Feeling sore after a workout is a pain the neck (pun intended). Suffering from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is in a different category altogether: It can leave your muscles feeling stiff, swollen, and tender to the touch, with the pain peaking anywhere from 1-3 days after you exercise. That's why research from the University of Tsukuba in Japan may be welcome news for hardcore athletes who've ventured into DOMS territory more often than they care to remember.
Sports scientists have known for some time that branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can help protect muscles from the damage incurred from intensive strength training. The Japanese research team wondered what would happen if they combined BCAAs with taurine, an amino acid that may also prevent post-workout muscle cell damage.
The researchers divided 36 male students into four groups. They gave one group a placebo two weeks before an intense biceps workout, and then for four successive days after the workout. They gave the second group 3.2 grams of BCAAs three times a day over the same period, and they gave a third group 2 grams of taurine three times a day. To test their theory that combining BCAAs with taurine would reduce the muscle damage that causes DOMS, they gave the fourth group a daily total of 9.6 grams of BCAAs and 6 grams of taurine over the same span of time.
In the four days following the biceps workout, the researchers asked the students how sore their muscles felt. They also measured the concentration of the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in each student's blood. LDH is released when muscle tissue is damaged, so it's viewed as a marker of muscle damage. The students in the BCAA-plus-taurine group felt the least amount of muscle soreness among the four groups. What's more, their blood tests showed significantly lower levels of LDH.
Not everyone's body reacts the same way to taurine supplements, but, if you want to either avoid or reduce DOMS, a stack of BCAAs and taurine might be the ticket!
- Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Suzuki, T., Maeda, S., ... & Ohmori, H. (2013). Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise. In Taurine, 8(pp. 179-187). Springer New York.