Hydration Supplements and BCAAs For Improved Performance

Hydration Supplements and BCAAs For Improved Performance

Hydration supplements can be needed during physical performance. This is because with exertion comes sweat. Perspiration is a great mechanism to keep the body from overheating but it can lead to some major losses in not just body fluid. Essential minerals known as electrolytes become depleted and can lead to dehydration.

Even if you don’t perspire profusely you are still at risk for dehydration [R]. Losses as little as 2 percent body water can result in the following [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R]:

  • Diminished physical performance
  • Diminished cognitive function
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Loss of focus
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Collapsing from low blood pressure
  • Increased risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease
  • Muscle Cramps

Hydration Supplements May Be Needed In Any Climate

Dehydration is likely to occur in hot climates but working out in cold weather can also make you susceptible to this condition. High altitudes and humidity are also to blame for getting dehydrated.

Cold air triggers your body to lower its thirst sensation by 40 percent. Your body sends a signal to move blood away from your extremities to the center of your body as a way to protect your organs from hypothermia. As a result, thirst will diminish and less water will be consumed [R, R].

How To Tell If You Need Hydration Supplements

Sweat is the number one sign of dehydration. Another indication of dehydration is the color and frequency of your urine. When you are dehydrated your kidneys will hold onto water and you will urinate less frequently. If you notice a darker yellow or amber-colored urine then you are in need of some fluids [R].

Hydration Supplements May Improve Workouts

Dehydration will prevent you from reaching your maximum potential. That is why hydration is crucial before, during, and after a workout.

Drinking water alone will not cut it. Water fails to provide adequate electrolytes that are lost during perspiration. Electrolyte powders or drink tablets can add back essential nutrients. These powders are helpful for keeping you hydrated but they will not improve your performance and strength.

If you are looking to gain muscle and reach your fitness potential you want to add a complex that will give your body what it needs to thrive. A combination of electrolytes and branched-chain amino acids is the answer to your health and fitness needs.

Branched Chain Amino Acids Hydration Supplements

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. These compounds are essential to life and are needed by every cell in the body. They are an integral part of growth and repair for many tissues including muscles [R].

Some amino acids cannot be made by the body and are considered essential. This means they must be obtained from the diet [R]. Three of these amino acids make up what is known as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). They are known by this name due to the branched-chain off the side of their chemical structure. They consist of leucine, isoleucine, and valine [R, R, R, R].

Branched-chain amino acids are a great energy source for muscles when carbohydrates sources become depleted in prolonged exercise and fat becomes the main energy to fuel the muscles [R].


Leucine is an amino acid that forms muscle. It can facilitate muscle growth [R]. This occurs by activating the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This is the pathway responsible for initiating protein synthesis [R]. Leucine helps regulate blood sugar, repair muscle, and bone tissue, and is also responsible for the production of growth hormones. Leucine aids in wound healing and prevents muscle breakdown after trauma or severe stress [R].


Isoleucine is a BCAA that is known for regulating blood sugar levels and producing red blood cells. [R]. It also assists in wound healing, immune function, and hormone function. It is found in muscle tissue [R].


Valine is an essential acid involved in stress, energy, and muscle metabolism. It fuels muscles with energy, stimulates the nervous system, and helps improve brain function. Valine is also responsible for maintaining muscle coordination and emotional calm [R].

Branched Chain Amino Acids Work As Hydration Supplements

When studied, BCAAs acted as hydration supplements. They were found to rehydrate cells better than an electrolyte-carbohydrate or flavored water beverage after suffering about a 2 percent loss of body water. Healthy men and women who consumed an amino acid electrolyte beverage had a greater hydration status when compared with flavored water and an electrolyte carbohydrate drink [1].

BCAAs have also shown to be important for fitness due to their ability to help with weight loss, muscle growth, strength, and recovery [R, R, R, R].

Advantages of Branched Chain Amino Acids Hydration Supplements

Branched-chain amino acids are found in many protein foods and can be easily obtained from the diet. The case that is made for taking supplements is that when taken in the free form they will be digested quicker. They bypass the liver and go straight into the bloodstream ready for your muscles to use right away. [R]. Here is what the research says about the advantages of BCAA supplements.

BCAAs Hydration Supplements May Increase Muscle and Strength

Muscles need to be hydrated in order for growth to occur. Dehydration causes muscles to decrease in size. Dehydration also decreases the strength and endurance of a muscle during a workout. [R]. Replacement of fluids and electrolytes prevents muscle loss [R].

BCAAs are used during exercise for energy. As an exercise increases, levels become depleted and can lead to a breakdown of muscle. Adding supplemental BCAAs may prevent this from happening [R].

Leucine is an amino acid known for activating muscle growth and protein synthesis. The presence of this compound in the BCAA supplement could be why taking BCAAs before and after resistance training show more activated protein synthesis compared with those who took a placebo [R, R].

Healthy young men who consumed about 6 grams of BCAA after performing resistance training had 22 percent more muscle growth than those who took a placebo [R].

