Lifting Weights and Muscle Soreness: Can BCAAs Help?

Resistance training can cause muscle soreness. BCAAs, high in leucine, might help reduce soreness and aid muscle repair after workouts.

NYB Team
By NYB Team
Apr 22, 2024
Lifting Weights and Muscle Soreness: Can BCAAs Help?

Resistance training is a cornerstone for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, promoting muscle strength, endurance, and growth.  However, intense workouts can also lead to exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). This article explores EIMD, its consequences, and the potential benefits of BCAA supplementation in mitigating these negative effects.

Understanding EIMD:

EIMD occurs in two phases. The initial phase involves mechanical stress during exercise, causing microscopic tears in muscle fibers. The secondary phase, lasting several days, involves inflammation as the body repairs the damage. This can lead to:

  • Disruption of muscle structure

  • Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

Markers of Inflammation:

Scientists measure inflammation through blood levels of specific markers. Two key markers are:

  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH): Increases immediately after exercise, reflecting early inflammation.

  • Creatine kinase (CK): Peaks 24-96 hours after exercise, reflecting later inflammation stages.

Nutritional Strategies for Recovery:

Dietary protein plays a crucial role in muscle repair after exercise. However, protein quality and amino acid composition matter. Here's where BCAAs come in.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs):

  • Found in high concentrations in whey protein and some other sources.

  • Metabolized primarily in muscle tissue, promoting protein synthesis and counteracting muscle breakdown.

  • Leucine, a key BCAA, is crucial for muscle protein synthesis initiation.

Benefits of BCAA Supplementation:

Research suggests BCAA supplementation may offer advantages over high-protein diets:

  • Lower in calories

  • Doesn't stimulate gluconeogenesis (conversion of protein to glucose)

  • Less strain on the kidneys compared to high protein intake

BCAA Supplementation and EIMD:

Several studies have investigated the effects of BCAAs on EIMD. While some variation exists, meta-analyses suggest potential benefits:

  • Reduced muscle damage

  • Less muscle soreness and improved function

  • Lower levels of fatigue substances and muscle soreness markers

Limitations and Future Research:

Previous studies often included diverse participants and exercise types.  Future research with stricter criteria could provide a clearer picture of BCAA effectiveness. This study focused on trained males to eliminate potential sex hormone influences.


BCAA supplementation holds promise for mitigating EIMD and promoting recovery in trained males. While more research is needed, BCAAs offer a potentially effective strategy for athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to optimize their training results.


Khemtong C, Kuo CH, Chen CY, Jaime SJ, Condello G. Does Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Supplementation Attenuate Muscle Damage Markers and Soreness after Resistance Exercise in Trained Males? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2021 May 31;13(6):1880. doi: 10.3390/nu13061880. PMID: 34072718; PMCID: PMC8230327.

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