The Truth about BCAA Supplements: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

What do most people neglect when it comes to building muscle? Sports nutrition. And we’re not just talking about protein powders – it’s all about putting the right nutrients in your body at the right time!

Rigorously tested dietary supplements are essential aids for athletes working to achieve their personalized fitness goals. And with that in mind, I’m thrilled to announce that Herbalife Nutrition just launched Herbalife24 BCAAs, a new product that provides 5 grams of branched chain amino acids, formulated to spark lean muscle growth and recovery*.

There has been much buzz about BCAAs lately and whether they actually improve muscle building or not, but I want to take this chance to talk about the benefits of BCAA’s:

BCAAs Help With Muscle Growth

When doing strength training, muscle protein breakdown occurs. Your body responds by making the muscles stronger, but to do so it requires the correct amount and type of amino acids – the building blocks of protein – from the bloodstream.

BCAAs, unlike other amino acids, are broken down in the muscle, and not in the liver, as a study published in Oxford’s Journal of Nutrition confirmed1. This makes them a much more readily available source for protein synthesis, which is the process of creating muscle.

These unique amino acids also act as markers of the initiation of protein synthesis, thus activating enzymes responsible for building muscle. BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease the rate of protein degradation in the muscles.

In the end, it’s a simple equation: if protein synthesis is greater than protein degradation, your muscles grow.

BCAAs Help to Support Muscle Recovery*

It’s not uncommon to feel sore a couple of days after a workout, especially if you’re training harder than you normally do or your exercise routine is new. As muscles become familiar with a specific stress, they adapt and react accordingly. In the meantime, BCAAs can help with the initial uncomfortable sensation in two ways, as a research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found out2:

  1. By lowering blood levels of two enzymes involved in muscle damage: creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase
  2. By increasing protein synthesis. As we mentioned above, protein synthesis helps preserve the tissue during intense training. Thus, BCAAs help preserve the integrity of muscle fibers for less post-training pain

Furthermore, a systematic review published by the scientific journal Nutrients showed that, especially when taken before training, BCAAs can effectively decrease muscle soreness levels3.

H24 BCAAs

BCAAs Contribute to a Reduction in Exercise Fatigue

What determines how quickly you experience fatigue from training? It’s a mix between your nutrition and fitness levels, environmental conditions and your routine’s intensity and duration.

Taking BCAAs during exercise can help limit the entry of another amino acid – tryptophan­ – into your brain. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a brain chemical that contributes to fatigue during exercise4.

Furthermore, a study published by the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that BCAAs also help preserve your stores of glycogen5, which is your muscles’ preferred fuel source to produce energy. Having a reliable source of energy while working out can help you go stronger for longer.

BCAAs are beneficial for anyone involved in strength-training or prolonged exercise. Whether you’re just getting started on a fitness journey or have been in it for the long run, keep in mind that sports nutrition is the key to get the most out of your workout.

(*) This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


1Yoshiharu Shimomura, Yuko Yamamoto, Gustavo Bajotto, Juichi Sato, Taro Murakami, Noriko Shimomura, Hisamine Kobayashi, Kazunori Mawatari, Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 2, February 2006, Pages 529S–532S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.2.529S

2Coombes, J.S. & Mcnaughton, Lars. Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. The Journal Of Sports Medicine And Physical Fitness, Volume 40, 2000, 240-6.

3Fouré, A.; Bendahan, D. Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. Nutrients 2017, 9, 1047.

4Meeusen, Romain & Watson, Phillip & Hasegawa, Hiroshi & Roelands, Bart & Piacentini, Maria Francesca. (2006). Central fatigue: the serotonin hypothesis and beyond. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 36. 881-909.

5Kim, Dong-Hee & Kim, Seok-Hwan & Jeong, Woo-Seok & Lee, Ha-Yan. (2013). Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry. 17. 169-80. 10.5717/jenb.2013.17.4.169. 

Dana Ryan, PhD, M.A. – Director, Sport Performance and Education

Dana RyanPhD, MBA, M.A. – Director, Sport Performance and Education

Dana Ryan completed her doctorate in physical activity, nutrition and wellness at Arizona State University. Before joining Herbalife Nutrition, she taught exercise physiology and related courses at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA), and has conducted research at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on the impact of community-based nutrition and physical activity programs on heart disease risk.