Health Guide

Branched chain amino acids

What is it?

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are a dietary supplement used to improve thinking during exercise. BCAA may improve your exercise and reduce your tiredness during exercise. BCAA may also be used to improve your diet. It may be used to treat loss of appetite and liver problems, such as cirrhosis (sir-O-sus). There have been many BCAA studies but the studies have not shown much benefit for its use.

Other names for BCAA include: BCAAs, Isoleucine, Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Leucine, L-Valine, and Valine.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you...

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • do not have your kidneys (1)
  • have short term kidney failure (1)
  • are passing less than 3 1/2 ounces of urine every 24 hours (2)
  • have to be careful about how much liquid you drink (1)
  • have Maple syrup urine disease (2)
  • have Isovaleric acidemia (2)
  • have other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease


Talk with your caregiver about how much BCAA you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking it. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Side Effects:

Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms which may mean you are allergic to it.

  • Breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest
  • Chest pain
  • Skin hives, rash, or itchy or swollen skin
  • Leg pain, redness, or swelling (4)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin), pale-colored or fatty bowel movements, dark-colored urine, or itchy skin. This may mean you have a stoppage or decrease of bile flow from your liver (7).

Other Side Effects:

You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Vomiting (throwing up), tiredness, or flapping of one or both hands. This may mean you have too much ammonia in your blood (3-6).
  • Redness of your face (1)
  • Upset stomach (1)


1. Product Information: FreAmine (R) HBC 6.9%. B Braun Medical, Inc, Irvine, CA (PI revised 02/1999) reviewed 03/2003.

2. Product Information: HepatAmine(R), branched chain amino acid mixture. Braun Medical Inc, Bethlehem, PA, 1999.

3. Akpolat T: Hyperammonemic encephalopathy due to intravenous essential amino acid administration in a patient with renal insufficiency. Nephron 1993; 63:239.

4. AMA Department of Drugs: AMA Drug Evaluations, 6th ed. American Medical Association, Chicago, IL, 1986.

5. Heird WMC, Nicholson JF, Driscoll JM Jr et al: Hypermonemia resulting from intravenous alimentation using synthetic 1-amino acids. J Pediatr 1972; 81:162-165.

6. Johnson JD, Albritton WL & Sunshine P: Hyperammonemia accompanying parenteral nutrition in newborn infants. J Pediatr 1972; 81:154-161.

7. Rodgers B, Hollenbeck JI, Donnelly WH et al: Intrahepatic cholestasis with parenteral alimentation. Am J Surg 1976; 131:149.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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