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LAVERA STEWARTEditor-in-Chief of the Gym Expert
If you’ve been working out and want to improve muscle recovery, you will need to take the right amino acids. A lot of professionals recommend a healthy intake of both essential and branched-chain amino. In this article, we are shedding more light on BCAAs vs EAAs and how to pick the right BCAA for women.
Understanding Amino Acids?
These are protein building blocks, serving as the body’s catalysts for its chemical reactions. While they are mostly associated with protein synthesis and muscle gain in the body, amino acids are necessary for many of the body’s physiological processes such as hormone regulation, cognitive ability, metabolism, e.t.c. There are 20 amino acids, and they’re all necessary for all processes to occur. Not many know that amino acids play a central role in the secretion of insulin.
Essential Amino Acids: What are They?
Though we have 20 amino acids, 9 of them are essential for the body’s function. Below we have broken down how they work to let you too see the difference between bcaa and amino acids:
|Essential Amino acid (EAA)||Primary Functions in humans|
|Histidine||Protects nerves and improves immunity|
|Valine (BCAA)||Stimulates the growth of muscles and energy from carbs|
|Threonine||Works on the structure of tissues|
|Phenylalanine||Works on enzymes and neurotransmissions|
|Tryptophan||Used to make serotonin and melatonin necessary for the regulation of sleep, mood and appetite|
|Lysine||Responsible for protein and collagen production, calcium absorption, and improves on the body’s immune.|
|Methionine||Responsible for growth and metabolizes energy from food|
|Leucine (BCAA)||Responsible for muscle repair, controls blood sugar, metabolizes energy from fats, and synthesizes proteins|
|Isoleucine (BCAA)||Metabolizes muscles and energy from fats and carbs and builds body immunity|
Besides those mentioned above, other advantages can be derived from EAAs consumption:
- Tryptophan increases serotonin production, resulting in better sleep and mood.
- EAAs increase metabolism, which will reduce body fat while increasing muscle size and strength. Also helps with muscle recovery.
- EAAs prevent loss of muscle mass for cancer patients and the elderly.
What are Branched-Chain Amino?
Of all the nine essential aminos, three are Branched-Chain Amino Acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They derive their name from the “branches” they have jutting out by the side in their molecular structure. This molecular variation presents the real difference between aminos and BCAAs.
Leucine and valine repair muscles and stabilize blood sugar levels, while isoleucine boosts muscle metabolism, regulates energy, and aids in hemoglobin production. You can also use BCAA for losing weight. Other benefits are:
- Stimulates protein synthesis pathways that increase muscle growth.
- Increases concentration and focus while working out, which reduces muscle fatigue.
- Reduces muscle damage and soreness during and after exercise by lowering creatine kinase levels.
- Improves the health of people with liver disease and cirrhosis and protects from liver cancer.
- Acts as supplements for overall wellness.
Negative Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids
A meta-analysis study conducted between 1985 and 2017 failed to reveal any connection between efficient protein synthesis and improved athleticism with BCAAs. The study revealed that Branched acids made protein muscles break down faster than they could repair. This resulted in an aggressive catabolic state since the body tried to get other amino acids, needed for protein synthesis.
Many people ask – should I take BCAA or amino acids? It’s observed that BCAAs require other essential amino acids to complete protein synthesis. Aside from their inefficiencies with muscle building and faster recovery, these aminos can affect the body negatively:
- B vitamins depletion when used in large quantities.
BCAAs require several B vitamins, so they siphon them from the body. When the AA occurs in large quantities, they take too many B vitamins and imbue crucial body functions such as digestion and hormone production.
- Hinders serotonin production when in excess.
BCAAs use the same carrier system to get to the brain as tryptophan. An overabundance will disrupt the amount of tryptophan resulting in reduced serotonin. This will cause carbohydrate cravings, sleep problems, depression, and other problems.
- May cause insulin resistance
High BCAAs levels are associated with high metabolism rates resulting in insulin resistance, a prelude to diabetes Type 2.
BCAAs and EAAs: What’s the distinction?
Is there any difference between aminos and BCAAs? Well, you will learn more below.
BCAAs and EAAs are both essential amino acids, but BCAAs are not a complete protein.
Most fitness professionals recommend using amino acids supplement before and after workouts, as muscles are highly receptive to amino acids for up to 48 hours after workouts.
A study by Frontiers in Physiology also found that 5.6 gms. of BCAAs taken after strength training will increase muscle protein synthesis by 22%. It has also been observed that you need EAAs and BCAAs as well to stimulate proper muscle growth. The bigger question though is which should you choose: essential amino acids vs BCAA.
What is Right for You?
Before choosing BCAAs vs EAAs, ensure that your choice will match and complement your diet. BCAAs help those that get enough EAAs from their food, as well as those that miss protein in their meals, to obtain the essential amino acids
ACSM and the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommend daily intake of 1.4 – 2.0 gms. of protein per every kg. of your weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need 95-136 gms. of protein daily.
Between EAAs vs BCAAs, only aminos will foster and enhance muscle growth pre and post-workout.
Vegetarians and vegans should take supplements as they might miss the daily protein intake required to keep a healthy body.
EAAs and BCAAs Food Sources
Below you will find the type of essential amino acids contained in each food type.
|Amino Acid||Main Food Source|
|Valine||Eggs, soy, parmesan, beef, sesame|
|Lysine||Eggs, soy, parmesan, smelts, whitefish|
|Tyrosine||Soy, eggs, peanuts, sesame, parmesan|
|Leucine||Eggs, soy, whitefish, sesame, parmesan|
|Isoleucine||Eggs, parmesan, whitefish, pork, tofu, soy|
|Tryptophan||Soy, sesame, eggs, chia seeds, winged beans|
|Histidine||Soy, eggs, parmesan, peanuts, sesame|
|Methionine||Eggs, soy, whitefish, smelts, sesame|
|Threonine||Eggs, soy, whitefish, sesame, smelts|
|Cysteine||Eggs, soy, peanut, sesame, mustard seeds|
|Phenylalanine||Eggs, sesame, whitefish, soy, peanuts.|
EAAs and BCAAs obtained from food help your body stay fit and healthy, especially when exercising. While daily meeting the required protein and EAAs intake can be challenging, you can take supplements to achieve this.
Care should, however, be taken when consuming these supplements as each requires different consumption levels. BCAAs are, for instance, suited for people who meet their daily protein intake requirement, while EAAs are for those that do not achieve this requirement. If you achieve the proper protein threshold according to your body weight, take BCAAs supplements but if you eat less than 1.4 gms/kg of your body weight, take EAAs.
Hopefully, now you see the EAAs vs BCAAs distinction and how they function in the body.