BCAAs or EAAs: A Beginners Guide to Which is Right for You
Much like with fashion, supplements tend to trend, too. Every fitness expert is raving about a supplement, and you start to wonder: should I be taking this supplement? In recent years, the hot supplement was BCAAs, but now you’re probably starting to hear more and more people talk about EAAs. What’s the deal?
EAAs and BCAAs are both amino acid supplements that people use to energize, hydrate, grow, and recover their muscles. There are differences in the products, and under certain conditions, one might be a better option than the other.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are naturally occurring, organic compounds that come together in our bodies to form proteins. We often refer to amino acids as the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of life.
When we consume protein, our body digests and breaks down the food until amino acids are left. Our body then uses amino acids for energy, to digest food, grow, heal tissue, and more.
There are three kinds of amino acids:
Essential amino acids
The body cannot make essential amino acids on its own. We must get them from our food. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Nonessential amino acids
Our bodies can use other sources to produce nonessential amino acids, even if we don’t consume them. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
Conditional amino acids
These amino acids are typically nonessential, except for in times of illness or increased stress. Conditional amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
The term complete proteins refers to foods containing all nine essential amino acids. While consuming all amino acids through a day of eating is important, we no longer worry that each meal must contain all amino acids because supplements exist.
What do Amino Acid Supplements Do?
Amino acid supplements refer to dietary supplements that contain essential amino acids. Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids, but not all essential amino acids are branched-chain in their molecular structure.
Athletic people use amino acid supplements to boost their performance and maintain or grow their muscles.
Amino acid supplements may help to:
- Temporarily raise pain tolerance during exercise
- Reduce the perception of fatigue during exercise
- Improve recovery time
- Improve immunity
- Improve aerobic or cardio performance
- Improve circulation aiding in increased endurance
- Increase strength and grow lean muscles
- Increase antioxidant production
- Provide relief from inflammation and oxidative stress
- Prevent excess muscle catabolism
- Change how your body metabolizes fats while exercising
Do Amino Acid Supplements Work?
You’re not alone if you wonder if supplements are as good as the “real thing.” Assuming you choose a quality supplement brand, many scientific studies show amino acid supplements are effective.
While the supplements are effective, it’s important to note that you get amino acids from your food, and if you’re getting enough, additional amino acids won’t make a difference. Foods that contain amino acids are foods that have protein.
Complete protein sources or foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are:
- Whole sources of tofu, and more
Remember, though, that our bodies can combine amino acids to create complete proteins, so if you’re vegan or don’t eat meat and dairy, you could potentially still get enough amino acids. Most likely, if you hit your daily protein goals, you’re getting enough protein. However, if you fail to meet your protein goals every day, you might also fall short on amino acids and benefit from an amino acid supplement. So, which one is right for you?
What are EAAs?
EAAs stands for essential amino acids. EAA supplements contain all nine essential amino acids, including the three branched-chain amino acids. You can use EAAs at any time during the day; however, evidence suggests that taking your EAAs before or during your workout is ideal.
EAAs are beneficial because we know that all essential amino acids are required to create and maintain muscle mass. EAAs offer assurance that your diet always contains the essential amino acids and can always create new muscle after you exercise and lift weights.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs refers to branched-chain amino acids. Branched-chain amino acids are three essential amino acids with a branched molecular structure.
The BCAAs are:
These three essential amino acids play a crucial role in muscle preservation and growth, which is why BCAAs were the first amino acids supplement to get a lot of attention. BCAAs are also unique in that they are the only essential amino acids that can bypass the liver and move directly to the muscles via the bloodstream, where they serve as a source of energy.
BCAA supplements ensure you have adequate amounts of the amino acids required to synthesize new muscle growth; however, they can’t do the work independently. BCAAs still need the other amino acids to begin their work.
What is the Difference Between BCAAs and EAAs?
BCAAs are three of nine amino acids. EAAs contain BCAAs and all the other essential amino acids. BCAAs need the other amino acids to do their job, but they can pull from other food sources to get them. Check out this visual representation of the differences.
Useful for athletic performance and muscle maintenance or growth
Use pre/intra/post workout
Complete protein supplement
Note that BCAAs tend to taste better than EAAs. Due to the nature of combining various amino acids, companies tend to have an easier time flavouring BCAA products.
When Should I Use EAAs?
Choose an EAA supplement if you struggle to meet protein requirements. If you don’t eat enough protein to support your goals, you’re likely falling short on amino acids as well. Adding all nine EAAs to your diet ensures your muscles are getting what they need so you can reach your goals.
You can take EAA supplements before, during, or after a workout and on rest days. Experiment and find what works best for your body.
When Should I Use BCAAs?
If you consistently meet your protein goals, go with BCAAs. If you’re getting the other essential amino acids from your diet, including your other protein supplements, BCAAs are the only amino acids you need to supplement your food.
Additionally, if you have tried EAA supplements and don’t enjoy the taste and flavours, taking a BCAA supplement is better than nothing if you know you would benefit from a daily dose of amino acids.
Should I Take Both BCAAs and EAAs?
Because EAAs contain BCAAs, it would be unnecessary to consume both. If your goal is to ingest all nine essential amino acids from a protein supplement, choose EAAs.
