What’s the Difference Between EAAs and BCAAs?

If you’re in the gym to get fit and build muscle, you may have heard about all sorts of progress-enhancing supplements. Along with pre-workouts, protein powders, and creatine, BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and EAAs (essential amino acids) have become muscle gain must-haves. While every BCAA supplement includes essential amino acids, EAAs aren’t always BCAAs. Here, we’ll explain the differences between BCAAs and EAAs and how to include them in your supplementation routine.

EAAs: What Are They?

Amino acids are the main components of most proteins within the human body. Out of 20 aminos that make up proteins, nine are classed as EAAs. Raw Nutrition EAA supplements contain:

  • Valine
  • Tryptophan
  • Threonine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Methionine
  • Lysine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Histidine

Essential amino acids stimulate protein and creatine synthesis, along with the creation of certain hormones and neurotransmitters. Because the body can’t make them, we must get EAAs from the foods we eat and the supplements we take.

Non-Essential and Conditionally Essential Aminos

Of the amino acids the human body uses, 11 are synthesized, so they’re considered non-essential. These include tyrosine, serine, proline, glycine, glutamine, glutamic acid, cysteine, aspartic acid, asparagine, arginine, and alanine.

Conditional aminos are only essential in limited circumstances such as pregnancy and illness. These aminos include:

  • Tyrosine
  • Serine
  • Proline
  • Ornithine
  • Glycine
  • Glutamine
  • Cysteine
  • Arginine

When the body is subjected to stress, it conserves energy, nutrients, and vitamins—which makes proper nutrition and supplementation even more important.

BCAAs Explained

BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are known for their chemical structure, and these protein sub-units support muscle growth and repair. Often found in dairy, eggs, and meat, BCAAs are readily available as supplements. Three of nine essential amino acids are BCAAs, including valine, isoleucine, and leucine.

According to Chris Bumstead, five-time Mr. Olympia champion, most lifters can benefit from BCAA supplementation, which may:

  • Increase endurance and reduce fatigue. With higher BCAA levels, you’ll keep tryptophan out of your brain—and you’ll be able to work out harder and longer.
  • Decrease soreness. Branched-chain amino acids may limit post-workout soreness.
  • Support muscle growth and repair. BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis and limit the breakdown of skeletal muscle.
  • Offer shortterm energy. Glucose is the body’s preferred energy source, and BCAAs provide it when stores are low.
  • Boost immune response. Vigorous exercise decreases immunity due to low glutamine levels. BCAA supplements are easily converted to glutamine, thereby increasing immune function.

Next, we’ll explore the differences and similarities between EAAs and BCAAs.

BCAAs vs. EAAs

Branched-chain amino acids are essential to muscle growth, recovery, and performance, and they work with EAAs to support these vital functions. Because BCAAs only contain three of the nine essential aminos, they’re considered an incomplete protein source. EAAs, however, have everything we need to build muscle, decrease fat, and perform better in the gym.

Taking EAAs and BCAAs

Research shows that BCAA supplements alone don’t build muscle, but combining them with EAAs may make us stronger and faster. Combining these supplements can increase energy levels and elevate mood while improving athletic performance.

While there’s no wrong time to take essential amino acids, taking EAAs before a workout may provide the short-term energy boost needed to get through a tough session. On the other hand, taking them afterward may reduce muscle soreness and increase growth.

The Verdict

EAAs and BCAAs offer several benefits, including elevated energy levels, better mood, stronger immunity, and muscle gain. While both have unique advantages, they’re most effective when combined. 

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