Are you looking to improve your fitness game by consuming the best supplement? You may have heard of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), but have yet to determine which would give you better results.

While it can be confusing navigating around all of the different decisions that can help support your goals, this blog post will explore the essential differences between BCAAs vs. EAAs to help you make an informed decision about your supplementation needs. So now, let’s begin.

BCAA vs. EAA: What is BCAA?

BCCA stands for “Branched-chain amino acids.” It describes the molecular makeup of BCAAs, which are components of protein-rich meals, including meat, eggs, and dairy. BCCAs are a widely used nutritional supplement often offered as a powder.

Around 20 amino acids are the building blocks of the hundreds of proteins found in the human body. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are branched-chain amino acids that makeup three of the nine essential amino acids.

BCAA vs. EAA: What is EAA?

EAA stands for “Essential Amino Acids” and refers to the nine amino acids your body cannot synthesize. The nine amino acids are EAAs are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

While your body may produce nonessential amino acids on its own, it must get essential amino acids from food, such as meat, eggs, and poultry.

On the other hand, the nine necessary amino acids may be found in a single food source, such as the soy products edamame and tofu, which we call “complete” sources of protein. [1]

Protein is digested into amino acids. Then, it is used for muscle repair and maintaining healthy immune system function.

Benefits of BCAA vs. EAA

BCAA vs. EAA significantly benefit individuals looking to build muscle mass or support their overall health. BCAA provides several key benefits, such as improved recovery after exercise, increased strength, and endurance, reduced body fat levels, decreased fatigue during workouts, and decreased risk of developing chronic diseases.

EAA offers several benefits, including improved cognitive function and energy levels. Additionally, EAAs benefit those seeking to reduce fatigue during exercise since they can fuel the body with energy.

Let’s discuss the benefits of BCAA vs. EAA in more detail.

1. BCAA vs. EAA for Bodybuilding

When used by physically active males, BCAA supplementation has been shown to mitigate muscular damage and discomfort after resistance training. [2]

Evidence shows that supplementing with BCAAs decreases how hard individuals feel working during high-intensity exercise.

2. BCAA vs. EAA for Muscle Growth

BCAAs are used for various purposes, but one of the most common is to speed up muscle-building. Therefore, it is common practice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to supplement with the three BCAAs: valine, leucine, and isoleucine to speed up muscle repair, reduce tiredness, and enhance performance.

Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), promotes muscle protein synthesis, or the process by which muscle is created by activating a pathway in the body.

A research found that taking BCAAs after a resistance exercise increased muscle protein synthesis by 22% more than a placebo drink. [3]

Although BCAAs may help stimulate muscle protein synthesis, they can only do so to their full potential if combined with other important amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or another complete protein source.

3. BCAA vs. EAA for Weight Loss

It’s normal to experience muscle soreness after a workout, especially if you’ve just started a new exercise regimen. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the discomfort the muscles feel 12 to 72 hours after activity.

While the actual etiology of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is unknown, it is believed to come from microtrauma in the muscles after strenuous physical activity.

Whenever you work out, your muscles use branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), resulting in a drop in blood concentration. Reduced levels of BCAAs in the blood are associated with increased amounts of the important amino acid tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter hypothesized to have a role in the onset of weariness following physical exertion.

BCAAs might lessen muscle damage, making DOMS less persistent and severe. It has also been shown in several studies to reduce protein breakdown and creatine kinase, a sign of muscle injury when exercising. [4]

Exercise-induced weariness is a common side effect of working out, but BCAAs have also been shown to help mitigate the effects of exercise on sore muscles. This suggests that taking a BCAA supplement, preferably before exercise, might expedite post-workout healing. It may also help reduce muscle damage and soreness after resistance exercise. [5]

Further, research demonstrates that taking a BCAA supplement lessens the mental and physical strain of high-intensity exercise.

4. BCAA vs. EAA for Preventing Muscle Breakdown

Muscle proteins undergo a continual process of degradation and reconstruction. Muscle wasting or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown surpasses muscular protein synthesis. [6]

There are several causes of muscle wasting, including persistent infections, cancer, fasting, and aging. Taking BCAAs helps stop your muscles from breaking down.

