BCAA’s and Endurance Sports

BCAA’s and Endurance Sports

The ergogenic effect of the BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids seems to be useful in long duration endurance sports. Recent research has concluded that this supplement an indispensable product for endurance athletes. Try out the branched chain amino acids and experience its effects on your performance to understand “endurance” in a different way.

What are long duration endurance sports?

Let’s begin with the basics: What is endurance? Well, it is the physical capacity that allows us to perform an effort as long as we possibly can. It is divided in two types:

  • General endurance. It involves important muscle groups and the whole cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Special endurance. It refers to our ability to prolong a specific effort that is related to a particular sports gesture.

There are three types of endurance: short, medium and long duration. Long duration endurance sports are those that last more than 30 minutes and which mainly rely on aerobic energy.


For example, the Ironman, marathon, cycling or long distance triathlon are some long duration endurance sports.

What is the role of the BCAA’s in endurance sports?

There is no doubt that they play a determinant role. Not in vain, the skeletal muscle oxidizes between a 1 and 6% of the total energy that comes from amino acids in two ways:

  • Directly through the gluconeogenesis
  • Directly through the branched chain amino acids, which is why we can say that they are involved in the energy metabolism

In turn, a higher oxidation rate will depend on 4 factors:

  • Intensity
  • Previous diet
  • Glycogen expenditure
  • Duration of the trial

Why are branched chain amino acids crucial for these sports?

Branched chain amino acids are essential substances, which means that our body cannot synthesize them. In other words, you need to obtain them from food or supplementation. As you may already know, their name BCAA is an acronym for Branched Chain Amino Acids.

If you are wondering why BCAA’s are vital for endurance sports, the answer is actually quite simple: once they are absorbed they go to the liver, where only a 26% are absorbed and distributed specially in the muscle tissue.

But what does it all mean?

  • The BCAA’s are the only essential amino acids that can provide energy to the muscle, supporting other energy sources like glycogen
  • Moreover, they inhibit the muscle protein breakdown in prolonged exercises
  • They stimulate the production of hepatic glycogen
  • They relieve the post-workout muscle soreness and the inflammation due to physical stress (if you take them before the workout)
  • Recent studies have proven how taking BCAA’s during endurance exercise improves the physical and mental response, buffering the feeling of fatigue.

Reasons why you should take them in this sports context

A more detailed analysis as to why you should take branched chain amino acids in long duration sports concluded that:

  • Muscle recovery. BCAA’s have anabolic effects on the muscle, a key factor when it comes to the post-workout recovery. Some studies have determined that leucine is the amino acid in charge of increasing the post-workout protein synthesis.
Miller, et al (2011) claimed that leucine supplementation before a long duration race results in a lower proteolysis and an higher oxidation during the recovery phase. Therefore, it is a very interesting amino acid for endurance sports.


But how should we interpret a higher BCAA oxidation? Well, it would be a way to lower the lactate production during long races.

  • Less tissue breakdown. Several studies suggest that taking BCAA supplementation after a long effort reduces the intramuscular creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LHD) levels. Both are enzymes related to the myofibril destruction at a skeleton-muscle level or proteolysis.

Find out the benefits of taking branched chain in prolonged sports

The benefits of taking BCAA’s in ultra-endurance sports are many and quite different. These would be the main ones!

  • Buffering the muscle damage. The last research has led us to conclude that BCAA supplementation will help us improve our muscle recovery after observing a lower muscle breakdown rate, like the CK and LHD.
  • Less central fatigue (nervous system). The BCAA’s have the ability to act as a neurotransmitter, decreasing the fatigue. Several studies have concluded that taking a BCAA supplement before the workout increases the blood BCAA levels. The result? You will delay the onset of perceived exertion.

Female runners

Therefore, branched chain amino acid supplementation in sports that last more than 3h could have the ability to decrease the central fatigue after spending the energy deposits of these substances instead of muscle glycogen.

To what extent?

  • A study conducted on cyclists use a dose of 7g/L of BCAA’s in 150-200ml of liquid during and after the exercise. In the end, they observed positive results in terms of the mental fatigue and the perceived exertion.
  • Another study conducted on two groups, concluded that they blood aminogram changed after a 25km race, with higher amino acid levels in the group that took BCAA’s.
  • Anabolic response and muscle recovery. Taking protein after the workout increases the muscle protein synthesis rate afterwards. Consequently, it will stimulate the net growth of muscle protein, improving the adaptive response of the skeletal muscle to a prolonged workout.

Write down these conclusions about long duration endurance sports

To conclude, we are going to give you a few more reasons to convince you if you are planning to take BCAA supplementation:

  • Branched chain amino acids have anabolic effects on the muscle, even when we take them during the workout. Moreover, taking leucine also has positive effects by buffering the muscle protein breakdown and enhancing the oxidation of leucine during the recovery.
  • BCAA supplementation in endurance sports helps to buffer the post-workout muscle damage. In addition, leucine can improve the recovery and protein synthesis.
  • Taking BCAA’s previously reduces the subjective perception of the effort.


All in all, endurance sports and BCAA’s are a combination that works. Taking supplementation in this context is the best choice you could make and you will notice it in your performance from the very first dose. You have many things to gain, so what are you waiting for?!

Keep reading:

  • BCAA’s and Ornithine – BCAA's and Ornithine
  • Read more to learn how to take the BCAA’s for cutting phase.


  1. Jeukendrup AE. Nutrition for endurance sports: marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. J Sports Sci 2011;29 Suppl 1: S91-9
  2. Urdampilleta A, Martínez-Sanz JM, López-grueso R. Valoración bioquímica del entrenamiento: herramienta para el dietistas-nutricionista deportivo. Rev Esp Nutr Hum Diet 2013; 17:73-83.
  3. Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA. Exercise promotes BCAA Catamolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise. J Nutr 2004; 134:1583S-7S.
  4. Shimomura Y, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, Juichi Sato, Murakami T, Chimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatai K. Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle. J Nutr 2006; 136:529S-32S.
  5. Miller SL, Gaine PC, Maresh CM, Armstrong LE, Ebbeling CB, Lamont LS, Rodriguez NR. The effects of nutritional supplementation throughout an endurance run on leucine kinetics during recovery. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2007; 17:456-67.
BCAA's and Endurance Sports Review

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About Paloma Sala
Paloma Sala
Paloma Sala is an athlete in continuous training to give the best of herself, who has been practising and competing in athletics for more than 20 years.
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