May 01, 2017

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6 Reasons Why You Should Take BCAAS Today

Photo: Geoff Kabush takes down a Roctane Energy Gel, which delivers almost 1.5 grams of amino acids. If you’re looking to up your intake of BCAAs, our Roctane Energy Gels, Roctane Energy Drink, Recovery Drink Mix, and BCAA Capsules will give you the most concentrated serving of these essential amino acids.

What is the big deal with BCAAs anyway? You may have heard a thing or two about them from your supplement-savvy training partner, but unless you have a background in biochemistry, you might not know why they matter or how to incorporate them into your training and nutrition regimen.


Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), so named because of their nonlinear (“branched”) carbon atom configuration. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins, as you probably know, make up the structure of the body. Amino acids are either produced in the body (termed, “nonessential”), or they must be supplied from the diet (termed, “essential”).


BCAAs are essential amino acids, meaning they are not made in the body, yet they constitute more than one third of the protein found in human muscle tissue! Rich dietary sources of BCAAs include dairy, egg, meat, poultry and fish. Supplemental BCAAs are also widely available and often used within the context of sports nutrition. BCAAs are unique because, unlike most other amino acids, they are primarily metabolized within the muscle itself, as opposed to being broken down by the liver. That has two important implications for performance:

  • Rapidly Absorbed: BCAAs enter the bloodstream rapidly, bypass breakdown in the liver, and are readily taken up by active tissues (mainly muscle), and
  • More Fuel: BCAAs provide an additional fuel source for working muscle, as BCAA breakdown for energy increases during prolonged exercise (Shimomura et al., 2006). BCAAs also play an important role in overall protein turnover, which is to say they help regulate whether the body is in a recovery (tissue building) or catabolic (tissue breakdown) state.

Of the BCAAs, leucine in particular has been shown to initiate muscle protein synthesis (building) and inhibit protein breakdown (Norton & Layman, 2006). This is key whether you are trying to build muscle, maintain lean body mass during caloric restriction, or simply reduce muscle breakdown during intense and/or long-duration exercise.


1. BCAAs Delay Fatigue During Prolonged Exercise
BCAAs have been found to inhibit the onset of both central and peripheral fatigue during exercise, so you can go stronger for longer. Peripheral fatigue (when your muscles get tired) is delayed because BCAAs are used as an additional energy source during prolonged exercise. Event after your body has used its glycogen stores, you can pull power from BCAAs in your muscles(Kainulainen, Hulmi, & Kujala, 2013; Gualano et al., 2011). Central fatigue (when your brain gets tired) may also be delayed by BCAAs that block the amino acid tryptophan from getting into the brain. Tryptophan (the same tryptophan from your post-thanksgiving drowsiness) is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, a central fatigue substance which produces feelings of relaxation and sleepiness (Newsholme & Blomstrand, 2006).

2. BCAAs Improve Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance When Taken Regularly
Trained cyclists supplementing with 6 g BCAAs for a week leading up to a graded exercise test to exhaustion achieved a 4% higher VO2max, including 13% higher VO2 at the lactate threshold (LT) and 6% greater power output at LT compared to placebo (Matsumoto et al, 2009). As any athlete knows, a a small increase in performance can mean the difference between a podium finish…or not. In another study involving trained cyclists, researchers found that 10 weeks of BCAA supplementation (12 g/day) resulted in a 19% increase in all-out sprint peak power and 4% increase in average power relative to body mass when compared to placebo (Kephart et al., 2016). Importantly, the results of these studies indicate that BCAA supplementation can improve both aerobic exercise capacity and anaerobic performance!

3. BCAAs Fortify the Immune System
Intense, high volume training repeated over days and weeks can lead to fatigue, immune suppression, and overtraining if an athlete does not recover adequately between training bouts. Chronic (long term) supplementation with 12 g BCAA daily has been shown to improve the immune response to several weeks of intense endurance training in cyclists (Kephart et al., 2016). But how? Researchers have found that BCAAs can also be used by immune cells within the gut as a fuel source, which allows the immune system to regenerate itself more efficiently and protect against harmful pathogens (Zhang et al, 2017). A strong immune system aids in recovery and makes you less likely to get sick.

4. BCAAs Protect Lean Muscle (Insurance for your Muscles!)
BCAAs have been shown to preserve muscle mass under extremely catabolic conditions characterized by protein breakdown and muscle wasting, such as ultramarathons and high altitude mountaineering (Schena, Guerrini, Tregnaghi, & Kayser, 1992). During exercise, muscle protein breakdown, and in particular, BCAA breakdown for energy is increased (Shimomura et al., 2004). By providing supplemental BCAAs, the body is less likely to consume its own amino acid (protein) stores. Think of them as your muscle insurance policy!

