Japanese researchers have found a simple way for athletes to make their sports drink more effective. By combining it with a modest amount of BCAAs and L-arginine they can raise their lactic acid threshold.
The researchers work for Otsuka Pharmaceutical [otsuka.co.jp], a manufacturer of sports drinks like Amino Value. Amino Value contains a mix of fast carbohydrates, BCAAs and L-arginine. According to Asian publications, athletes who use Amino Value after a training session have more testosterone and less cortisol in their blood, and as a result of this they recovery faster. On top of that the mix also inhibits muscle breakdown during endurance exercise.
In 2009 the researchers published the results of an experiment in which they used eight well-trained students as subjects. On one occasion the students had to drink a sports drink containing easily absorbed carbohydrates every day for a week; on the other occasion the students drank 1.5 litres of a sports drink containing 60 g carbohydrates, 6 g BCAAs [valine:isoleucine:leucine = 1:1:2] and 1.5 g L-arginine. Both drinks had the same calorific value.
After a week the students had to cycle for about 20 minutes, a quarter of an hour after drinking the sports drink. As they did so the researchers increased the intensity every minute.
BCAA supplementation saves glucose and glycogen – and with it muscle tissue too. The researchers could see that this happened from the blood samples they took from the subjects. The lactic acid level rose slightly more slowly in the students that had taken amino acids [the curves with the solid black circles]. At the same time, the amino acids reduced the ratio between exhaled carbon dioxide and inhaled oxygen [RER], which is also an indication of the same thing.
The oxygen consumption increased faster in the group that took supplementation. In the figure immediately above LT stands for lactate threshold. This is the point at which the lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood. In the amino acid group [black bar] this occurs at a higher oxygen consumption level, and therefore also at a higher level of exertion than it did in the placebo group [white bar]. OBLA stands for the point at which the lactic acid concentration in the blood is 4 mmol/l.
If the lactic acid level in the blood rises sharply, muscle cells use more energy than they can generate by burning glucose. The amount of time for which muscle cells can continue to perform at that level is limited. If BCAAs and L-arginine raise the performance level at which this happens, it implies that these amino acids can help endurance athletes to boost their performance.
J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Feb;55(1):52-8.