Timing of BCAAs: Prophylactics for Muscle Damage?
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
For over a decade, supplement timing has been a major area of research and a topic of discussion among exercise scientists, nutritionists, and coaches. However, amid all the banter one thing stands for certain, focusing supplementation around the workout window (i.e., pre-,intra-, and post-workout) provides a significant boost to your gains.
Lately, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) timing has been under the microscope, with several studies illustrating numerous benefits when BCAAs are taken pre-, intra-, and post-workout. A case in point is a recent study which aimed to compare the effects of BCAA supplementation taken before or after exercise on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and exercise-induced muscle damage. In this placebo-controlled study, 15 college-aged men received either BCAAs (9.6 g/day) or a placebo pre-workout or after completing high-rep muscle-damaging eccentric exercise (post-workout). Supplementation (or placebo) was started 3 days before the exercise period and carried on for 3 days after the exercise period ended.
The researchers reported that, compared to controls, those who received pre-workout or post-workout BCAAs had significant improvements in DOMS and range of motion. However, it was found that those who received pre-workout BCAAs had the greatest improvements in muscle soreness, suggesting that pre-workout BCAAs provide the greatest protection from training-induced muscle damage. This finding was substantiated in the study, where blood markers of muscle damage (i.e., creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and aldolase) were most suppressed in those who received pre-workout BCAAs.
ACTION POINT: Based on the current data If you must choose one period for stand-alone BCAA supplementation, you will get the greatest protection from muscle damage by taking it 30-min pre-workout. However, if you are interested in gaining all that BCAAs have to offer, in terms of performance and recovery enhancement—- we suggest taking 5-10 g of BCAAs 30 minutes pre-workout, 5 g intra-workout, and 5-10 g immediately post-workout. If you are on a budget and use a whey protein isolate supplement post-workout, this will suffice, as whey isolate contains an abundance BCAAs, plus a ton of added benefits.
Ra SG, Miyazaki T, Kojima R, Komine S, Ishikura K, Kawanaka K, Honda A, Matsuzaki Y, Ohmori H. Effect of BCAA supplement timing on exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage: a pilot placebo-controlled double-blind study. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Sep 22. DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07638-1. [Epub ahead of print]
Magnesium is essential to good health, a lot of it is stored in bones, equally as much is contained in cells within organs, and a small percentage circulates in the blood. Even though the blood contains a small fraction of total magnesium, the body strives to maintain adequate blood levels. Magnesium is needed for a plethora of biochemical reactions in the body including maintaining bones, nerve function, and immune system function. Magnesium taken alone or in combination with zinc before bed has been shown to significantly improve slow-wave sleep, a necessary environment for GH release. Unrefined grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds provide us with most of our daily magnesium.
Studies illustrate that magnesium can become depleted during strenuous exercise. This can be due to the direct loss of minerals from sweating and urination and/or due to an increased need for magnesium to support increased energy production during workouts and elevated protein synthesis post-workout. Regardless, adequate daily magnesium intake is required to sustain high-calibre exercise performance.
Along similar lines, there is a correlation between strenuous exercise, magnesium deficiency, and decreased immunity. Decreased immunity associated with magnesium deficiency increases inflammation in the body, which may hinder recovery time from workout to workout. Under such conditions, magnesium supplementation has been shown to decrease catabolic cortisol levels and boost immunity, especially during periods of heavy physical stress. Finally, in other studies, low magnesium levels have been associated with decreases in the anabolic hormones, testosterone and IGF-1.
ACTION POINT: To reach your potential, it’s critical that you get at least the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for minerals like magnesium (18-30 years old: about 400 mg for males and 310 mg for females, needs to increase slightly with age). As such, we suggest all athletes should take a multi-vitamin formulated for athletes (as directed). Of note, since magnesium bioavailability can decrease when it is taken with certain foods (e.g., sugar and alcohol) or other supplements, we suggest taking up to 450 mg of magnesium prior to bed. *Note, too much magnesium can give you stomach cramps and diarrhea. So, when starting out, use a low dose and work up based on tolerance.
Zhang Y, Xun P, Wang R, Mao L, He K. Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients. 2017 Aug 28;9(9).