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When to Take BCAA Supplements: Timing & Should You Use It?

BCAAs are branched-chain amino acids. They’re given this name because, compared to other types of amino acids, they have a unique chemical structure that resembles tree branches. Unlike other amino acids that are broken down in the liver, BCAAs mostly bypass the liver for rapid absorption into the bloodstream.[1] BCAAs make up 3 of the 9 essential amino acids; certain amino acids are deemed “essential” because our bodies can’t make them, but we need them to function properly. BCAAs are comprised of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Each of these amino acids has unique functions in the body.

  • Leucine: stimulates muscle protein synthesis [2]
  • Isoleucine: plays a role in glucose metabolism [3]
  • Valine: plays a role in tissue repair [4]

Why Take BCAA Supplements

The ideal time to take branched-chain amino acids is around the time of your workouts. By adding 7-14 grams to your shake regimen, you can help to fuel your body and repair your muscles.

BCAAs reduce muscle soreness

Resistance training causes small damages to our muscle fibers that provoke our body to adapt and build bigger stronger muscles. This style of training is also commonly associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Because of their role in muscle protein metabolism, BCAAs have been researched for their potential to mitigate exercise induced muscle soreness. Two separate systematic reviews found when BCAAs were consistently supplemented with at appropriate dosages, they have a potential beneficial role for reducing muscle damage compared to placebo. [5,6]

BCAAs Reduce muscle fatigue during a workout

BCAAs compete with the amino acid tryptophan for uptake in the brain.[7] Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a role in the production of the hormone serotonin, a hormone that promotes sleepiness*.[7] Researchers investigated the impact of supplementing with BCAAs before fatiguing exercise. They found BCAA supplementation beneficial for increasing time to exhaustion on an incremental treadmill test.[8]

BCAAs hydrate during a fasted workout

Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves zero calorie or very limited calorie intake (usually less than 25% of one’s daily intake) during selected periods of time. [9] Approaches to fasting usually range from 16 hour fasts to whole day fasts.[9] Because BCAAs aren’t a whole food, some people wonder whether they can supplement with BCAAs while intermittent fasting. This will depend on the strictness of one’s fast. For a fast where individuals can consume a limited calorie intake, BCAA supplementation would be appropriate. 

BCAAs promote muscle protein synthesis

BCAAs can help promote muscle protein synthesis. Leucine, one of the three BCAAs is known to promote increased levels of muscle protein synthesis through its activation of the mTOR pathway. In addition to this, BCAAs can help decrease the rate of protein degradation (the breakdown of proteins). This contributes to a positive environment for building muscle.

BCAAs enhance water & satisfy your sweet tooth

Our Alpha Amino and XTEND Original BCAA powders have a wide range of refreshing flavors that can help you add more taste to your water. These formulas can enhance your water because they have amino acids to support muscle recovery and electrolytes to help you rehydrate. Next time you have a sweet tooth, try crushing cravings with one of our BCAA powders.

Do BCAAs help with muscle growth?

When a high quality, high protein supplement isn’t on the menu, the amino acid benefits of BCAAs can help amplify the benefits of aminos to your muscles. Thus, the effect of BCAA powder supplements can mean greater muscle growth. In other words, you can occasionally consume less protein and likely still reap the muscle-supporting benefits of an otherwise high-quality, high protein load. At the very least, you minimize the catabolic (muscle breakdown) effects of too much protein.

How often should I take BCAAs?

In one of the meta-analysis studies that showed BCAAs have a beneficial effect for DOMS, the researchers recommended > 200 mg per kg per day of BCAAs for greater than 10 days.[5] If you don’t feel like calculating a daily BCAA amount, we’ve made the process easy for you, just take 2 scoops of XTEND® for a total of 14 grams of BCAAs a day. The XTEND® formula has been clinically researched in 2 separate clinical trials at 2 scoops a day. These studies showed that XTEND® BCAAs had beneficial effects on body composition alongside diet and exercise. [10,11]

Takeaway on BCAA Timing

Just as you’re working diligently every single day to improve your health and fitness, we work alongside you, improving our products so that you can keep raising the bar. We’ve tailored our Alpha Amino and XTEND Original products to include a well-studied 2:1:1 BCAA ratio plus electrolytes to support hydration.

Alpha Amino: Alpha Amino is the ultimate performance, hydration, and recovery sports drink powder. Whether you’re just starting out, or ready to reach that next level, Alpha Amino will support you throughout your entire journey. Be ready and recovered for whatever tomorrow brings.

XTEND Original: Formulated to support muscle recovery and hydration, XTEND Original provides 7G of BCAAs and hydrating electrolytes, all while delivering mouthwatering flavors with zero sugar - it's no wonder that XTEND Original has been the go-to recovery choice for over a decade.


Date November 15, 2021
Category Nutrition
Chris Lockwood

Dr. Lockwood is president of LOCKWOOD, LLC, an innovations, research, and consulting firm within the dietary supplement, nutrition and fitness industries. Beginning in Fall 2017, will also begin serving as an Adjunct Professor at Auburn University, School of Kinesiology. He has previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Muscle & Fitness and M&F Hers magazines, Senior Category Director of the Diet, Energy, Food and Beverage category of GNC, Senior Brand Manager of ABB, and as Chief Scientific Officer of 4Life Research.