Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and exercise-induced muscle damage in exercise recovery: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Nutrition. 2017 Oct:42:30-36. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2017.05.005. Epub 2017 May 18.


Objective: Accumulating evidence suggests positive effects of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) on moderate muscle damage. However, findings vary substantially across studies. The aim of this review was to examine the effect of BCAAs on recovery following exercise-induced muscle damage.

Methods: Controlled trials were identified through a computerized literature search and tracking of citations performed up to November 2015. To pool data, either a fixed-effects or a random-effects model was used; for assessing heterogeneity, Cochran's Q and I2 tests were used.

Results: Eight trials met the inclusion criteria. Pooled data from the eight studies showed that BCAAs significantly reduced creatine kinase at two follow-up times (<24 and 24 h) in comparison with placebo recovery (<24 h: mean difference, -71.55 U/L, 95% confidence interval, -93.49 to -49.60, P < 0.000, n = 5 trials; 24 h: mean difference, -145.04 U/L, 95% confidence interval, -253.66 to -36.43, P = 0.009, n = 8 trials). In contrast, effects were not significant in any of the follow-up times for muscle soreness or lactate dehydrogenase.

Conclusion: The current evidence-based information indicates that use of BCAAs is better than passive recovery or rest after various forms of exhaustive and damaging exercise. The advantages relate to a reduction in muscle soreness and ameliorated muscle function because of an attenuation of muscle strength and muscle power loss after exercise.

Keywords: Branch-chain amino acids; Exercise; Meta-analysis; Muscle damage; Muscle soreness.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Myalgia / drug therapy*
  • Myalgia / etiology
  • Myalgia / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase