BCAA supplement side effects

BCAA supplement side effects

Athletic performance, bodybuilding, and fitness enthusiasts often turn to BCAA supplementation for its potential to improve energy levels, reduce muscle soreness, fatigue, and support muscle growth. 

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are made up of three specific amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Having gained immense popularity in the athletic world, how safe are BCAAs for our health? Our team investigated, and there are certain risks you should know and be aware of.

For those of you looking for the short answer to the negative consequences of BCAA intake. Here’s the short answer below. For more in-depth information, be sure to carry on reading.

Short Answer: BCAA supplements are generally considered safe, and you shouldn’t experience any side effects as long as you do not exceed the recommended dose. However, certain at-risk groups should consult a healthcare provider before consuming BCAA supplements.

In this article, we’ll discuss the Negative impacts of BCAA intake and possible side effects. 

If you’re interested in boosting your muscles with the help of BCAA supplements but want to make sure it’s a healthy choice, take a look at our vegan BCAA supplements.

How safe are BCAA supplements?

The good news is that you probably won't overdose and die from accidentally or purposely taking too many BCAAs. In fact, we wrote a whole blog post about taking too many BCAA supplements. 

Side effects of BCAA supplements

While side effects from taking the recommended amount of BCAA supplements are rare and mild, each person's body may react differently. Some of the mild side effects include the following:

  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating

Who should avoid taking BCAA supplements?

Certain groups should avoid taking these chain amino acids BCAAs because their bodies are at a greater risk of experiencing adverse side effects. These groups include:

  • Persons with Diabetes
  • Those suffering from maple syrup urine disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig disease)
  • Those with chronic alcoholism
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women
  • Branched-chain ketoaciduria
  • Anyone who recently underwent surgery

While BCAAs are safe for the average consumer, people with these conditions may experience that their bodies cannot break down or respond to these protein supplements as safely as others.

Unintended outcomes of BCAA usage

A study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2016 titled “The Emerging Role of Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Insulin Resistance and Metabolism” showed that scientists had been studying how the body processes different kinds of proteins, like BCAA supplements. They discovered that people who are overweight, who take BCAA supplements, or who have type 2 diabetes, might have an upset in their body's usual way of processing proteins. This upset might cause their body to have higher levels of specific amino acids, like BCAAs, which could be linked to having trouble with insulin and being overweight.

Scientists also discovered that high levels of BCAAs activate mTORC1, which can make our body more resistant to insulin.

mTOR is a part of your body that helps regulate the communication between the nutrients you eat, like amino acids, and a hormone called insulin. 

Insulin helps your body use the energy from the food you eat, but when mTOR is activated, it can interfere with this process. This creates a negative cycle, where mTOR and S6K1 work together to prevent insulin from doing its job.

Does BCAA harm kidneys?

Recent Studies published in January 2022 to the national library of medicine also show that taking BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis (the process of making new proteins in your muscles) for a short period of time after taking them. However, long-term studies have not found consistent benefits of taking BCAAs. In some cases, taking too much BCAA can even have negative effects, especially in people with liver problems or who are doing heavy physical activity.

So how real are the harmful effects of BCAA supplementation?

Most people can safely benefit from the muscle-boosting effects of BCAA supplements. By ensuring we aren’t in any sensitive groups and taking the right amount for our bodies, we can avoid experiencing the side effects of BCAA supplements and enjoy stronger, happier muscles.

So if you’re ready to enhance your workout but want to make sure you’re doing it safely, taking BCAA supplements may be a great addition to your gym routine.

Trusted Sources

  1. Qin LQ, Xun P, Bujnowski D, Daviglus ML, Van Horn L, Stamler J, He K; INTERMAP Cooperative Research Group. Higher branched-chain amino acid intake is associated with a lower prevalence of being overweight or obese in middle-aged East Asian and Western adults. J Nutr. 2011 Feb;141(2):249-54. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.128520. Epub 2010 Dec 15. PMID: 21169225; PMCID: PMC3021443.
  2. Metcalfe EL, Avenell A, Fraser A. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation in adults with cirrhosis and porto-systemic encephalopathy: systematic review. Clin Nutr. 2014 Dec;33(6):958-65. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2014.02.011. Epub 2014 Mar 6. PMID: 24656171.
  3. Chen, L., Chen, Y., Wang, X., Li, H., Zhang, H., Gong, J., Shen, S., Yin, W., & Hu, H. (2015). Efficacy and safety of oral branched-chain amino acid supplementation in patients undergoing interventions for hepatocellular carcinoma: a meta-analysis. Nutrition journal, 14, 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-015-0056-6
  4. Williams M. (2005). Dietary supplements and sports performance: amino acids. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2(2), 63–67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-2-2-63
    Back to blog