakdown normally observed during exercise of this intensity and duration. This was found in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism back in 1994.

The dose that resulted in benefit was 77 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For someone weighing 190 pounds that’s a total dose of 6650 mg of branched chain amino acids. I recommend taking your BCAA dose of 77mg per kilogram of bodyweight 30 minutes before your workout to prevent net muscle breakdown during your workout. One kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds so take your weight and divide it by 2.2 pounds and than multiply by 77 mg to know what dose you should take 30 minutes before exercise.

A study that supports my belief that BCAAs should be consumed prior to exercise was written. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006. The study found that BCAA supplementation before exercise prevents the breakdown of muscle protein during exercise and that leucine (an amino acid that’s part of BCAAs) vividly promotes protein synthesis in skeletal muscle in humans and rats.

This suggests that BCAA supplementation prevents muscle damage induced by exercise and promotes recovery from the damage. In regard to weight lifting, it was found that BCAA supplementation prior, decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle fatigue for a few days after exercise.

By BCAAs preventing muscle soreness and muscular fatigue you are more equipped to handle your workout the next day. When you workout the same body part again, it will be stronger and more ready to perform at 100% compared to someone else that does not supplement with branched chain amino acids. For these reasons I entirely support its supplementation for people trying to build a new body with 2CreateABody. I also don't see any reason for an athlete not to benefit from it. It supports recovery and preserves protein leading to improved performance from increased lean body mass. 


BCAAs have several applications related to muscle building and leaning out. BCAAs also have several important medical uses as well.  Safety is important and BCAA have been used for a long time and used safely in clinical studies up to 6 months.  BCAA have been used longer than 6 months in many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.

BCAAs according to scientifically sound literature is able to prevent the breakdown of proteins during intense physical performances. BCAAs also prevent the fatigue and soreness that muscles experience following exercise. This means they have the potential to increase muscular gains, intensity and lean body mass since you can workout harder and more frequently without losing as much muscle building protein.  For these reasons, BCAA are so commonly found in a bodybuilder and fitness models supplement stack.  

After finding the clinical studies that have studied BCAAs, I recommend that you take a dose of 77 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, 30 minutes before working out to reap the benefits that have been shown scientifically in humans. I didn’t look at any literature that only studied BCAAs in rodents and animal models because they are not that applicable to what happens within the human body. Feel free to comment on your experiences using BCAAs. Thank you. 

I don't see any reason to use fancy delivery methods for branched chain amino acids. Using BCAAs as the building blocks they are doesn't require anything other than what was used in the clinical studies.

I support the use of inexpensive BCAAs from Optimum Nutrition. One pill is 1000mg so you'll have to take several to meet your 77mg/kg dose requirement. 


1. Maclean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B. Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. Am J Physiol 1994;267:E1010-22. 

2. Shimomura Y, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, et al. Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. J Nutr. 2006;136(2):529S-532S. 

› Branched Chain Amino Acids
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