EAA Vs BCAA – Which Is The Best Option For You?
Posted on January 17 2023
t’s a widely known fact that BCAA supplements have long held a star position in the bodybuilding community. But, recently, EAA supplements have cropped up in the market to edge out BCAA. Apparent confusion has arisen between the two supplements.
The supplement names not only sound alike but both promise to help you gain muscle and improve your performance at the gym. This makes one think, which of the two to choose? Is one better than the other? Don’t worry! We’ll untangle the amino acid mess and make everything clear about the two popular supplements in this blog.
Before we get in particular about BCAA or EAA, let’s understand a little bit about amino acids in general…
WHAT ARE AMINO ACIDS?
Amino acids are organic compounds that contain an amino group and a carboxyl group. Amino acids are the subunits/building blocks that when polymerized or combined, form protein. Therefore, proteins are long chains of amino acids.
There are 20 different types of amino acids, out of these nine are considered essential amino acids (your body can’t manufacture them, and must be crucial components of your diet), and the rest are classified as non-essential amino acids (your body can manufacture them and need not be taken through diet).
When you do workouts, your workouts typically shift your muscles into breakdown mode. In order to repair the damaged muscle tissue and to initiate muscle protein synthesis, and growth, an adequate amount of protein building blocks (amino acids) are required. The availability of amino acids in the blood is the limiting factor for protein synthesis, hence abundant availability will set the stage for efficient muscle building.
Also Read: Best Whey Protein in India 2023
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (EAAs)?
As told earlier, essential amino acids are nine of the twenty different amino acids that are crucial for body functioning but the body cannot synthesize them and hence need to be obtained through the diet.
Leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and lysine are the nine essential amino acids.
A high-quality complete protein source contains all nine of the essential amino acids bonded together. EAA supplements are similar to high-quality protein sources but unlike protein sources, amino acids in EAA supplements are not bound to other amino acids and are in free form.
WHAT ARE BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS?
If you have read the list of essential amino acids mentioned above, you’d have understood that BCAAs are the subset/three out of the nine essential amino acids. They are termed branched chain amino acids due to their unique structure what they have.
Out of this information, what we come to know is that all BCAAs are EAAs but EAAs are not merely BCAAs.
Before going ahead to get in-depth information on both supplements, you need to know the need to supplement with BCAA and EAA.
Also Read: BCAA – The Best Intra-workout Supplement
WHY SUPPLEMENT WITH BCAA or EAA?
Essential amino acids although can be obtained from whole foods, they are prominent in animal-based proteins like meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. While complete plant proteins (quinoa, soy) are available, the choices are limited and plant sources may be lacking in one or more EAA. Those who do intense workouts daily, those following a restrictive diet, calorie deficit diet, those who struggle to eat protein-rich meals daily, and vegetarians, would benefit from supplementing with BCAA or EAA supplements.
FUNCTION OF ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
Leucine – Critical for activation of muscle protein synthesis, increases insulin sensitivity, improves protein balance in fasting state, spares muscle glycogen degradation.
Isoleucine – Enhances muscle repair, reduces muscle loss, lowers cortisol and increases ability to train harder.
Valine – Reduces tryptophan which is precursor to serotonin, reduces mental fatigue, prevents muscle protein breakdown
Phenylalanine – Prevents onset of mental fatigue, important in lipid metabolism.
Threonine – Maintains muscle protein balance, promotes lipid metabolism, immune function, helps in muscle regeneration.
Tryptophan – Increases lean muscle mass, reduces body fat, regulates secretion of growth hormone.
Lysine – Increases muscle recovery, reduces protein degradation, increases lipid metabolism, prevents fatigue.
Methionine – Helps with metabolism, detoxification, supports immune system, increases muscle growth.
Histidine – Reduces physical fatigue, mental fatigue, increases microcirculation in muscles, increases wakefulness.
WHICH IS BETTER EAA or BCAA?
Let’s not make things sound like an either/or debate. Understand that every supplement is unique and its mode of action is unique. Your choice of supplement should be based on your need to match the diet type and the fitness goal.
As per research studies, if only BCAA is consumed, then protein breakdown is the only source of obtaining the remaining EAAs required as a precursor for muscle protein synthesis.
Consumption of BCAA alone (without other EAA) can only increase muscle protein synthesis in the post-absorptive state.
BCAAs increase the efficiency of recycling of EAAs from protein breakdown into protein synthesis as opposed to either being released into plasma or oxidized. This is because all 9 essential amino acids are required to produce muscle protein.
It is impossible for only BCAAs to create an anabolic state (where muscle protein synthesis exceeds the rate of muscle protein breakdown).
Also Read: BCAA + Whey Protein = Extra Muscle Gains
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TAKE EAA & BCAA SUPPLEMENTS?
BCAA is most beneficial when taken before or during your workout and the best time to take EAA is immediately after a resistance training workout.
In case you’re still wondering if EAAs are better than BCAAs, it’s actually not the case that one is better than the other…
If EAAs suit the requirement of some athletes, BCAAs serve the need of others, so EAA Vs BCAA debate continues…
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