Isolated branched-chain amino acid intake and muscle protein synthesis in humans: a biochemical review
Alongside a proper diet, ergogenic aids with potential direct and/or indirect physical performance enhancing effects are sought after for improved adaptation to physical training. Nutritional ergogenics include diet composition changes and/or dietary supplementation. Branched-chain amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine are widely popular among products with ergogenic claims. Their major marketing appeal derives from allegations that branched-chain amino acids intake combined with resistance physical exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis. Evidence supporting the efficacy of branched-chain amino acids alone for muscle hypertrophy in humans is somewhat equivocal. This brief review describes physiological and biochemical mechanisms underpinning the effects of complete protein source and branched-chain amino acid intake on skeletal muscle growth in the postabsorptive and post-exercise state. Evidence in favor of or against potential anabolic effects of isolated branched-chain amino acid intake on muscle protein synthesis in humans is also examined.