From Ergo Log
Whether bodybuilders, fitness fanatics or other strength athletes actually build up extra muscle mass by taking BCAAs depends on the dose. We, the ignoramus compilers of this free webzine, drew this conclusion after reading two older studies on the effect of BCAA supplementation.
The researchers performed an experiment on 54 fit students, of whom most did running or cycling in their free time. The subjects followed a training programme consisting of continuous sessions of 30 and 60 minutes and interval training consisting of four-minute sets. They did this for a period of 11 weeks.
You can find our postings on BCAAs here.
Most of the studies in which lab animals or humans were given BCAAs focus on markers. The researchers looked at molecules that are assumed to reveal how much muscle protein organisms build up or how much fat they break down. But there are few studies in which researchers have just directly measured the amount of strength or muscle bodybuilders built up.
One exception is the study that Mike Spillane presented in 2013 at the annual meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In that study he got 19 men to do, for the first time in their lives, weight training for eight weeks. [Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10(Suppl 1):P25.] [Nutrition and Health 2012, Vol 21(4) 263–273.]
Half of the men took 4.5 g BCAAs half an hour before and half an hour after the training session. So they took a total of 9 g BCAAs per day.
At the end of the trial the subjects who had taken BCAAs had built up more lean body mass than the subjects in the placebo group. What’s more, the subjects in the BCAA group had lost a little bit of fat mass, while the subjects in the placebo group had gained a little bit of fat. But the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.
Four years previously, Jim Stoppani presented a comparable study, also at the annual meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In that study 36 experienced bodybuilders trained for eight weeks in the same way and followed the same diet.
The researchers divided their subjects into three groups. During the training period one group was given a supplement containing 28 g fast carbohydrates, another a supplement containing 28 g whey, and the third a supplement containing 14 g BCAAs.
The figure below shows that the BCAA group built up more muscle mass and strength than the other groups.
The 2009 study was financed by Scivation by the way. [scivation.com]
If we’re honest, the results of the 2009 study are almost too good to be true. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely believe that in sufficient quantities, BCAAs can help athletes to maintain and build up muscle mass. But a 4-kg gain in lean body mass in just two months? That’s an awful lot.
J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009; 6(Suppl 1): P1.