Review: Muc-Off Amino Athlete Performance Range
Conventionally, amino acid supplementation comes in the form of pills and capsules. Muc-Off have opted for a new tack with their Athlete Performance Range; delivering BCAA's directly to the muscles through the skin, in the form of rub-on balms.
Their range comes in a three part series, with the amino profile of each product varying to provide a targeted approach. You can either use one or all of the products during one training/recovery session.
First up, there is the Explosive Power Balm. This contains Arginine Aminos, which are used to make nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Science suggests that a higher level of NO dilates the blood vessels, which leads to an increased blood flow to the treated muscles.
Next in line, is the Endurance Performance Balm. This contains Amino Taurine, which is used in the metabolic process of converting glycogen into glucose for fuel. Supplementing with Taurine may achieve greater muscle/protein synthesis.
Then for post exercise, there is the Muc-Off Amino Recovery Balm. This contains Amino Glutamine, which helps to replenish glycogen stores and hydrate muscle cells.
So what is the advantage of a balm over BCAA capsules? Muc-Off highlights that amino tablet supplements can often cause stomach trouble, which a balm clearly avoids. They also suggest that a balm delivers the amino acids to the muscles faster than a swallowed supplement, as the product is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the skin.
Do they work? First, I should say that I've taken BCAA supplements in the past, and haven't noticed a particular benefit from them, so I wasn't expecting overly notable results from these balms. Second, it is also worth noting that the gains you get from these kind of products is very marginal, and it is always difficult to register incremental benefits given the numerous other variables in training and everyday life.
The above considered, I've been testing these out for the last month or so.
The balms are very pleasant to apply, and cause no skin irritation. They have a natural woody scent and a gentle warming effect on your muscles, which is nice before heading out on a ride or before bedtime. I used them before and after long winter training sessions, in a variety of conditions.
My overall finding, was that unfortunately it was difficult to see a discernible benefit from using the Amino balms. Whilst they left my legs feeling moisturised and comfortable, it would be pushing it to say they felt like they had more explosive power, endurance or that they recovered faster post-ride. That said, these were always going to be small marginal gains, and some may find a notable benefit. There is also the argument that if you think/wish them to work, then they probably will work (psychologically).
My best advice, is try them for yourself. Muc-Off have plenty of scientific research that suggests these do have notable benefits, and certainly there is a lot of research on the benefits of BCAA supplementation. These could make a great gift, and an interesting test for any endurance athlete.
View the Athlete Performance Range at muc-off.com (Link)