BCAA vs Amino Acids: What is the Difference?

Is BCAA enough to keep you moving? Do you need other amino acids supplemented in your body? The straightforward answer is, BCAA alone is not enough. You need all amino acids to function.

But here’s the thing, all other amino acids can either be cooked up within your body or fed to you through a protein-rich diet. Does that make BCAA supplement intake more important than Amino Acid?  That’s what we’re here to discuss.

The BCAA VS Amino Acids debate is nothing new in the fitness market. In this article, we have tried to give it a different turn.

Choosing the right supplement that keeps pace with your body goals is no piece of cake! There are hundreds of options to choose from, and picking the one that will do the job for you can take forever.

However, there are so many articles and blogs on the internet to help you make the right choice, they are often inconclusive and leave a man confused.

So, how should you choose the right supplement for you? Like I have said, there are hundreds of options in the market that can confuse you. Here, the key is to keep your goals in mind and find a product that aligns with them.

This article will help you clear your doubts. We have discussed everything you need to know about amino acids and BCAA in detail.

Let’s start with the basic science behind amino acids that relates them to muscles.

 

Muscle Building and Amino Acid Supplements: How does it work?

As you might already know, the protein you consume is made up of amino acids joined together.

Now, when this protein gets digested within your body, it is broken down into amino acids. These amino acids are supplied to your muscles, which use them up to generate energy for movement.

Well, this whole eating up protein, then breaking it down inside your body, then providing it to muscles is essentially a time-consuming process.

And by the time you manage to provide more amino acids to your muscles, they have already broken down their fellow muscles to keep moving.

Here, the Amino Acid supplement comes into play. Since amino acids are already the smallest molecule needed, they get digested super-fast and aid the muscle-building process.

Now that you have gotten a basic understanding of how this works, let’s move on and look at our supplements in detail.

 

BCAA Vs Amino Acids: What do they mean?

BCAA

All the protein in your body is made of amino acids. Every protein you consume, poultry, meat, soya, lentil, etc. All are eventually broken down into amino acids in your digestive tract.

Each amino acid is responsible for carrying out several functions.

Our body has a total of 20 different amino acids. Out of the 20, 9 are known as essential amino acids.

This is because they cannot be created inside our bodies, and hence, need to be provided with the diet.

They are lysine, tryptophan, methionine, threonine, isoleucine, histidine, leucine, valine, and phenylalanine.

The remainder of the amino acids is non-essential, can be produced within the body.

Now, out of the nine essential amino acids, three have branched chains. These amino acids are known as branched-chain amino acids (aka BCAA).

The three BCAAs are, leucine, isoleucine and valine.

So yes, all BCAA are Amino Acids. The difference lies in supplementation. The BCAA supplements only contain the three BCAAs, while the amino acid supplement contains all/most amino acids.

 

BCAA VS Amino Acids: How do they work?

BCAA VS Amino Acids How do they work

Amino Acid supplements make the process of digestion faster, in turn aiding the muscle-building process. All amino acids are needed for muscle formation.

Amino Acid supplements increase the anabolic effect of the body, which improves muscle building and prevents muscle breakdown. In the long run, Amino Acid supplements also help with muscle recovery after work.

On the other hand, BCAAs don’t need to be digested. They are capable of directly running into your bloodstream and being supplied to the muscles. For this reason, BCAA supplements are said to be better than other Amino Acid supplements, they’re faster.

Other than this difference, BCAAs work similarly to amino acids.

BCAAs are preferred for boost workouts, as they give a faster response. As are preferred for long-term and complete usage.

 

BCAA VS Amino Acids: Which one do you need?

BCAA VS Amino Acids Which one do you need

Here’s the thing, the ideal supplement would depend on your requirements. It depends on how much protein you consume, how much physical work do you do, how much muscles you want, and many more.

You might not even need a supplement if you consume the daily required amount of protein. I have pointed out the general functions of each supplement for your convenience.

Non-essential amino acids need not be taken as a supplement because your body produces them itself.

However, there are certain circumstances under which some of the non-essential amino acids become essential and need to be provided in the diet.

During injury or illness, the amount produced by our body is not enough to fulfill the demand of the body and might need to be supplied from the outside.

Essential Amino Acids should be supplemented from the outside in case your body doesn’t get enough proteins from the diet and you’re losing muscle mass.

For example, if you’re vegan, chances are your diet doesn’t fulfill the requirements, and you need amino acid supplements.

BCAAs should be preferred by individuals who are looking for a fast fix to maintain muscle while working out. Many sportspersons opt for BCAAs to complete their sessions without losing muscle.

If you are looking to build muscle, EAAs will prove to be a better choice for you than BCAAs.

 

BCAA Vs Amino Acids: Advantages and Disadvantages

Let’s have a fair look at the advantages and disadvantages of consuming BCAA and Amino Acids:

Advantages of Amino Acid Supplements:

They are more suitable for muscle-building

Since all amino acids are required in muscle formation, and not just BCAA, Amino Acid Supplements are a better alternative for muscle building. They provide enough energy to maintain muscle mass during the workout and helps with muscle recovery.

 

They get absorbed faster

Amino Acids are building blocks of protein, and hence don’t need to undergo the digestive breakdown that protein needs to go through. Because of this, they get absorbed faster than dietary protein and get a chance to act quicker on muscles.

 

Disadvantages of Amino Acid Supplements:

They are low in calories:

This might be an advantage or a disadvantage conditionally. Amino Acids are isolates, hence they are low in calories. If you are looking to build muscle mass, you will need additional calories in your diet.

 

Advantages of BCAA Supplements:

They retain muscles during heavy workouts:

BCAAs help to retain muscles during heavy workouts by providing instant energy to muscles. This prevents muscle loss and promotes growth. BCAA supplements are a great pre-workout supplement, as you need a lot of energy during workouts.

 

They are faster than Amino Acids Supplements:

Yes, BCAAs are faster than Amino Acids, since they don’t undergo digestion and are directly released to muscles through the bloodstream.

This property of BCAAs helps them to provide instant energy to muscles for workouts.

 

Disadvantages of BCAAs:

They are incomplete:

For muscle building, BCAAs itself are not enough and you will be required to consume other amino acids. BCAA supplements contain only the three amino acids, so if you are looking to build muscle, Amino Acid Supplement is a clear winner.

 

BCAA Vs Amino Acids: Comparison Chart

Have a look at this quick comparison chart that will give you an idea of the differences and similarities between BCAA and Amino Acid supplements.

Properties BCAAs Amino Acids
Amino Acids content Only three branched-chain acids All/most amino acids
Help to build muscle Less More
Needs digestion No Yes
Reaches the muscles Faster Fast
Anabolic effect Less More
Nutritional Value Less More
Supplied Directly to muscles Yes No

 

Conclusion:

BCAA vs. Amino Acid discussion is never-ending. Lately, many questions have been raised on the need and efficacy of BCAA for supplementation. I would say both are important, depending upon your preferences.

Although Amino Acid supplements offer all benefits of BCAAs, BCAAs are more useful when you need a rapid boost of energy to finish your workout session. Amino Acid supplements are more useful in the long run and should be your ideal choice for building muscle.

To sum it up, if you’re an athlete who needs instant energy without muscle loss, BCAA is the one for you.

If you’re looking to fulfill your daily protein intake through supplements to prevent muscle loss, Amino Acids to go!

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