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BCAA or EAA: Which is better?

BCAAare among the most popular sports supplements. If you want to build muscle or maintain it in a calorie deficit, there is no getting around the branched-chain amino acids (= branched chain amino acids). However, many people now prefer to use EAA. After all, leucine, valine and isoleucine are also essential amino acids and are therefore also contained in EAA supplements. So are EAAs the better choice or should I take both? BCAA or EAA? Our blog post provides clarity.

Table of contents

  1. What are EAA and BCAA and what are their benefits?
  2. BCAA or EAA: Which is more useful?
  3. What are the benefits of BCAA supplements?
  4. Conclusion:

What are EAAs and BCAAs and what are their benefits?

EAA

The proteins that we consume with food are broken down in the body into their individual building blocks - the amino acids. We use these in turn to build our own protein (i.e. muscles). There are 20 amino acids involved in building protein (these are therefore also known as proteinogenic amino acids). Some of them are essential (EAA = essential amino acids), others are produced by the body itself. Essential amino acids (tryptophan, phenylalanine, leucine, lysine, valine, isoleucine, threonine, methionine) must be supplied through food. The more essential amino acids a food contains, the higher the quality of the protein. In this context, you have probably heard of the term biological value, which determines the quality of our dietary proteins.

If our body lacks a certain amino acid or if it is not present in sufficient quantities, it cannot fully produce a protein. Just like a building site: if just one required stone is missing, the workers cannot continue building and everything comes to a standstill. So if you are not sufficiently supplied with EAAs, you will not build muscle.

BCAA

But amino acids are not only needed to build muscle. They also serve as an energy supplier for our muscles. This is where a special group of EAAs comes into play: the BCAAs (= branched chain amino acids or branched-chain amino acids). BCAAs include the amino acids valine, isoleucine and leucine. In contrast to the other amino acids, which are mainly metabolised in the liver, our body breaks down the BCAAs directly in the muscle. They are therefore not only involved in building muscle, but also serve as a source of energy for the muscle cells. During training in particular, we metabolise many branched-chain amino acids to generate energy. In addition, the intake of BCAA (especially leucine) stimulates the release of insulin and activates the protein mTOR. Both are anabolic factors that promote muscle growth. BCAA therefore promote muscle growth and recovery after training.

BCAAs or EAAs: which makes more sense?

While BCAAs were considered the ultimate for a long time, EAAs are now slowly overtaking them. The argument behind this often sounds logical: Why wouldn't I rather take the full range of amino acids than limit myself to just a few? This view is held by many strength athletes and is certainly justified. As you have already read above, it is important that all essential amino acids are supplied. You should therefore rely on EAA supplements, especially if you have an unbalanced diet or a low protein intake.

The fact is, however, that no other amino acids boost protein biosynthesis as much as BCAAs (especially the amino acid leucine). So why not focus on what is most effective? This argument also sounds plausible. Unfortunately, neither approach can be clearly proven by studies. Whether BCAA or EAA supplements make more sense will therefore probably remain the subject of numerous discussions for some time to come. At the moment, the tendency in fitness circles is more in favour of EAAs. However, we believe that BCAA supplements also have their place. You can read why in the following section.

What are the benefits of BCAA supplements?

Leucine, lysine and valine are also contained in EAA supplements, but the proportion is lower. In addition, they are usually not present in the optimal ratio of 2:1:1 (leucine:isoleucine:valine) in EAA supplements. Another argument in favour of taking BCAA supplements: If you increase your intake of BCAAs, less tryptophan is transported across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. This is because the amino acids compete for the same transport system. As a result, the serotonin concentration decreases, as tryptophan is the precursor of this neurotransmitter. Serotonin plays an important role in the transmission of signals from the brain to the muscles. High serotonin levels in the blood lead to significantly faster fatigue. It is therefore advisable to take BCAAs before exercise during intensive training sessions, as they reduce signs of fatigue and boost your workout

Advocates of BCAA also like to argue that the intake of branched-chain amino acids prevents muscle breakdown in a calorie deficit. They serve the body as an emergency reserve, so to speak, when there is too little glucose in the blood and the carbohydrate (glycogen) reserves are running low. The more BCAA the body is supplied with, the less it has to draw on its own reserves (muscles).Some people also opt for BCAAs because of their better flavour. EAAs have a more intense flavour, which doesn't go down well with everyone. If you don't like the taste of EAAs, you should try our EAA Instant Powder in various flavours. To enhance the positive effect of EAAs, we have optimised our EAAs with piperine

Conclusion:

Whether EAAs or BCAAs are better cannot (yet) be answered in general terms. If you just want to improve your body's protein supply in general and push your muscle building a little, EAAs are the right choice. Here you get the entire package of essential amino acids. If you just want to improve your training performance and prevent signs of fatigue during an intensive workout, you can use BCAAs. The same applies if you are training in a calorie deficit. Of course, EAA and BCAA supplements can also be combined. EAAs can be taken on non-training days, for example, and BCAAs before and/or after a workout.

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