Scott W. Tunis MD FACS •
Amino acids are organic compounds containing nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen which are the basic building blocks of all of the proteins in the human body. We consume animal and plant proteins, break those proteins down into their amino acid building blocks, and then re-assemble them into skeletal muscle, enzymes, and every other protein in our bodies.
We require 20 different amino acids, 11 of which we can synthesize and 9 of which we cannot and are essential for us to consume in our diets. Three of the essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, have a “branched chain” molecular structure, hence the name. They are also frequently abbreviated as BCAAs.
The effects of BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) supplementation on endurance athletes have been studied extensively. And the studies show that BCAAs are clearly the elite athletes of the amino acid world. Here are some of the findings:
Athletes supplementing with BCCA experienced a lesser degree of pain and muscle damage, had less perceived exertion and mental fatigue, had a greater anabolic response in the recovery period, and showed an improved immune response.
“Effects of Branched Amino Acids in Endurance Sports: A Review”
The use of BCAAs was superior to passive recovery or rest after various forms of exhaustive and damaging exercise.
“Branched-chain Amino Acid Supplementation and Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Exercise Recovery: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials”
Supplementation with BCAAs is efficacious on outcomes of exercise-induced muscle damage.
“Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review”
What’s the moral of the story here? Sure, we need high quality protein to repair and recover. And yes, we need protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. But the real moral of the story is that supplementation with BCAAs can confer additional benefits in the recovery from endurance exercise.
Coming soon: “Are All Recovery Shakes Created Equally? Tart Cherry for Recovery… CHERRIFIC!”
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