How to reduce the bitter taste of BCAAs
BCAAs taste horribly bitter, but we happened to come across a somewhat older Japanese study which reveals how you can reduce their bitterness: by adding L-ornithine or L-arginine to your BCAAs.
Supplements manufacturers, backed up by a whole pile of studies, suggest that targeted supplementation with BCAAs reduces muscle decay during heavy training and that BCAAs help muscle mass retention during inactivity or reduced-calorie dieting. In addition, BCAAs make training sessions a little less tiring.
Honesty compels us to add that not everyone is convinced of the added value of BCAAs. We do believe in them though, but we also are put off by the awful taste...
The researchers dissolved mixtures of BCAAs and ornithine or arginine in water and got their subjects to drink them. The subjects were then asked to indicate how bitter they found the solutions. The researchers repeated the experiments with all the different amino acids in BCAA mixtures.
By the way, the BCAA preparation the researchers used had an unusual composition: the 100 micromol solution consisted of 60.7% L-valine, 28.1% L-isoleucine and 12.1% L-leucine.
The higher the concentrations of L-arginine and L-ornithine the less bitter the taste was. And when the highest concentration of L-ornithine was used, the bitter taste almost completely disappeared. This was also the case when the amount of ornithine was about the same as the amount of BCAAs in the solution.
White squares = L-arginine; black diamonds = L-ornithine.
L-Arginine and particularly L-ornithine also masked the bitter taste of each of the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine separately, but not as effectively as when added to the mixture of all BCAAs together.
Ornithine probably sabotages the functioning of the bitter taste receptors in the mouth.
The researchers, who work at Mukogawa Women's University, write in another publication that the addition of sweet flavours, such as apple, vanilla and above all strawberry, reduces the bitter taste of BCAAs. [Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Nov;55(11):1581-4.]
"L-Ornithine was shown to be effective in suppressing the bitterness of BCAAs", wrote the researchers. "We are planning to also investigate whether it is effective in the bitterness suppression of other medicines, and to elucidate the mechanism behind this bitterness suppression."
The research was partly financed by Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, a manufacturer of L-ornithine. The rest of the funding was provided by the Japanese taxpayers.
Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2006 Sep;54(9):1288-92.
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