Monday, February 14, 2011

Glycogen-Depleted Athletes may Benefit from 0.3g/kg BCAA Supplementation: Improved Endurance & Lipid Oxidation

If you have ever read up on the general recommendations concerning "cardio on an empty stomach" you will most likely have encountered the advice to supplement with branched-chained amino acids (BCAA) before or in the course of the workout. I have always considered this to be a solid advice, up to now, I had yet not seen a study underpinning the common sense reasoning behind the suggestion.

Now, Gualano et al. (Gualano. 2011) published a study that investigated the effect of BCAA supplementation on exercise performance and energy metabolism in glycogen-depleted athletes (let's assume by now that an athlete following a low carb diet is in fact glycogen-depleted when he wakes up). In a double-blind placebo controlled fashion the scientists provided their subjects with either 0.3g/kg BCAA or placebo for 3 days...
On the second day, subjects were submitted to an exercise-induced glycogen depletion protocol. They then performed an exhaustive exercise test on the third day, after which time to exhaustion, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), plasma glucose, free fatty acids (FFA), blood ketones and lactate were determined. BCAA supplementation promoted a greater resistance to fatigue when compared to the placebo (+17.2%). Moreover, subjects supplemented with BCAA showed reduced RER and higher plasma glucose levels during the exhaustive exercise test.
For all of you who are now asking themselves, what validates the claim of increased fatty acid oxidation, its the reduced respiratory exchange ratio. Although its arguable how reliable a measure the ratio between O2 in and CO2 out is in terms of fatty acid metabolism, these results support the hypothesis and real world observation that BCAA-supplemented cardio on an empty stomach reliably promotes fat loss.