For over a decade, supplement timing has been a major area of research and 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 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.
REFERENCE: 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]