The necessary amino acids present in muscle tissue in humans are made up of 65% BCAAs and 35% other amino acids. They make up between 40 and 45 percent of the amino acids your body needs. For this reason, it is crucial to replenish BCAAs and other necessary amino acids during periods of muscle wasting to prevent or reduce their development. [7]

Numerous studies have shown that BCAA supplements may help prevent muscle protein breakdown. In certain groups, such as the elderly and those with diseases like cancer, this can enhance health outcomes and quality of life. [8]

5. BCAA vs. EAA for Healing and Recovery

Those recovering from surgery may benefit from taking amino acid supplements. [9] A two-week course of conditionally necessary amino acids following surgery reduced mortality and complication rates in a trial of patients with pelvic or long bone fractures compared to those who received a conventional diet. [10]

BCAA supplementation before surgery has also been shown to lessen postoperative infections and abdominal fluid buildup. [11] Also, supplementing with EAAs may slow the rate at which elderly patients recuperating from knee replacement surgery lose muscle mass. [12]

6. BCAA vs. EAA for Mood Regulation

Several individuals may supplement with individual amino acids rather than amino acid mixes to address specific health concerns, such as mood regulation. For example, the EAA tryptophan is required to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin, crucial in regulating mood, sleep, and behavior. [13, 14]

Although studies have connected low serotonin levels to poor mood and sleep difficulties, taking tryptophan supplements has shown promise in alleviating these symptoms. [15] Regular intake of 0.14-3 grams of tryptophan has been shown to have a calming effect on healthy individuals and boost their mood. [14]

When to Take BCCA vs. EAA

While EAA and BCAA supplements are beneficial at any time, they are most effective during or immediately after exercise. Therefore, EAAs and BCAAs are best consumed during or immediately before and after high-intensity exercise. In addition, reducing muscular discomfort and increasing your anabolic rate may speed up your muscle-building efforts.

Taking supplements consistently is also a great way to prevent muscle loss and nutritional deficits.

Supplementing with BCAAs or EAAs is optional, although it is recommended that you do it at least on days when you exercise. This is particularly useful if you’re using them to improve your athletic performance, for more stamina during workouts.

Side Effects of BCAA vs. EAA

Most individuals may use BCAA supplements safely and without experiencing any adverse effects. In addition, using an EAA supplement, either at the recommended dose or in excess, has not been linked to any major adverse effects.

Nevertheless, they may induce negative effects such as fatigue and coordination loss. Therefore, caution should be used before or while engaging in activities requiring motor coordination, such as driving, when taking BCAAs. Possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal swelling.

Also, those with maple syrup urine illness, a rare congenital disorder, should restrict their consumption of BCAAs since their systems cannot break them down effectively. [15]

When consumed in excess, EAAs may stress the digestive system, lead to diarrhea, raise the risk of gout, alter eating habits, and force the kidneys to work harder to restore fluid and electrolyte balance.

Nonetheless, consult your doctor before beginning an extremely high-protein diet or using amino acid supplements, even to support intense athletic training.

There is a need for further study into the effects of high dosages and long-term use of amino acids on immunity, cognitive function, muscle protein balance, production of hazardous metabolites, and tumor formation. [16]

Bottom Line: BCAA vs. EAA & Which is Better?

EAAs have an amazing protein synthesis response. While BCAAs are essential for muscle function, they do not stimulate protein synthesis well. Nevertheless, the BCAA supplement is less efficient than the EAA supplement in enhancing immunity since it lacks histidine. Regarding warding off muscle tiredness, EAAs aren’t nearly as effective as BCAAs.

Whereas BCAAs reduce exercise-related muscle tiredness and discomfort, EAAs are essential for developing tissues, organs, and muscles because they are used to build proteins. They also play an important role in liver function and muscle building.

Supplementing with EAAs and BCAAs has been shown to improve mood and energy levels and enhance protein synthesis. However, not only are BCAAs insufficient, but the full complement of EAAs is also required. Hence, the optimum outcomes will come from taking both amino acids together.

Still, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking BCAA vs. EAA supplements to ensure it will not interact with any existing medical condition you may have.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

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Shaira Urbano, Licensed Pharmacist

Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.

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  • Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.

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Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.