This growth was less than those who took BCAAs in conjunction with a whey protein drink. Proving there may be the need to consume all 9 essential amino acids for the best muscle growth results [R].

BCAAs Hydration Supplements May Increase Muscle Recovery

Recovery is an important part of the training. After you work out your muscles are still building up and breaking down muscle. This can lead to sore and stiff muscles. Dehydration can also increase the intensity of muscle soreness [R].

This occurs about 24 to 48 hours after intense exercise and is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). During workouts, muscles get tears and damage resulting in about 1 to 4 days of stiffness, swelling, and decreased strength. It can vary by exercise duration and intensity as well as a person’s and physical fitness levels [R, R, R].

After exercise, you want to make sure your body is not tearing down more muscle than it is building. Leucine is integral for good muscle recovery because it initiates protein synthesis after exercise. Increasing levels of this amino acid may help with recovery [R]. That is also why BCAA hydration supplements have been studied for their recovery benefits.

Those with higher levels of amino acids were found to have less muscle breakdown post-workout. Higher amino acid levels were also found among those who took BCAA hydration supplements [R].

Muscle damage can be indicated by levels of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood. Decreased levels indicate less damage from exercise. These levels dropped after a week of taking BCAA hydration supplements after prolonged and endurance exercise when compared to the group with diet alone [R].

When studied in women, BCAAs taken before exercise has shown to help improve recovery time in muscles when doing squat exercises [R].

Recovery times were better in men who supplemented with BCAA. They had higher protein synthesis, reduced muscle damage, and accelerated recovery when taken before and after resistance exercises [R].

A review of the research indicates that BCAA supplementation over a long period of time for low to moderate exercise can be beneficial for preventing muscle breakdown when taken for more than 10 days prior to exercising [R].

BCAAs Hydration Supplements May Reduce Exercise Fatigue

Muscles that don’t get enough hydration will become fatigued. When your body heat increases during dehydration it can cause an increased breakdown of glycogen and creatine phosphate in muscles. When broken down these substances cause a buildup of lactic acid and inorganic phosphate. Muscle fatigue will set in and performance will suffer. [R, R].

Muscles cannot maintain the same strength when dehydrated from heat Men were unable to carry out strength training exercises after walking in 95-degree heat. [R]

Dehydrated athletes also have increased levels of cortisol. This compound prevents testosterone from being produced. Testosterone is responsible for building muscle so not getting enough can hinder muscle growth. High levels of cortisol stunt muscle growth [R].

Serotonin is also responsible for fatigued muscles. Athletes taking part in endurance exercises were found to have higher levels of serotonin. Those who took BCAA supplements had lower levels of serotonin. BCAA hydration supplements may inhibit serotonin production to reduce muscle fatigue [R, R]

BCAAs Hydration Supplements May Increase Energy

Poor hydration results in decreased energy and poor physical performance. Even dehydration of just 2 percent has been found to affect physical activity specifically in those who are doing high intensity and endurance training more than shorter duration activities like resistance training [R].

During exercise, the body uses BCAAs as a fuel source. If the body runs out of BCAAs a feeling of tiredness will set in. In order to keep the energy up, more BCAAs need to be added to the pool [R].

Tryptophan is another compound responsible for fatigue. When it is taken up by the brain fatigue will set in. When in the presence of valine the amount of tryptophan taken in by the brain is reduced [R].

Tryptophan was found in the brain of rats two hours after intense exercise. When given the amino acid valine they found a significant reduction in the level of tryptophan produced during and after exercise. This gives insight into how BCAAs hydration supplements may improve energy production and performance in animals This shows the possibility of BCAAs improving energy production and performance by decreasing the amount of tryptophan produced [R].

Like muscle fatigue, serotonin is responsible for decreasing energy levels during exercise [R]. Tryptophan is also responsible for producing serotonin. so if Vaine prevents tryptophan form being produced the nit will increase energy levels [R],

BCAAs Hydration Supplements May Help with Weight Loss

Dehydration over time can lead to weight gain. This is because fluid helps to metabolize fat. When cells are dehydrated there is an increase in fat cells. It also leads to the body thinking it needs more energy and produces more fat cells. Increased water intake can decrease body fat [R].

Branched-chain amino acids are also known for helping to regulate hormones associated with weight loss such as leptin [R].

Isoleucine is thought to play a role in fat and energy metabolism. Rats fed a high-fat diet had a lower body weight when given isoleucine [R]. This amino acid activates the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PRAR). These are special receptors that help fight disease and improve metabolic function. They thought to help with weight loss by regulating hormones involved in satiety [R].

These benefits of isoleucine may indicate there could be help with weight loss from BCAA supplements however there is no specific research linking the two.

How To Take BCAAs Hydration Supplements

There is limited evidence on whether taking BCAAs hydration supplements before or after work out is best. In fact, there are only two studies on the topic and the research tells us very little about timing.

Fifteen men who exercised with their non-dominant hand were given 10 grams of BCAAs hydration supplements before and after working out. Those who took BCAA supplements before exercising reported less DOMS and also had lower blood markers indicative of muscle damage than those who took the supplement after working out [R].

