The Final Verdict – BCAAs


The Final Verdict – BCAAs

Branched Chain Amino Acids

We’ve come to the end of our series on the effectiveness of BCAAs. Since we started, we’ve gone over potential benefits of supplementation including: strength & aerobic training applications, ability to increase protein synthesis, decrease body fat, improve recovery, and aid in weight loss. The current research on BCAAs shows potential benefits mixed in with a lot of marketing hype.

Strength Training

The research was mixed on whether BCAAs increased strength. Out of the three studies reviewed, one showed no increase while two saw increases. The verdict on BCAAs and strength training is that there is some evidence showing they may increase strength in very specific populations.

Verdict: Maybe beneficial

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids increase strength?

Aerobic Exercise

The research on this claim produced some evidence that BCAAs could improve aerobic or endurance performance. Out of four studies, two of them saw potential benefits of supplementation. One of the studies found BCAAs could lower fatigue, and the other study found a higher VO2 max in supplement users. Again, BCAAs may improve aerobic performance under some circumstances.

Verdict: Maybe beneficial

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids improve running performance?

Protein Synthesis

The studies we looked at for this claim were not convincing enough to warrant the use of BCAAs to increase protein synthesis. One review article which looked at 13 studies, concluded that BCAAs could not increase protein synthesis in a meaningful way. Another study found that whey protein was more effective in increasing synthesis.

Verdict: Probably not beneficial

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids increase protein synthesis?

Body Composition

The research on this claim was extremely limited. One study found benefits, while another did not. It is difficult to come to a meaningful conclusion without seeing more research on this claim.

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids decrease body fat?


This was one bright spot in the series. All of the studies we looked at showed some improvement in recovery in those who used the supplement. Benefits included quicker strength recovery after a lift, lower markers of muscle damage, and less muscle soreness.

Verdict: Probably beneficial

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids improve recovery?

Weight Loss

The research on this claim was quite positive. Of those using BCAAs, some lost more weight while maintaining muscle mass and strength; a very difficult achievement under normal circumstances. All three studies looking at this claim saw some benefit of supplementing.

Verdict: Probably beneficial

Supplement Database: Do branched chain amino acids maintain muscle mass during weight loss?

The Bottom Line – Should I be using BCAAs?

Overall, the evidence showed BCAA supplements fell well short of the marketing hype which surrounds them. There were studies showing BCAAs improved some measures, unfortunately, the practical benefits of using this supplement are lacking.

If you are already using a protein supplement, check the label. Chances are, it includes additional BCAAs and you are already seeing any benefits from supplementation. Adding extra is unlikely to yield any further results. Many protein supplements include 4 or more grams of BCAAs. For the vast majority of protein supplement users, more BCAAs will not likely lead to better results.

There are some individuals who may benefit from supplementation. If you cannot eat much following a workout or throughout the day, supplementing helps increase protein synthesis leading to a slew of other benefits. There may also be some benefits for individuals who limit or eliminate animal products from their diets (vegans and vegetarians). However, the vast majority of gym goers should save their money and avoid BCAA supplements. The evidence simply does not support their use.