We report on real time-resolved Reflectance-difference (RD) spectroscopy of GaAs(001) grown by molecular beam epitaxy, with a time-resolution of 500 ms per spectrum within the 2.3-4.0 eV photon energy range. Through the analysis of transient RD spectra we demonstrated that RD line shapes are comprised of two components with different physical origins and determined their evolution during growth. Such components were ascribed to the subsurface strain induced by surface reconstruction and to surface stoichiometry. Results reported in this paper render RD spectroscopy as a powerful tool for the study of fundamental processes during the epitaxial growth of zincblende semiconductors. © 2014 Author(s).