There a number of ways you can increase physical performance to stay fit and lean. Though diet and exercise are always talked about, consuming quality supplements can play an important role in attaining fitness success. But determining what types of products is also important. Two types of products that have fueled confusion and debate are BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and EAAs (essential amino acids). How do they work? How are they different? We are going to provide a comparison on BCAAs and EAAs to help you decide which is best suited for your fitness needs.
Essential Amino Acids
Known as the building blocks of proteins, these compounds are comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. EAA (Essential Amino Acids) can’t be made by your body so you must receive them through your diet. In general, your body needs 20 different amino acids for proper function. Though this is the case, only nine are considered essential. These include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, threonine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, valine, and tryptophan. Essential amino acids are responsible for a number of jobs in the body. Now let’s take a look at how these nine essential amino acids help the body.
1) Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine is the precursor for the neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. In other words, Phenylalanine is the substance in which these four neurotransmitters are formed.
2) Valine: Valine is one of the three branched- amino acids needed to fuel muscle growth, energy production, and regeneration.
3) Threonine: Threonine is an important part of structural proteins, which includes collagen and elastin. These are vital to skin and connective tissue, and help regulate fat metabolism and immune function.
4) Tryptophan: Tryptophan is another EAA that is vital for controlling nitrogen balance, and is also a precursor to serotonin---a powerful neurotransmitter responsible for proper sleep, appetite, and mood.
5) Methionine: Methionine is an important contributor to metabolism, and plays a profound impact on tissue growth.
6) Leucine: Leucine is also considered a branched-chain amino acid, is crucial for protein synthesis and muscle repair. With its ability to fuel wound healing and general growth hormones, Leucine is an ideal amino acid to enhance muscle growth.
7) Isoleucine: Isoleucine is also known as a branched-chain amino acid, and is related to muscle metabolism, which is heavily focused on muscle tissue.
8) Lysine: Lysine plays a major role in protein synthesis, hormone, and enzyme generation. This amino acid is significant for energy production and immune support.
9) Histidine: Histidine is needed to generate Histamine, a potent neurotransmitter used to regulate digestion and help sleep-wake cycles. Additionally, these powerful amino acids also play an important role in protecting the barrier that surrounds your nerve cells.
As you can see, these nine essential amino acids provide many health benefits. Out of the nine EAAs, three of them are considered BCAAs. When most think of amino acids, they think of building muscle, but they also provide other advantages such as improving your digestive, immune, and nervous systems.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
As previously stated, there are three branched-chain amino acids: Isoleucine, Valine, and Leucine. These three branched-chain amino acids serve a valuable purpose in building muscle tissue. For instance, according to the Journal of Nutrition, Leucine has powerful anabolic effects on protein metabolism, as it enhances the rate of protein synthesis, and reduces protein degradation in human muscles. In another study from Frontier Physiology, individuals consumed 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their workout, and the results suggested there was a 22% enhancement in protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink. Additionally, branched-chain amino acids also help reduce muscle soreness after a workout, because BCAAs aid in decreasing muscle damage. This results in reducing the length and severity of delayed muscle soreness. Furthermore, during exercise, fatigue and exhaustion become factors as muscles deplete BCAA levels in the blood. As these BCAA levels decline, levels of the neurotransmitter tryptophan increase within the brain. This neurotransmitter is then converted into serotonin, which is a contributing factor in exercise fatigue. Luckily, you can supplement with BCAAs to experience more brain power, and experience less workout fatigue during exercise. Beyond that, BCAAs also help prevent muscle breakdown by reducing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway. This leads to rapid muscle growth, and a speedy recovery.
BCAAs vs. EAAs: Which is Best for You?
Now that you’ve seen the characteristics of both essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids, you must determine which is best for you. One of the benefits of BCAAs is that they digest very quickly, as they avoid the liver, and go directly to the muscles first before reaching the rest of the the body. BCAAs provide powerful energy during workouts, and fuel muscle protein synthesis more so than EAAs. Additionally, branched-chain amino acids are effective in helping retain lean muscle, and provide you with more intense workouts on low calorie intake.
With EAAs, you’ll get better protein synthesis response as compared to BCAAs because BCAA’s are incomplete and cannot complete the process of protein synthesis. However, the BCAA Leucine is effective in enhancing protein synthesis, but EAA’s are more effective in continuing this process.
As you can see, branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids are an important part of enhancing your health, fitness and performance. Though both have their advantages, choosing the right one depends on your fitness goals. As the debate continues, we do know this: BCAAs and EAAs are both beneficial in boosting energy, enhancing muscle growth, and improving optimal health. Whether you are a fitness guru, bodybuilder, or everyday athlete, branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids are vital to maximize results.