5. BCAAs Promote Muscle Protein Synthesis
This is probably the number 1 reason weight lifters (aka meatheads) love BCAAs! As mentioned before, leucine is the most important of the three BCAAs for initiating muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is necessary for muscle building. A dose of 2-3 g leucine (depending on body weight) is generally considered effective to maximally stimulate MPS, and is often referred to as the leucine threshold (Norton & Layman, 2006). As a point of reference, one large egg contains about 0.5 g leucine, and 5-6 oz of most meat, poultry, or fish sources will provide the recommended 2-3 g amount. Dairy products, and whey in particular, are high in BCAA content, which is why you’ll find whey protein in our Recovery Drink Mix!

6. BCAAs Reduce Exercise Induced Muscle Soreness and Damage
BCAA administration prior to and following exercise may reduce the severity and duration of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the painful sensation that lasts for several days after an intense or unaccustomed exercise bout (Shimomura et al., 2010). Furthermore, studies have shown that BCAA intake reduces muscle damage in response to both resistance training (Howatson et al., 2012) and endurance exercise (Coombes & McNaughton, 2000; Kim et al., 2013). That means you can bounce back faster and have less muscle soreness between challenging workouts.


Take between 4-20 g per day (that’s at least three BCAA capsules)
The exact dosage and ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine is still a matter of debate in the literature, but most studies supplemented within a range of 4-20 g BCAAs per day, usually split into multiple doses.

Make it a habit – studies observe benefits after a week or more of supplementation
Favorable results have been seen with prolonged use, as it appears that the enzyme activity necessary to break down BCAAs increases in response to habitual intake. Many studies have observed benefits after a week or more of daily supplementation.

Use anytime – before, during, and after workouts
BCAAs can be taken before, during, and after workouts to rapidly increase amino acid levels in the bloodstream, promote protein synthesis, and prevent muscle protein breakdown. They may also be taken between meals if you feel your diet is not providing adequate levels of BCAAs in the form of complete protein from meat, dairy, fish, eggs, etc. Supplemental BCAAs are sold encapsulated (like our Roctane BCAA Capsules), or in plain or flavored powder form, that can be mixed into liquid. Keep in mind, however, plain (unflavored) BCAA powders are not everyone’s cup of tea, and can have a somewhat bitter taste.


BCAAs are beneficial for athletes, individuals engaged in high volume or prolonged exercise, those on restrictive diets who many not get enough from whole food sources, or for anyone otherwise at risk of lean tissue breakdown. Research has shown supplemental BCAA intake to be safe for healthy adults in doses of 4-20 g per day, with prolonged intake one week or more showing greater benefits than acute (short term) intake. Aim for 2-3 g leucine between meals, before, during or after workouts to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Smaller amounts of BCAAs taken repeatedly over the course of a long training bout are likely beneficial for delaying the onset of fatigue and preventing muscle tissue breakdown.


Coombes, J. S., & McNaughton, L. S. (2000). Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 40(3), 240.

Gualano, A. B., Bozza, T., Lopes, D. C. P., Roschel, H., Dos Santos, C. A., Luiz, M. M., … & Herbert, L. J. A. (2011). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 51(1), 82-88.

Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P. G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 20.

Kainulainen, H., Hulmi, J. J., & Kujala, U. M. (2013). Potential role of branched-chain amino acid catabolism in regulating fat oxidation. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 41(4), 194-200.

Kephart, W. C., Wachs, T. D., Mac Thompson, R., Mobley, C. B., Fox, C. D., McDonald, J. R., … & Pascoe, D. D. (2016). Ten weeks of branched-chain amino acid supplementation improves select performance and immunological variables in trained cyclists. Amino Acids, 48(3), 779-789.

Kim, D. H., Kim, S. H., Jeong, W. S., & Lee, H. Y. (2013). Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry, 17(4), 169-180.

Matsumoto, K., Takashige, K. O. B. A., Hamada, K., Tsujimoto, H., & Mitsuzono, R. (2009). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation increases the lactate threshold during an incremental exercise test in trained individuals. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 55(1), 52-58.
Newsholme, E. A., & Blomstrand, E. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids and central fatigue. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(1), 274S-276S.

Norton, L. E., & Layman, D. K. (2006). Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(2), 533S-537S.
Schena, F., Guerrini, F., Tregnaghi, P., & Kayser, B. (1992). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during trekking at high altitude. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 65(5), 394-398.

Shimomura, Y., Murakami, T., Nakai, N., Nagasaki, M., & Harris, R. A. (2004). Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(6), 1583S-1587S.

Shimomura, Y., Yamamoto, Y., Bajotto, G., Sato, J., Murakami, T., Shimomura, N., … & Mawatari, K. (2006). Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(2), 529S-532S.

Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 20(3), 236.

Zhang, S., Zeng, X., Ren, M., Mao, X., & Qiao, S. (2017). Novel metabolic and physiological functions of branched chain amino acids: a review. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, 8(1), 10.

April 27, 2017

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Fueling With Carbs Could Keep You Healthier This Winter 🌄

Staying properly fueled this winter will not only help keep you performing at your full potential, it might also keep you from getting sick!

Hard training sessions stress the body.  This stress is what helps us develop adaptations that make us stronger and faster, but it can also reduce our body’s ability to fight disease.  Why?  After a hard training sessions, our blood stream contains less of the “killer cells” that make up our immune system.  These killer cells are off in other parts of the body – our lungs, gut, and skin – responding to the potential threat signaled by a hard training session.

However, a review of recent studies found that eating carbs during a hard training session can actually reduce your risk of infection.  How?  By maintaining level blood sugar levels, your body moderates the unnecessary deployment of killer cells to the lungs, gut, and skin and keeps them in your bloodstream where they can do their job.

Interested in learning more? Read this Q&A from the New York Times.

April 26, 2017

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Beginning practice or competition with an adequate hydration level is as important as maintaining hydration during exercise. When an athlete begins to exercise in dehydrated states, many physiological mechanisms are compromised such as increased heart rate and increased perceived effort. To ensure proper pre-exercise hydration, the athlete should consume approximately 500 to 600 mL of water or hydration drink 2 to 3 hours before exercise (Casa et al., 2000).


  • Electrolytes + No Calories from Roctane Electrolyte Capsules contain 140mg of Sodium + 9mg of Magnesium, 125mg of Chloride, Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 & Ginger
  • Electrolytes + Very Low Calories from GU Hydration Drink Tabs contain 320mg of Sodium + 10 Calories


During practice or competition lasting less than 2hrs, fluid replacement should contain energy in the form of calories in addition to electrolytes.  This means drinking 100-150 mL every 10 to 20 minutes (Casa et al., 2000).



During practice or competition lasting more than 2hrs, fluid replacement should contain energy in the form of calories in addition to electrolytes. This means drinking 100-150 mL every 10 to 20 minutes (Casa et al., 2000).


  • Electrolytes + Calories + Amino Acids + Caffeine from Roctane Energy Drink Mix contains 320mg of Sodium + 250 Calories + 1900mg of Amino Acids (BCAAs, Beta Alanine & Taurine) + Caffeine


After practice or competition, it is important to replenish any fluid losses, which occurred during exercise by 100-150% within two hours of the exercise (Casa et al., 2000).  Along with electrolytes, this should contain carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels and protein & amino acids to repair muscle damage and restore immune function.


  • Electrolytes + Carbohydrates + Protein + Amino Acids from GU Recovery Drink Mix contains 250mg Sodium + 180 Calories + 10g Proteins + Amino Acids (Leucine, Glutamine & Arginine)


  1. Casa DJ, Stearns RL, Lopez RM, Ganio MS, McDermott BP, Walker Yeargin S, Yamamoto LM, Mazerolle SM, Roti MW, Armstrong LE, and Maresh CM. Influence of hydration on physiological function and performance during trail running in the heat. J Athl Train 45: 147-156, 2010.
February 03, 2017

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Nutrition Planning 101

A successful nutrition plan takes into account the amount of calories your system can handle in an hour, and it should also factor in your body’s need for electrolytes, amino acids, water, and protein.

Download Marathon Nutrition Planner
Download Half-Marathon Nutrition Planner

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April 27, 2016

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Basie Outdoor Quest, China 2016 Race Report - Corrinne Smit

Throughout the year many top international adventure racing teams travel to China to compete in multi day stage races. Normally three words can be used to describe racing in China, unpredictable, hard and hot and Basie Outdoor Quest was no exception. Consisting of 4 days, disciplines included mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, orienteering and abseiling. Each day roughly took 5 to 6 hours and teams are made up of 3 males and 1 female. 

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April 21, 2016

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Nutrition by the Numbers: The Pioneer

At GU Energy Labs our goal is to create the highest quality nutrition products to fuel your personal best during adventures like the one you’re about to begin—an epic, and physically taxing,  seven day journey through the Southern Alps of New Zealand. In seven days you will push your body to its limits, but that’s where our nutritional knowledge, and products, can help fuel your best performance.

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April 08, 2016

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GU Energy Gel - Made in Berkeley, CA

Many people don't know that all of our Energy Gels and Roctane Energy Gels are made at the GU Energy Labs Berkeley, CA headquarters.

Take a quick tour of the production facility and learn how your performance nutrition is made.

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