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BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) versus EAA (Essential Amino Acids)
The question that everybody is asking these days is: “Which one is better: BCAA or EAA?”
Without getting into too much detail, I’ll try to explain the benefits of both elements.
First, we have to establish that both are valuable. BCAA’s are well known in the business and have been used by athletes since a really long time to prevent muscular catabolism (MPB: muscle protein breakdown), muscular fatigue and to preserve muscle glycogen.
Essential amino acids (EAA) are not that new either on the supplements market, I used to buy myself some Twin lab (amino fuel) back in 1994!
So what about that strong resurgence of EAA?
The misconception starts with all the noise about leucine (one of the main BCAA compound), an amino acid said to be “anabolic”. Actually, leucine is known to stimulate an enzymatic mechanism essential to anabolism called mTOR (“mammalian or mechanistic target of rapamycin”. It’s important to keep in mind that stimulating anabolism is not enough to gain muscle mass (“MPS: muscle protein synthesis”). You need to have all the amino acids at the same time. Yes, all of them (they are eight: methionine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, leucine, isoleucine and valine)! The muscle contains 14 to 16% of BCAA, the balance is made of all other amino acids. So, to gain muscle mass, EAA’s are more beneficial than BCAA’s.
To recap: when to use what?
Use BCAA’s if you are in caloric restriction; if you have a low carb diet; if you have a high training volume; if you have a tendency to catabolism (MPB). Choose BCAA’s if your goal is to maintain muscle mass while losing weight and losing fat.
EAA’s will give you the exact same thing than the BCAA’s, plus anabolism (MPS: muscle mass gain).
Personally, I prefer to guide my clients who want to gain muscle mass toward EAA’s. The volume of protein intake they need is substantial and to prevent redundancy, digestive problems and intolerances... EAA’s are my first pick, hands down!
It’s also important to remember that the quality of the product is crucial. Sadly, I discovered by analysing samples in our labs that most BCAA or EAA products on the market contain up to 50% of sugar, flavour, sweetener and more.
Be aware to recognize what is good and what is too god to be true!