Another study had participants consume 25 grams of a whey protein supplement containing BCAAs for 10 days. There was no difference between the results of the pre or post-ingestion of the supplement [R.]

Overall, the timing of taking supplements has a wide window. Research indicates that muscle activation can occur anywhere from 2 to 6 hours after consuming protein. The most important thing is to have something in your stomach. Exercising without eating seems to hinder muscle synthesis most of all [R].

Everyone is different and what might work for someone might not work for you. The best thing to try is to play around and see what has the best results.

Other Amino Acids Enhance BCAAs Hydration Supplements

The best results seem to occur when all 9 essential amino acids are taken together. So adding additional amino acids to your routine may be helpful. Some products will already have other amino acids present which is convenient so you don't have to go out searching for additional formulas. Here are some other amino acids that have been shown to help improve performance.


Like other essential amino acids, L-citrulline is needed to help hydrate the body. It has also been proven to help with enhanced performance by preventing fatigue. Taking 6 grams of citrulline/malate (CM) daily for 15 days reduced the fatigue in healthy men. This was illustrated by the 34 percent increase in the rate of oxidative ATP being made. ATP is what cells use for energy. So more ATP means more energy for exercise [R].


L-Glutamine was found to have a positive effect on recovery and decreasing fatigue during intense exercise. It also enhanced immune function when taken before exercising. Combining this with BCAA supplements can give that extra push to reach your goals [R].


Creatine is helpful for preventing dehydration during a workout. It draws water into your muscle cells keeping them functioning as normal. This prevents them from losing energy. [R, R].

Creatine works by creating ATP which is the body’s energy source. We are limited in our production of creatine so supplementing with this may be helpful for muscle growth and performance improvements. [R, R]

Limitations of BCAAs Hydration Supplements Effectiveness

BCAA supplements were also found to have limitations on what they can actually do.

Few Human Studies on BCAAs Hydration Supplements

Many of the studies done on muscle growth consisted of animal studies. Results occurring in rats may not be reproduced in humans.

Studies involving humans have had poor results showing minimal changes in muscle based on oral consumption of BCAAs. When taken intravenously negatives effects were seen with a decrease in muscle tissue and protein synthesis [R].

All Essential Amino Acids Are What Actually Fuel Muscle Growth Not BCAAs Hydration Supplements Alone

The best results of muscle growth need all 9 essential amino acids to occur. When 5 grams of BCAA was added to a beverage of 6.25 grams of whey protein there was an increase in muscle protein synthesis. So muscle growth may not rely on BCAAs alone [31].

BCAAs may also need other protein to reduce muscle soreness. Some research shows that without adequate protein BCAAs are not really effective. BCAA in conjunction with a diet of about 1.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day showed little difference in performance and levels of muscle wasting compounds like creatine kinase [R].

Getting adequate servings of all essential amino acids is most important for muscle growth. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish will also give you all of the 9 essential amino acids.

Performance Is Not Enhanced By BCAAs Hydration Supplements

BCAAs may not enhance performance according to some research. Long-distance runners who took a BCAA supplement prior to starting the event did not run any faster when given 16 grams of a BCAA supplement. Changes that did occur were small with the only improvements seen in slower runners. Faster runners have no change in performance after taking BCAA supplements [R].

What To Look For When Choosing BCAA Hydration Supplements

If you are looking to stay hydrated while increasing your muscle and performance you should look for a supplement that contains a combination of BCAA and electrolytes. Be sure your brand does not have artificial flavors or colors. You want a sugar free variety that does not have any additional carbohydrates that might affect your workout and diet plan.

Side Effects of BCAA Hydration Supplements

Research into the side effects of BCAA supplements is few and far between. When studied they showed to be generally safe and no side effects were seen in healthy individuals at doses of 15 to 35 grams a day [R, R]

Those with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) or the rare congenital disorder maple syrup urine disease should refrain from taking BCAA supplements [R, R].

WebMD reported BCAAs can be possibly safe when taken by mouth for up to two years. Some side effects reported were fatigue and loss of coordination. Stomach upset nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach bloating may also occur. In rare cases, BCAAs have caused high blood pressure, headache, or skin whitening [R].

BCAAs are also contraindicated in those on diabetes medications and taking levodopa. BCAAs can interact with these medications. These could also be interactions with thyroid, corticosteroids, and diazoxide medications [R].

Precautions Should Be Taken with BCAA Hydration Supplements

Precautions should be taken before starting any supplement regimen and/or any electrolyte drink. Those who are sensitive to salt, have high levels of sodium or potassium and/or a pacemaker should avoid electrolyte products. If you have a medical condition or are on medications and are not sure of how these products may affect your health be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimens.

The Takeaway with BCAA Supplements

Dehydration can be a big problem if you don’t replace fluids and electrolytes before, during, and after a workout. Though there is still a lot we do not know about BCAAs they may be helpful in improving fatigue, soreness, and muscle growth. For the best results, it may be beneficial to take these supplements with additional amino acids and/or other proteins. Branched-chain amino acids are considered to be except in those with certain medical conditions mentioned above.

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