BCAA is known as a very popular supplement for athletes looking to gain some size and strength. Especially in the bodybuilding community. You probably already know what BCAA is. EAA supplements are a little bit newer and now compete vs BCAA supplements. They are also harder to make. That is why there aren’t as many of that supplements as BCAA. In this article, we are going to be explaining exactly what BCAA and EAA are and the effects it has on the body. Keep reading to dig deeper into the BCAA vs EAA supplements discussion.
Also read: Sports nutrition for young athletes
What are amino acids?
Before we can talk about which one is better. And if a BCAA supplement is better than an EAA supplement. We must first explain exactly what these 2 supplements are, where they come from and also how they help the body. But before we can get to their functions and give our opinion on the BCAA vs EAA debate. We have to start with a short biology lesson on Amino Acids. This will take us right on to how these supplements help our body.
If you didn’t already know, all proteins in our bodies are made up of molecules called Amino Acids. They are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino Acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. The body uses Amino Acids to make proteins that help the body break down food, grow, repair body tissue and also perform other functions.
Amino Acids are classified into 3 groups :
- Essential Amino Acids
- Non-Essential Amino Acids
- Conditional Amino Acids
For this BCAA vs EAA discussion, we are going to only focus on the essential amino acids. This is the basis from where BCAA and EAA come from. Without essential amino acids, we would all very well be dead. But thankfully that is not the case.
What are EAA and BCCA?
There are 20 types of amino acids. 11 of these Amino Acids can be made by the body. However, 9 of these Amino acids the body can’t produce by itself. So it must be gotten through food or other supplements. These are what we call Essential Amino Acids or EAA for short. From these 9 essential Amino Acids, 3 have a somewhat different molecular structure and these are known as Branched Chain Amino Acid or BCAA for short. BCAA’s have a chain branching off to one side of its molecular structure. It makes some sense that it is named what it is. Next, we will talk a little about the 9 essential Amino Acids.
The first of the 9 amino acids is Phenylalanine. It plays an important role in the function of proteins and enzymes. It also aids in the production of other Amino Acids. In addition, it is the cellular component for the neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
You can get phenylalanine from both animal and plant-based food sources. For animal sources, you can get phenylalanine from foods like beef, lamb, pork, poultry, cheese, eggs and yogurt. And some of the plant-based options for phenylalanine are tofu, pumpkin seeds, peanut, wheat germ, and also quinoa.
Threonine is a primary part of structural proteins like collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin play important parts in the skin and connective tissue. In addition, threonine also has a part to play in the role of fat metabolism and immune function.
Some animal sources for threonine are lamb, lean beef, pork, collagen, gelatin and cheese. Also, some of the plant-based food options for threonine are tofu, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, wheat germs, cashew, almonds, lentils and pistachios.
Tryptophan is important to maintain proper nitrogen balance. It is also a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate appetite, mood and also sleep.
The animal-based food sources for tryptophan can come from dark chocolate, milk, cheese, turkey, red meats, yogurts, eggs, and fish. And some plant-based options are chickpeas, bananas, and peanuts.
Methionine has an important part to play in metabolism and detoxification. Sulfur is found in methionine which acts as an antioxidant for the body by protecting it from free radicals.
Animal sources of food options for methionine include salmon, shrimp, tuna, and lamb. For plant-based food options you can have soybeans, tofu, beans, lentils, and wheat germ.
Histidine assists in growth, creating blood cells, and also tissue repair. It is also used to produce a neurotransmitter called histamine. Histamine is important for digestion, immune response, sexual function, and also the sleep-wake cycle. It’s also important for maintaining the myelin sheath. Myelin sheath is a protective barrier that surrounds the cells.
Awesome sources to get histidine are apples, pomegranates, beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, garlic, radish and spinach.
Lysine helps in producing various hormones, enzymes and antibodies. This helps to build a healthy immune system. Furthermore, lysine has an important role in the creation of collagen. Collagen is an incredibly important protein in the body that gives structure to ligaments, tendons, skin, hair, cartilage, and organs.
