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How Do BCAAs Enhance Athletic Performance and Reduce Fatigue?

Icon of calendar22/05/2023

As we push the boundaries of sports nutrition, we frequently converse with performance nutritionists asking for evidence-backed insights on our product formulations. One question has recently become the center of attention: "Why do you incorporate BCAAs into your 01 Before mix?" This inquiry holds significant importance because understanding the role and effects of ingredients like Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Citrulline can optimize nutritional strategies for athletes.

Our philosophy in formulating our products is grounded in scientific principles. Therefore, we are keen to tackle the following question with a methodical and scientifically-based response:

"What does the scientific evidence suggest about the use of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Citrulline in sports nutrition, particularly in diminishing fatigue, boosting performance during high-intensity activities, and addressing central fatigue? And how are these amino acids incorporated into our pre-activity supplementation strategies?"

Optimizing Endurance Performance: The Potential of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) in Combating (Central) Fatigue

The world of sports nutrition and endurance performance continues to evolve, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have become a focal point of intrigue. Athletes and researchers alike are captivated by the potential benefits of BCAA supplementation in improving endurance performance and fatigue management.

Empirical Insights into BCAAs and Fatigue Reduction

Research consistently highlights the potential role of BCAAs in reducing fatigue and enhancing exercise performance. A comprehensive study by AbuMoh'd, Matalqah, and Al-Abdulla (2020) revealed that BCAA supplementation could significantly reduce perceived exertion during high-intensity endurance activities such as cycling^[1^]. It also improved the time to exhaustion (TTE) and the training impulse (TRIMP), an index of training load.

Interestingly, BCAA supplementation prevented an increase in the post-exercise tryptophan: BCAA ratio, a metabolic shift that could contribute to central fatigue. These findings substantiate the role of BCAAs in exercise performance and fatigue management.

The Biochemical Connection: BCAAs, Serotonin, and Performance

Further solidifying the connection between BCAAs and exercise performance, AbuMoh'd et al. (2020) highlighted how BCAA intake could influence serotonin levels, associated with fatigue and performance^[1^]. It was observed that BCAA supplementation could potentially enhance time to exhaustion, and modify serum Free Fatty Acid (FFA) and Creatine Kinase (CK) levels, offering a biochemical explanation for the impact of BCAAs on energy supply and fatigue management during prolonged exercise.

Delving Deeper: Amino Acids and Ammonia

Building on the role of amino acids during exercise, a study conducted by MacLean, Spriet, Hultman, and Graham (1991) observed a significant increase in plasma and muscle ammonia levels during submaximal exercise^[3^]. This finding has been a key reference point in understanding the biochemical responses to prolonged exercise and the design of performance-enhancing supplements.

Beyond Endurance Cycling: BCAAs and High-Intensity Interval Training

Research is not confined to endurance cycling or long-distance running. A recent study by Hsueh et al. (2018) demonstrated how BCAAs, along with arginine and citrulline, could enhance performance during high-intensity interval training in young swimmers^[4^]. These amino acids influence the tryptophan/BCAA ratio and enable exercise-induced vasodilation, allowing swimmers to maintain higher speeds during intervals.

BCAAs and Arginine: A Synergistic Approach

The combined supplementation of BCAA and Arginine has also been explored. In a randomized trial by Chang et al. (2015), involving male and female handball players, the combined supplementation demonstrated significant improvement in performance with lesser perceived exertion and a lower post-exercise tryptophan/BCAA ratio^[5^]. This study suggests that the combined supplementation of BCAA and Arginine can potentially enhance performance in intermittent sprints on the second consecutive day of simulated games, likely by mitigating central fatigue.

BCAA, Arginine, Citrulline

A study conducted by Chen, Wu, Chen, Chou, and Chang (2022) demonstrated that the combined benefits of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), Arginine, and Citrulline could alleviate exercise-induced central fatigue in elite athletes, optimizing their performance^[6^]. These amino acids work together to combat central fatigue, enabling athletes to maintain their cognitive performance even after intense physical exertion.

Implications for Performance Enhancement

In conclusion, the multifaceted realm of sports nutrition is constantly evolving, and the spotlight is now shining brightly on Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), Arginine, and Citrulline. The scientific evidence is robust, indicating that these amino acids play a crucial role in combating central fatigue and optimizing athletic performance. Their impact on biochemical markers and their interaction with neurotransmitters, especially during high-intensity workouts, offer compelling insights into fatigue management and energy supply.
However, as with any supplement, understanding the individual nuances and needs of an athlete is key. While studies show significant benefits, the impact of these amino acids can vary based on an individual's genetics, diet, and training status. More research is needed to determine the most effective dosage, timing, and combination of these supplements to maximize benefits and minimize potential side effects.

Furthermore, it's essential to remember that supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and proper training. They are tools to enhance an already solid foundation of good nutrition and training practices.

01 Before

Our 01 Before Pre-Activity Drink Mix, incorporating BCAAs and Citrulline, is designed with these scientific insights in mind. It's formulated to support athletes in achieving their performance goals. But the most convincing evidence, as always, will come from the athletes themselves. Their feedback and experiences will be invaluable in understanding the true potential of this scientifically-backed supplementation strategy.

As we continue to push the boundaries of sports nutrition, we invite you to be part of this exciting journey. Let's explore the potential of these amino acids, and together.

For more information, visit our science page and explore the science behind our unique formulation.


[1] AbuMoh'd, M. F., Matalqah, L., & Al-Abdulla, Z. (2020). Effects of Oral Branched‐Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Intake on Muscular and Central Fatigue During an Incremental Exercise. Journal of Human Kinetics, 72(1), 69-78.

[2] Gervasi, M., Sisti, D., Amatori, S., Donati Zeppa, S., Annibalini, G., Piccoli, G., ... & Stocchi, V. (2022). Effects of a commercially available branched-chain amino acid-alanine-carbohydrate-based sports supplement on perceived exertion and performance in high intensity endurance cycling tests. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 19, 6.

[3] MacLean, D. A., Spriet, L. L., Hultman, E., & Graham, T. E. (1991). Plasma and muscle amino acid and ammonia responses during prolonged exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70(5), 2095-2103.

[4] Hsueh, C.-F., Wu, H.-J., Tsai, T.-S., Wu, C.-L., & Chang, C.-K. (2018). The Effect of Branched-Chain Amino Acids, Citrulline, and Arginine on High-Intensity Interval Performance in Young Swimmers. Nutrients, 10 (12), 1979.

[5] Chang, C.-K., Chang Chien, K.-M., Chang, J.-H., Huang, M.-H., Liang, Y.-C., & Liu, T.-H. (2015). Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Arginine Improve Performance in Two Consecutive Days of Simulated Handball Games in Male and Female Athletes: A Randomized Trial. PLOS ONE, 10(3), e0121866.

[6] Chen, I.-F., Wu, H.-J., Chen, C.-Y., Chou, K.-M., & Chang, C.-K. (2022). Branched-chain amino acids, arginine, citrulline alleviate central fatigue after 3 simulated matches in taekwondo athletes: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 19, 28.

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