There seems to be a lot of controversy as of late regarding the use of Branch Chain Amino Acids compared to Essential Amino Acids and which are more beneficial. Let’s take a look at each, the differences and which you should be using…
WHAT ARE BRANCH CHAIN AMINO ACIDS?
Branch Chain Amino Acids are made up of three essential aminos: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
BCAAs are found in foods containing protein, with the highest concentrations in chicken, beef, salmon, eggs, and whey protein. They can also be supplemented, which can be useful for athletes because free form BCAAs bypass the liver and gut tissue and go directly to the blood stream.
Since BCAAs are metabolized in your muscle, rather than in the liver without any requirement for much digestion or “processing”, they can be relied on as an energy source during exercise, and could therefore prevent premature muscle breakdown.
Leucine is often focused on as it is shown to promote protein synthesis and inhibit protein degradation via mechanisms involving the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).
THE BENEFITS OF TAKING BCAAs:
Better exercise efficiency and exercise capacity.
Increase red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum albumin (can help with performance).
Lower fasting blood glucose and decrease creatine phosphokinase, which means less inflammation, better red blood cell formation, and better formation of storage carbohydrate.
Shown to cause faster recovery of muscle strength and slows down muscle breakdown even during intense training and “overreaching” (getting very close to overtraining).
Decrease the blood indicators of muscle tissue damage after long periods of exercise, thus indicating reduced muscle damage.
Low blood levels of BCAAs are correlated with increased fatigue and reduced physical performance.
BCAA consumption is correlated with lower body fat and better body composition likely due to increasing the gene signaling of muscle building pathways
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS?
Essential amino acids, as the name implies, are essential because they can’t simply be made by your body like all the other amino acids can. Instead, you have to get them from your diet or other exogenous sources.
Essential Amino Acids, or EAAs for short, are a combination of nine different essential amino acids. They include leucine, isoleucine, valine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, they are crucial in the synthesis of muscle growth and prevention of muscle catabolism as well as mental health.
Despite all of the benefits of BCAAs, they alone are not effective at stimulating lean muscle growth.
The best way to stimulate lean muscle growth and prevent muscle breakdown is to take a balanced profile where all 9 EAAs are present.
Insufficient amino acids to pull from, the body will break down muscle tissue to supply EAAs.
THE BENEFITS OF TAKING EAAs:
Retain, stimulate and build muscle.
Helps maintain muscle while restricting calories.
Increased protein turnover and muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) so you’re burning more calories throughout the day naturally.
Important for brain function as they serve directly as important neurotransmitters or as precursors.
Affect our mood, appetite, energy, sex drive and other behaviors and responses.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Given current research on both BCAAs and EAAs, it is likely optimal to use a combination of both EAAs and a higher amount of added BCAAs.
Sip on a combination of EAAs and added BCAAs before and/or throughout your workout to:
Retain, stimulate and build muscle.
Enhance mental focus during training.
Enhance fat burning and glucose tolerance.
Support hormonal balance during intense training.
Enhance endurance performance and decrease fatigue.
Reduce muscle damage and soreness and increase recovery time.
Consume during periods where high quality protein is not available with an aim to prevent muscle catabolism.
Consume during periods of fasting or fasted cardio to reduce hunger and aim to prevent cannibalization of muscle.
BONUS: TRY THIS FOR MORE MUSCLE GROWTH AND ADDED RECOVERY:
Looking to build muscle and shut down catabolism while increasing performance? Try this intra-workout to replenish muscle glycogen, further fuel workouts and performance with blood glucose, further enhance the “pump” and drive nutrients into the muscle through leveraging insulin – the most powerful anabolic hormone!
Intra-workout Carb Cocktail:
1 Scoop Revolution Pure BCAA + 1 scoop Revolution Pure EAA
25-75g fast digesting carbohydrate source
Combine ingredients in shaker and sip throughout your workout.