Red meat is the animal source for lysine. Some plant-based sources are lima beans, avocados, beetroot, leeks, potatoes, and peppers.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCCA)
So far, we have been talking about only Essential Amino Acids. Keep in mind that Branch Chain Amino Acid is also an Essential Amino Acid with a bit of a different molecular structure. As we continue with our BCAA vs EAA article you get to see more from the Branch Chain Amino Acid.
Valine is the first of the BCAA we will be mentioning in this article. It stimulates muscle growth and regeneration. And plays a part in energy production. It is often used in supplement form along with all the other BCAAs as well to help athletes build muscle mass.
Valine is mostly found in red meat, dairy products, mushrooms, and peanuts.
Some argue the Leucine is the most important amino acid for building muscle mass. Because of how it helps to signal a pathway that is responsible for protein synthesis stimulation. Additionally, leucine is important for regulating blood sugar levels. It also stimulates wound healing and growth hormones. Last but not least, leucine heals muscles. It is really good for people that have gone through some type of trauma or are dealing with extreme stress levels.
Some animal sources for leucine come from cheese, beef, lamb, poultry and collagen. And some plant-based source options for leucine are quinoa, sunflower seeds, peanuts, corn, wheat germ, and brown rice.
Isoleucine helps in blood clot formation. Its role majorly deals with muscle tissue. And it’s also important for immune function, muscle metabolism, hemoglobin production and regulating energy.
Some of the animal sources for isoleucine are beef, tuna, and yogurt. But you can also get isoleucine from plant-based options like oats, lentils, and seaweed.
BCAA vs EAA differences
The differences between BCAA vs EAA are actually a bit tricky because BCAA is also EAA. The major difference between the BCAA and EAA is the slight difference in their chemical structure. The simple way to explain this difference is all BCAA’s are EAA’s but not all EAA’s are BCAA’s.
Are EAA better than BCAA for muscle building?
Let’s discuss intraworkout BCAA vs EAA in bodybuilding. BCAA’s are amazing for stimulating protein synthesis, but EAA have a more complete muscle profile. Some say you get a better protein synthesis response from EAA. And also the protein synthetic process lasts longer. BCAA’s are most effective in the presence of other essential amino acids to repair muscle. EAA’s have a better effect on muscle recovery. With all that said, having BCAA’s is still better than having nothing. While EAA effectively sustains protein synthesis for a longer period of time.
Do you need to take EAA and BCAA?
EAA are abundantly found in different types of food. All proteins are made up of Amino Acids. So it is very important that you get as many high-quality proteins as possible through a good diet. It is important to try as much as possible to get your EAA and BCAA through food first. But you should consider additional sources of EAA and BCAA if you are someone that :
- Exercises regularly
- Is vegan
- Does a lot of fasting
- have a busy or stressful lifestyle
Protein products like whey protein isolate absorb faster in the body than food protein. Freeform essential amino acids are the fastest way to quickly get in essential amino acids. This makes them a good way to receive additional EAA and BCAA from supplements. This will help with protein synthesis. BCAA vs EAA can be used pre, post or intra / during workout.
Assuming you had to workout and wanted to know the best options for fuel to get you through the workout. Your best options would be as follows :
- Getting whole foods
- Using Whey protein
BCAA vs EAA final thoughts
Essential amino acids like BCAA and EAA both have their part to play in making sure our bodies are in their most efficient possible condition. There are sources of food to help get the needed essential amino acids required to build and maintain muscle. As much as you can choose whole foods to get your BCAA and EAA before looking for additional help from supplements.
There aren’t as many EAA supplements because in the past they have been hard to work with. Though it has been proven to be a better muscle profile than the BCAA. But you can always use the BCAA and EAA together because BCAA are more effective that way.
Also read: Who really needs to use proteins, creatine and glutamine?