Amino Acids

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 1169–1176 | Cite as

A 7-day oral supplementation with branched-chain amino acids was ineffective to prevent muscle damage during a marathon

  • Francisco Areces
  • Juan Jose Salinero
  • Javier Abian-Vicen
  • Cristina González-Millán
  • Cesar Gallo-Salazar
  • Diana Ruiz-Vicente
  • Beatriz Lara
  • Juan Del CosoEmail author
Original Article


The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a 7-day oral supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) to prevent muscle damage during a marathon. Forty-six experienced runners were randomly divided into two groups, one with BCAA supplementation (n = 25, supplemented with 5 g day−1 of powdered 1:0.5:0.5 leucine:isoleucine:valine, during the 7 days prior to the competition) and the other as a control group (n = 21, supplemented with an isocaloric placebo). Before the marathon race and within 3 min of finishing, leg muscle power was measured with a maximal countermovement jump and a urine sample was obtained. During the race, running pace was measured by means of a time-chip. Myoglobin concentration was determined in the urine samples as an indirect marker of muscle damage. A visual analog scale (0–10 points) was used to assess leg muscle pain during the race. In the BCAA group, the mean running pace during the marathon was similar to the control group (3.3 ± 0.4 vs. 3.3 ± 0.5 m s−1, respectively, 0.98). The pre- to post-race reduction in muscle power was similar in both BCAA and control groups (−23.0 ± 16.1 vs. −17.3 ± 13.8 %, P = 0.13). Post-race urine myoglobin concentration was similar in both BCAA and control groups (5.4 ± 7.5 vs. 4.5 ± 8.6 μg mL−1, P = 0.70). Finally, there were no differences between groups in the perceived muscle pain during the race (6 ± 1 vs. 5 ± 1 points, P = 0.80). A 7-day supplementation of BCAA (5 g day−1) did not increase the running performance during a marathon. Furthermore, BCAA supplementation was ineffective to prevent muscle power loss, muscle damage or perceived muscle pain during a marathon race.


Muscle damage Running performance Branched-chain amino acids Nutritional supplementation Myoglobinuria 



