In recent decades, branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs) have gained a lot of attention. While some people believe taking BCAAs for recovery is the best way to increase their gains, an equally large number of people believe that BCAAs are just another overrated snake oil product.
So which is it? The answer may not be as conclusive as you’d like.
According to a study conducted on BCAAs’ effects on lactate threshold, when subjects were given supplemental BCAAs in a 4% carbohydrate mixture after engaging in exercise meant to induce lactic-acid buildup and tax endurance capacities, no significant increase in exercise performance was measured, yet, in a separate study, a group given BCAAs in a 3% carb solution saw significant increase in exercise performance. However, in each study, BCAAs were found to be an effective means of increasing the lactic acid threshold. TL;DR version: BCAAs combined with a low dose of carbohydrates may help improve endurance in aerobic exercises.
But I have a sneaking suspicion you didn’t come here to learn that.
Branched-chain amino acids are very important for recovery, but they’re abundant in a number of very unexotic and affordable foods, stuff you probably already have in your diet—especially if building muscle is your goal—such as lean cuts of beef, dairy, and even cheap-ass protein powder from concentrate. Would I suggest you go blow $X on another overpriced powder to add to your intra-workout shake, thinking that the lack of that extra 5 grams of a few amino acids is the reason you’re recovering poorly, not getting stronger, and not building muscle mass?
So rest easy knowing that if you are eating a balanced diet rich in foods with complete amino acid profiles or even just taking a whey protein supplement, you’re getting enough BCAAs to encourage recovery.