Where is the protein in my recovery drink?

Young athlete crossing off road terrain with bicycle at sunny day

BCAAs were recently shown to reduce muscle damage during cycling, as reported in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (December, 2007).  

Dr. Greer and his team of researchers examined the effect of a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) drink on markers of muscle damage after endurance exercise. A BCAA drink was compared with an equal calorie carbohydrate drink and a flavored water placebo.

The group found all measured markers of fatigue were reduced in the BCAA-supplemented group. So if you want to ride your best, it seems including BCAAs in your hydration formula could help.

The Study

Nine untrained men performed three 90 minute cycling trials. The men were blinded to drink selection during each trial. Cyclists received a carbohydrate drink on the first trial; a BCAA drink on the second trial; and flavored water on the third trial. Bouts were separated by eight weeks with no training in-between, to omit training effects from trial to trial.

During each trial the subjects ingested 200 calories of their drink before exercise and at 60 minutes of the 90-minute cycling trial. Subjects were assessed before and immediately after, as well as 4, 24 and 48 hours post-exercise.

The data showed significantly reduced markers of muscle damage in the BCAA trial, with the carbohydrate trial showing reduced markers when compared with the flavored water. Measurements included blood markers of fatigue, leg-flexion tests, and ratings of perceived exertion.

The Bottom Line

Proteins are made up of amino acids. BCAAs are a sub-group of these amino acids which have been found to be particularly useful for athletic performance. Although this study indicates that BCAAs are superior to carbohydrate formulas for reducing markers of muscular fatigue, this does not mean you should replace your carbohydrate drink during your ride. In fact, you can supply get carbs and BCAA’s plus more in TriFuel.

Reduced muscle damage has the advantage of speeding recovery and reducing muscle soreness, but not addressing your glycogen stores while training could have a negative impact on performance. Combine both for greater muscle recovery while maintaining energy stores.

What to do

If you’re training regularly it would be wise to invest in a carbohydrate-BCAA combo drink such as TriFuel™ by BRL, available online at www.BRLsports.com  TriFuel™ contains a full 6 grams of BCAAs per serving; more than any other product available on the market.