The authors wish to thank the subjects for their invaluable contribution to the study. In addition, we are very grateful to the Organization of the Rock and Roll Madrid Marathon for their assistance during the data collection process.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Abian-Vicen J, Del Coso J, Gonzalez-Millan C, Salinero JJ, Abian P (2012) Analysis of dehydration and strength in elite badminton players. PLoS One 7(5):e37821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037821 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Ekblom B, Newsholme EA (1991) Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise—effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur J Appl Physiol 63(2):83–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheuvront SN, Haymes EM, Sawka MN (2002) Comparison of sweat loss estimates for women during prolonged high-intensity running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 34(8):1344–1350PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clarkson PM (2007) Exertional rhabdomyolysis and acute renal failure in marathon runners. Sports Med 37(4–5):361–363 (pii:37NaN22)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clarkson PM, Eichner ER (2006) Exertional rhabdomyolysis: does elevated blood creatine kinase foretell renal failure? Curr Sports Med Rep 5(2):57–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coombes JS, McNaughton LR (2000) Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fit 40(3):240–246Google Scholar
  7. Del Coso J, Fernandez D, Abian-Vicen J, Salinero JJ, Gonzalez-Millan C, Areces F, Ruiz D, Gallo C, Calleja-Gonzalez J, Perez-Gonzalez B (2013a) Running pace decrease during a marathon is positively related to blood markers of muscle damage. PLoS One 8(2):e57602. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057602 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Del Coso J, Gonzalez-Millan C, Salinero JJ, Abian-Vicen J, Soriano L, Garde S, Perez-Gonzalez B (2012) Muscle damage and its relationship with muscle fatigue during a half-iron triathlon. PLoS One 7(8):e43280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043280 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Del Coso J, Salinero JJ, Abian-Vicen J, Gonzalez-Millan C, Garde S, Vega P, Perez-Gonzalez B (2013b) Influence of body mass loss and myoglobinuria on the development of muscle fatigue after a marathon in a warm environment. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 38(3):286–291. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2012-0241 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ely MR, Martin DE, Cheuvront SN, Montain SJ (2008) Effect of ambient temperature on marathon pacing is dependent on runner ability. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40(9):1675–1680. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181788da9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garlick PJ (2005) The role of leucine in the regulation of protein metabolism. J Nutr 135(6 Suppl):1553S–1556SPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Greer BK, Woodard JL, White JP, Arguello EM, Haymes EM (2007) Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of muscle damage after endurance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 17(6):595–607PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Gupta SK (2011) Intention-to-treat concept: a review. Perspect Clin Res 2(3):109–112. doi: 10.4103/2229-3485.83221 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hikida RS, Staron RS, Hagerman FC, Sherman WM, Costill DL (1983) Muscle fiber necrosis associated with human marathon runners. J Neurol Sci 59(2):185–203PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Holecek M (2013) Branched-chain amino acids and ammonia metabolism in liver disease: therapeutic implications. Nutrition 29(10):1186–1191. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.01.022 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN (2012) Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 9(1):20. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-20 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Howatson G, van Someren KA (2008) The prevention and treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage. Sports Med 38(6):483–503PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kane SF, Cohen MI (2009) Evaluation of the asymptomatic athlete with hepatic and urinalysis abnormalities. Curr Sports Med Rep 8(2):77–84. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31819e0b8d PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kirby TJ, Triplett NT, Haines TL, Skinner JW, Fairbrother KR, McBride JM (2011) Effect of leucine supplementation on indices of muscle damage following drop jumps and resistance exercise. Amino Acids 42(5):1987–1996. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-0928-9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Knechtle B, Knechtle P, Mrazek C, Senn O, Rosemann T, Imoberdorf R, Ballmer P (2011) No effect of short-term amino acid supplementation on variables related to skeletal muscle damage in 100 km ultra-runners—a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 8:6. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-8-6 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knochel JP (1990) Catastrophic medical events with exhaustive exercise: “white collar rhabdomyolysis”. Kidney Int 38(4):709–719PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Koba T, Hamada K, Sakurai M, Matsumoto K, Hayase H, Imaizumi K, Tsujimoto H, Mitsuzono R (2007) Branched-chain amino acids supplementation attenuates the accumulation of blood lactate dehydrogenase during distance running. J Sports Med Phys Fit 47(3):316–322Google Scholar
  23. MacLean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B (1994) Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. Am J Physiol 267(6 Pt 1):E1010–E1022PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Maughan RJ, Watson P, Shirreffs SM (2007) Heat and cold: what does the environment do to the marathon runner? Sports Med 37(4–5):396–399 (pii:37NaN32)PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McInnis MD, Newhouse IJ, von Duvillard SP, Thayer R (1998) The effect of exercise intensity on hematuria in healthy male runners. Eur J Appl Physiol 79(1):99–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nosaka K, Sacco P, Mawatari K (2006) Effects of amino acid supplementation on muscle soreness and damage. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 16(6):620–635PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ohtani M, Maruyama K, Suzuki S, Sugita M, Kobayashi K (2001) Changes in hematological parameters of athletes after receiving daily dose of a mixture of 12 amino acids for one month during the middle- and long-distance running training. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 65(2):348–355PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Riazi R, Wykes LJ, Ball RO, Pencharz PB (2003) The total branched-chain amino acid requirement in young healthy adult men determined by indicator amino acid oxidation by use of l-[1-13C]phenylalanine. J Nutr 133(5):1383–1389PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Schiff HB, MacSearraigh ET, Kallmeyer JC (1978) Myoglobinuria, rhabdomyolysis and marathon running. Q J Med 47(188):463–472PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K (2010) Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 20(3):236–244PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Shimomura Y, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Murakami T, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K (2006) Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. J Nutr 136(2):529S–532S (pii:136/2/529S)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Smith JE, Garbutt G, Lopes P, Pedoe DT (2004) Effects of prolonged strenuous exercise (marathon running) on biochemical and haematological markers used in the investigation of patients in the emergency department. Br J Sports Med 38(3):292–294PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. van Hall G, Raaymakers JS, Saris WH, Wagenmakers AJ (1995) Ingestion of branched-chain amino acids and tryptophan during sustained exercise in man: failure to affect performance. J Physiol 486(Pt 3):789–794PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilson DW, Long W, Thompson H, Thurlow S (1924) Changes in the composition of the urine after muscular exercise. In: Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (New York, NY). Royal Society of Medicine, pp 425–426Google Scholar
  35. Wisnik P, Chmura J, Ziemba AW, Mikulski T, Nazar K (2011) The effect of branched chain amino acids on psychomotor performance during treadmill exercise of changing intensity simulating a soccer game. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 36(6):856–862. doi: 10.1139/h11-110 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Areces
    • 1
  • Juan Jose Salinero
    • 1
  • Javier Abian-Vicen
    • 1
  • Cristina González-Millán
    • 1
  • Cesar Gallo-Salazar
    • 1
  • Diana Ruiz-Vicente
    • 1
  • Beatriz Lara
    • 1
  • Juan Del Coso
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Sport Science InstituteCamilo José Cela UniversityVillafranca del CastilloSpain

Personalised recommendations