Amazing BCAA Products
Allmax Aminocore – If you’re looking for a pure BCAA supplement, we recommend Aminocore by Allmax. You get eight grams of pure branched-chain amino acids in one serving, with no fillers and no added sugars. Aminocore tastes excellent and is available in fruit punch, blue raspberry, watermelon, pineapple mange, pink lemonade, white grapes, sweet tea, or unflavoured. Plus, many Allmax products, including Aminocore, feature patented scoop-lock systems on their ergo-lid, so you’ll never be digging for the scoop.
BCAAs + Hydration
ANS Performance Quench BCAA – We recommend Quench by ANS for a BCAA product with ah added hydration factor. Quench contains 7.2 grams of branched-chain amino acids. In addition, Quench includes minerals and electrolytes from Himalayan pink salt and coconut water, with no artificial flavours, dyes, or colours. ANS’ Quench is available in great flavours like superfruit splash, blue bombsicle, grape blast, pink lemonade, peach mango, sour gummy blast, and lemon iced tea.
Mutant BCAA Thermo – Mutant is the BCAA option if you’re also looking for a kick in the behind to get started before your workout and enhance your body’s thermogenic abilities. Mutant BCAA Thermo includes six grams of BCAAs combined with caffeine for a kick start, electrolytes to keep you hydrated, and CaloriBurn GP to boost your body’s fat-burning abilities. Mutant BCAAs are available in tropical punch, blue raspberry, sweet iced tea, and candy crush.
Protein Supplements + BCAAs
ANS Performance N-Iso – Assuming you already use a protein supplement, you could combine supplements and use a protein supplement with a good BCAA ratio, like N-Iso by ANS Performance. This protein supplement contains 25 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of BCAAs that come from whey isolate. There are pros and cons to combining supplements. Combining can save you money. Additionally, whey is a complete protein supplement, so it also includes the other EAAs your body needs. However, purchasing a 2-in-1 limits you to consuming BCAAs only when you drink your protein supplement.
Nutrabolics Anabolic State – For BCAAs with recovery in mind, choose Anabolic State from Nutrabolics. This recovery supplement includes six grams of BCAAs with added glutamine and lysine HCL, with alpha-hydroxy isocaproic acid to prevent muscle breakdown. Anabolic State is available in fruit punch, iced raspberry, juicy grape, watermelon punch, sweet orange, pineapple twist, peach mango, black cherry lime, and candy blast.
Amazing EAA Products
HD Muscle EAA-HD – Five grams of all nine essential amino acids from HD Muscle. EAA-HD is an unflavoured product, perfect for mixing with your favourite beverage or protein supplement before, during, or after a workout. Use it on your rest days, too, to support better recovery.
EAAs + Hydration
TC Nutrition HydraMino EAA – This EAA protein supplement contains all nine essential amino acids and emphasizes on the BCAA ratio. HydraMino also includes 600 mg of electrolytes to keep you hydrated through even the toughest, sweatiest workouts. This is a great tasting protein supplement, available in red slushie, blue slushie, watermelon candy, and peach rings.
5% Nutrition All Day You May – If you’re looking for a complete protein supplement with pre-workout qualities, you want All Day You May. This EAA product by 5% Nutrition places emphasis on the BCAA ratio, so your muscles are ready to build, not breakdown. Plus, it includes beta-alanine, electrolytes, and creatine. All Day You May is another great tasting product available in fruit punch, blue raspberry, watermelon, lemon-lime, mango pineapple, and southern sweet tea.
Protein Supplements + EAAs
All whey protein is a complete protein supplement, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Often, protein supplements that highlight the inclusion of BCAAs are referring to the ratio and include adequate amounts of these vital muscle builders. One of our best-selling whey protein supplements is Isoflex by Allmax.
Allmax Isoflex – This is one of the best tasting protein supplements on the market, and it contains 27 grams of protein from pure whey isolate. Whey is arguably the king of protein supplements due to its ability to absorb and digest quickly and efficiently. Isoflex is, of course, a complete protein supplement and contains all essential amino acids and emphasizes BCAAs.
RedCon1 Grunt – For EAAs that place the focus on your recovery, try Grunt by RedCon1. It includes all nine essential amino acids to support your recovery in three great flavours: blood orange, pineapple banana, and tiger’s blood.
Greens + EAAs
Beyond Yourself GrEAAns – A one-of-a-kind combination supplement that combines greens and EAAS. One serving contains a full serving of EAAs with 4000mg of greens to support your muscles and nutrition. GrEAAns is available in mixed berry, citrus green tea, tangy peach rings, and chocolate mint.
The bottom line is that both EAAs and BCAAs are great protein supplements. Each supplement supports muscle maintenance, growth, and recovery. In general, EAAs are best for people who fail to eat enough protein regularly, and BCAAs are ideal for those who eat enough protein but would like assurance that they’re consuming enough of the branched-chain amino acids required for building muscles.
You can get all EAAs from your diet and protein supplements. If you choose to get your EAAs and BCAAs from protein supplements, just ensure they have adequate BCAA ratios and are complete protein sources.