Can you really depend on branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for recovery?
Let’s take a look at the science and the benefits of leucine, isoleucine, and valine—BCAAs famously used as an intra-workout supplement to help boost energy and performance while alleviating fatigue.
Beyond the weight room, studies have indeed found the supplement to be ideal for recovery.
3 Benefits of BCAAs for Recovery
BCAAs are the building blocks of muscle tissue, making them a great nutrient source for recovery after a tough workout or athletic event.
They play a role in protein synthesis, growing muscles, and reducing soreness.
#1 Protein Synthesis: BCAAs are renowned in the fitness supplement world as a proven way to promote protein synthesis or the creation of muscle protein, a necessary component for lean tissue growth.
Taken before bed, BCAAs might support the release of growth hormone, an essential hormone for muscle recovery.
#2 More Growth, Less Breakdown: Studies show that BCAA supplementation, especially leucine, can elevate levels of protein synthesis, which contribute to muscle growth.
Meaning BCAAs can encourage growth while minimizing the risk for protein breakdown.
Due to natural aging or disease, muscle tissue begin breaking down—BCAA supplements can prevent this, especially when combined with a resistance training program, as studies have shown they protect muscle tissue from breakdown.
#3 Reduce Muscle Soreness: Many people tend to avoid the gym because they don’t want to deal with muscle soreness.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness occurs a day or two after your workout and depending on the severity, it can limit your range of motion and ability to exercise.
BCAAs have been found to alleviate muscle soreness helping you to get back in the gym faster.
When to Take BCAAs for Recovery
If you want to eliminate muscle soreness and boost results, here are the best times to take BCAAs for recovery.
#1 Before Your Workout: Most pre-workout supplements will contain a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs because they have been shown to reduce exercise fatigue.
Taking BCAAs before your workout improves your workout performance while helping you get a head start on recovery.
#2 During Your Workout: Drinking a BCAA-loaded shake during your workout can reduce the risk for protein breakdown, especially if you’re training in a fasted state.
The reason I don’t recommend taking a BCAA supplement after your workout is because whey protein has been found to be much more effective at supporting recovery post-workout.
#3 Before Bed: The last serving of your BCAA supplement should be used just before you get some shut eye.
BCAAs are a low-calorie option—ideal when you want to build muscle and burn fat at the same time—that can help support protein synthesis and growth hormone production as you sleep.
With that said, BCAAs for recovery before bed is not for everyone. Some users report side effects impacting sleep.
While the lack of sleep could be from a number of things such as caffeine or artificial ingredients inside of that particular brand of BCAAs, I’d recommend taking half a serving before bed to see how your body reacts.