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There are a lot of Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) available in every shape and size. They are added to a lot of sports drinks and protein supplements. These can cost a lot of money and things are said to be better for recovery and performance if they contain them.

Beside all the emotive hype of the websites from companies selling these products I cannot find any definitive information on to whether they are useful or not ?

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Here's an article related to the performance aspect of the question (not the recovery aspect): nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/28 –  user5582 Sep 17 '13 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

Some study was performed by an undergraduate thesis and the conclusion was:

The purpose of this study was to determine if supplementation of BCAAs in combination with glucose would reduce exercise-induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (...) there was a statistically significant difference between BCAA and placebo for females at the 24-hour rating (p=0.0182).

Another study concluded that BCAA without tyrosine reduced mania symptoms, but I don't think that's the claim you're looking for (specially because it's a specific formulation for a BCAA, not the one sold to improve recovery after exercises).

And for specific sport-related analysis, there was an study about the use of BCAA to increase endurance of running:

Em conclusão, a suplementação de BCAA não afetou o desempenho de endurance em um teste de corrida até a exaustão (original)

The conclusion is that the BCAA supplementation didn't affect the durance performance in a test of running until exhaustion. (translation)

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The reduction in DOMS is interesting, but DOMS isn't a good indicator of recovery or performance. I think a more standard measure of recovery is how many rest days are needed before being able to lift the same amount or more weight as in the previous workout. –  user5582 Sep 17 '13 at 20:15
    
Alternatively, fix the amount of rest given (1 day, for example), and see how much performance has been lost or gained in a control group vs palcebo vs the BCAA group. –  user5582 Sep 17 '13 at 20:16

One of the studies I have found at Pubmed, suggests that there is a gain from taking such supplements and lists the type and levels they used to get a statistical different result from placebo.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24195702

By typing BCAA in muscle growth recovery into the search bar on their site, you can get many other studies on the effect of BCAA in exercise. I only have looked at one of the studies, the above link, and it show some benefit. You would need to look at the others studies and see if they also prove a net benefit. Another study from Flinders University suggests that simply taking Chocolate Milk would give you a good recovery outcome from exercise. You can easily Google this last study as it is fairly current.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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Please provide links to at least some specific article that demonstrate the claim, together with relevant quotes from them. –  Ilya Melamed Dec 19 '13 at 14:00

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