Life Extension Magazine®

Senior men doing push ups while supplementing with branched chain amino acids to mitigate muscle loss

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids?

Supplementation with branched chain amino acids can help mitigate age-related muscle loss, a leading cause of injury and long-term disability among older adults.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Laurie Mathena.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) help with the maintenance of muscle tissue.

They are called “essential” because your body doesn’t make them, which means you need to obtain them through diet or supplementation.

Branched chain amino acids could play a role in preventing age-related muscle loss, which is a leading cause of injury and long-term disability among older adults.1

The Dangers of Muscle Loss

Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age. It is estimated to occur in more than 15% of older adults in the U.S.2 This increases the risk of falls, injuries, and loss of functional capacity.

Compared to those without the condition, individuals with sarcopenia are:

  • At more than 70% higher risk of fracture3
  • 1.5 to 4.6 times more likely be disabled4
  • Twice as likely to be hospitalized5
  • At a 37% higher mortality rate6

Other conditions associated with sarcopenia include insulin resistance and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, arterial stiffness, and hypertension.7

Supplementation with branched chain amino acids can help mitigate age-related muscle loss.

Support Healthy Muscle Mass

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Nine of the 20 amino acids required for protein synthesis in humans are considered “essential,” and three of those essential amino acids are called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).

The three BCAAs account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins.8

BCAAs help with the maintenance and growth of skeletal muscle, and they serve as an energy source for muscle tissue during exercise.

In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, BCAA supplementation was shown to reduce muscle-related soreness after exercise and accelerate muscle recovery, compared to placebo.9 A meta-analysis of eight studies further supports this finding.10

Research suggests that to maintain healthy muscle tissue, aging adults often require more protein than younger adults.11

Supplementing with BCAAs offers a promising way to support healthy muscle maintenance and may reduce the risk of age-related muscle loss.

Since your body doesn’t produce these essential BCAAs, it’s necessary to obtain them through diet or supplementation.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Le Couteur DG, Solon-Biet SM, Cogger VC, et al. Branched chain amino acids, aging and age-related health. Ageing Res Rev. 2020 Dec;64:101198.
  2. Du K, Goates S, Arensberg MB, et al. Prevalence of Sarcopenia and Sarcopenic Obesity Vary with Race/Ethnicity and Advancing Age. Diversity & Equality in Health and Care. 2018 01/01;15(4).
  3. Yeung SSY, Reijnierse EM, Pham VK, et al. Sarcopenia and its association with falls and fractures in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2019 Jun;10(3):485-500.
  4. Janssen I, Shepard DS, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. The healthcare costs of sarcopenia in the United States. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Jan;52(1):80-5.
  5. Goates S, Du K, Arensberg MB, et al. Economic Impact of Hospitalizations in US Adults with Sarcopenia. J Frailty Aging. 2019 2019/04/01;8(2):93-9.
  6. Koon-Yee Lee G, Chun-Ming Au P, Hoi-Yee Li G, et al. Sarcopenia and mortality in different clinical conditions: A meta-analysis. Osteoporos Sarcopenia. 2021 Mar;7(Suppl 1):S19-S27.
  7. Boban M, Bulj N, Kolacevic Zeljkovic M, et al. Nutritional Considerations of Cardiovascular Diseases and Treatments. Nutr Metab Insights. 2019;12:1178638819833705.
  8. Foure A, Bendahan D. Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017 Sep 21;9(10).
  9. Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, et al. 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. 2012;9:20.
  10. Fedewa MV, Spencer SO, Williams TD, et al. Effect of branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation on Muscle Soreness following Exercise: A Meta-Analysis. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2019 Nov;89(5-6):348-56.
  11. Baum JI, Kim IY, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake? Nutrients. 2016 Jun 8;8(6):359.