Dr. Dwayne Jackson

The Vital Science Blog

Starting Living Your Best

The 3 aminos

The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine and valine, are essential amino acids and key players in anabolism and energy metabolism. Since the body cannot produce them, they must be acquired in the diet. BCAAs are found in high concentration in skeletal muscle, where they help prevent protein breakdown and promote protein synthesis, especially during intense training. Recently, athletes have been using BCAA supplementation pre-, intra-, and post-workout, to keep blood amino levels elevated throughout the workout/postworkout window, in an effort to blunt BCAA breakdown in skeletal muscle. With this supplementation approach, many athletes feel that recovery is in enhanced—but what does the science say? 

A recent study published in Nutrition is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effects of BCAA on athletic recovery after exercise. Upon analyzing 8 randomized control trials, the authors concluded that training while supplementing with BCAAs provides greater recovery than passive rest after exhaustive and damaging exercise. Which simply means, taking daily BCCAs, especially within the workout window, provides better muscle recovery than simply taking a rest day without supplementation. The advantages of BCAA supplementation on recovery seem to be a result of reduced muscle soreness and preserved muscle function, as there was less strength and power loss, from workout to workout, in those who took BCAAs.  

ACTION POINT: To maximize recovery and ensure consistent strength gains from workout to workout, we suggest taking BCAAs (2:1:1 Leucine:Isoleucine:valine) throughout the day. On training days, the most important time to take BCAAs is around the workout window. As always, we suggest taking 5 g preworkout, 5 g during your workout, and 5 g immediately post workout. On rest days take 5-10 g upon waking and another 5-10 g in the afternoon between meals.


Rahimi MH, Shab-Bidar S, Mollahosseini M, Djafarian K. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and exercise-induced muscle damage in exercise recovery: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Reference: Nutrition. 2017 Oct;42:30-36. 


Get fishy! 

Over the years, data supporting the health benefits of fish oil supplementation have been pouring in!  The omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish have been shown to reduce inflammation, increase cardiovascular health, increase the efficiency of the heart during exercise, maintain healthy blood lipid profiles, and increase fat metabolism and lean mass gain. 


But the benefits don’t stop there!


Data from a recent article published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism add another accolade to fish oil’s supplemental achievements. Studies have shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, enhance muscle anabolic sensitivity to protein supplements. Based on this, scientists investigated the effect of adding fish oil to a whey protein, leucine, and carbohydrate supplement, on markers of muscle recovery over a 6-week supplementation period, measured for 3 days following heavy eccentric exercise.


It was reported that adding fish oil (2200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids) to whey protein (30 g), fortified with leucine (3.6 g) and carbohydrates (40 g) lead to an approximately 40% reduction in muscle soreness compared to taking whey, leucine, and carbs or carbs (48 g) on their own. Furthermore, stacking fish oil with protein, leucine, and carbs resulted in a 60% decrease in blood creatine kinase (a marker of muscle damage) on day 3 of recovery, compared to taking carbohydrates only. The authors concluded that taking fish oil with whey protein, leucine, and carbohydrates promotes decreased muscle soreness and markers of muscle damage 3 days after intense resistance training. 

ACTION POINT: To reap all the benefits of fish oil supplementation, we suggest taking 2-3 grams of fish oil, 2 to 3 times daily with food. 



Donnelly C, Walshe IH, Dick J, Galloway SDR, Tipton KD, Witard OC. Adding Fish Oil to Whey Protein, Leucine and Carbohydrate Over a 6 Week SupplementationPeriod Attenuates Muscle Soreness Following Eccentric Exercise in Competitive Soccer Players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2017 Sep 5:1-28.

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