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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Branched chain amino acids

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are essential amino acids that have to be ingested into your diet since they can’t be synthesized in your body. BCAAs are abundant in muscle proteins. Unlike other essential amino acids which are broken down in the liver, BCAA catabolism occurs primarily in muscle. The breakdown of BCAA in muscle tissue is promoted by exercise.

Researchers in Japan published the results of a study on supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) on squat-exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (Shimorura et al, 2010). This particular study, it involved 12 female untrained participants.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids:

The participants ingested branched-chain amino acids containing isoleucine, leucine, and valine, at the following ratios: isoleucine:leucine:valine = 1:2.3:1.2. The BCAA was consumed in a green tea drink which contained a total of 5.5 g of BCAA. A placebo drink containing the same ingredients was also used with dextrin being substituted for the BCAA.

The exercise included 7 sets of 20 squats /set with 3 minutes of rest in between.

Study Results:

  • Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) peaked on days 2 and 3
  • Delayed-onset muscle soreness was significantly lower in the branched-chain amino acid group
  • Plasma branched-chain amino acids were markedly elevated 2 hrs after exercise in the BCAA group and significantly lower after exercise in the placebo group.
  • Serum myoglobin (a marker of muscle damage) was increased by exercise in the placebo group but not the branched-chain amino acid group.
  • On day 3, maximal voluntary isometric contractions were reduced to 80% in the control group but remained unchanged in the BCAA group.

Bottom line: Pre-exercise branched-chain amino acid supplementation appears to be useful to prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in untrained female athletes. A previous study showed similar results in untrained men.


  1. Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Jun;20(3):236-44.


  • Ron

    I knew BCAA's had many benefits, and now I know they have this capability as well. Thanks for the info.

  • VitaSort

    Thanks for the info... maybe it was a mental thing but i have found sipping on bcaa's consistently throughout the day to be very helpful. I have even heard of people waking up in the middle of the night to drink a BCAA supplement product. Dr. Morrow - do you know if this has any benefit or is it more or less a waste? Does your body need consistent flow of BCAAs all day long?

    • Jarret Morrow, M.D.

      Brandon, I've read studies in long distance runners in which they've consumed a beverage containing BCAA during long distance training to prevent muscle damage. In these studies, they've maintained blood BCAA throughout the training session by drinking this beverage. I've seen bodybuilding enthusiasts recommend the sipping method that you're referring to ostensibly to maintain an 'anabolic' profile though I haven't come across any specific studies that have looked at this approach. Waking up in the middle of the night definitely sounds counterproductive.

      • VitaSort

        Jarret - Thanks for the additional info. It makes sense. Yea I am going to look around a bit to see if i can find some literature confirming the extension of the anabolic window through use of BCAA... if i find something i will be sure to share it with the community. I agree on the waking up in the middle of the night. A slow release protein packed with some good BCAA's should suffice i think. Thanks!

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