BCAA vs EAA? What's the difference?

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses the differences between whey protein vs BCAAs vs EAAs and answers the question if BCAAs are worthless and if they provide any benefits over EAAs and when adequate protein is consumed.

Video Transcription:

Amino Acids vs Protein vs BCAAs vs EAAs

Good morning, family of fast, Matt Mosman, the Chief Endurance Officer over at EndurElite coming at you with another episode of busting the bull.

Now, today's topic has really gotten me, chomping at the bit to do one because there's a lot of controversy surrounding this topic, and two, I know this is gonna get a bunch of people's panties in a bunch with what I'm about ready to say.

But the topic on hand today is BCAAs or branch chain amino acids are worthless. Also, EAAs or essential amino acids are better than BCAAs. And then to add all this together, EAAs are better than a whey protein.

Amino Acids vs Protein

So, today we're gonna set the record straight and bring you the truth, if you can handle the truth, about BCAAs versus EAAs versus whey protein.

But before we get to that, is kind of funny how some people will take the latest research, read through it, and just run with it without fully understanding all the research that comes before it.

And this is kind of what happens when this whole big controversy came out that EAAs are better than BCAAs.

One paper came out demonstrating certain things. All previous research before that was ignored on BCAAs. And lo and behold, EAAs are better than BCAAs all the sudden.

But what a lot of these people don't realize is science doesn't prove a damn thing. It just demonstrates things.

If an experiment is done say on EAAs, this experiment should be repeated multiple times, multiple times, and multiple times till we get closer to an answer. But ultimately, nothing is ever proven by science, is just demonstrated. So, enough about that.

What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?

So today what we're gonna do is we're gonna describe what BCAAs are, what EAAs are, and then what a whey protein is and then we'll kind of describe the benefits of each and then we'll answer the ultimate question, is one better than the other.

So, let's dive right into it first with BCAAs.

Now, the branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Now, what you need to know about BCAAs is they are the main trigger for muscle protein synthesis or the process that promotes muscle repair and recovery.

Several research studies have demonstrated that these BCAAs are necessary to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. And the most important part to remember about this is leucine is the main trigger for muscle protein synthesis. And if you take a BCAA, you wanna make sure you're getting about 2.5 to 3.5 grams of leucine to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Now, the other BCAAs, and they're like isoleucine, helps to prevent the breakdown of leucine. And then the other ones can kind of help blunt muscle fatigue, reduce muscle breakdown, and other things like that, which we'll get into here in a second more in-depth. So, that is branched chain amino acids or BCAAs in a nutshell.

What Are Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)?

Now, what are the EAAs?

EAAs are essential amino acids, which part of those essential amino acids are the BCAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, plus five other amino acids.

Now with essential amino acids, they're essential because your body can't produce them. They must be consumed through a diet.

So, main things to remember about EAAs is that they do include the BCAAs plus five other essential amino acids that cannot be produced in the body and hence need to be either eaten through the diet or supplemented. So that is EAAs.

What About Whey Protein?

Now, what about a whey protein, whether an isolate or a concentrate?

So with a whey protein, you are gonna get all the BCAAs, all the EAAs, and then some conditionally essential amino acids and then some non-essential amino acids.

And this is what makes whey protein a complete protein is because it has all the EAAs. So that's kind of a brief look at BCAAs, EAAs, and a whey protein.

So, which one is best and is one worthless compared to the other?

And the answer is no. There's benefits honestly to all of them. Let's look at first BCAAs and what people are saying EAAs are superior to be BCAAs.

Benefits of BCAAs

Like I said before, the BCAAs and especially leucine are the main trigger for muscle protein synthesis, and it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis as well as EAAs and here's why.

Unless you are in a completely fasted state, your body has enough of the EAAs in its amino acid pool to be able to provide the material per se to help with muscle protein synthesis, muscle repair when you supplement with BCAAs.

So think of it like this. The EAAs provide the building material. The BCAAs provide the trigger to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. So, BCAAs are not worthless because your body has those available EAAs to help with muscle repair, so not worthless.

Benefits of EAAs

Now, on to the EAAs. Essential amino acids are absolutely fine if you wanna supplement them with two. Like I have no issue with them, but it's kind of the same premise of how BCAA works.

Since the EAAs contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine, it's still gonna trigger muscle protein synthesis and you're just adding some more EAAs in there is a complete like EAA product that you're still gonna have all the building material to produce muscle repair and recovery.

So that is EAAs, definitely some benefits.

Benefits of whey protein

And then you move on to a complete whey protein.

Now, compared to BCAAs and EAA supplements, whey protein is only superior in the fact that it will prolong or increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis for a longer period of time compared to BCAAs or EAAs.

And here is why. If you were to consume an EAA only product, some of those essential amino acids are converted into non-essential amino acids. So not as many amino acids are available to promote muscle repair and recovery.

The Best Way To Use BCAAs, EAAs, and Whey Protein As Part Of A Healthy Diet

So, I'm gonna paint out a little scenario here as far as how you can combine all these to work together if you want to.

So in order for muscle protein synthesis to be triggered, you're gonna wanna either eat...let's just say in this case, you're gonna eat a meal containing anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein.

This will trigger muscle protein synthesis up to about three hours where at that point it starts to decline a little bit.

Now, here's where BCAAs or EAAs can come in.

  • At that three hour mark when muscle protein synthesis starts to decline, you could take either a BCAA supplement or an EAA supplement to basically retrigger muscle protein synthesis to get it to a higher rate again before it declines.
  • And the point being is you can either like eat or supplement every three to four hours to keep muscle protein synthesis elevated. It's really up to you, like what I like to do is obviously eat a breakfast that has 20 to 25 grams of protein with carbohydrate, and then I'll have a snack a little bit later that includes a carbohydrate and either a BCAA or an EAA.
  • I'll have lunch again with 20 to 25 grams of protein and then snack time again a carb with a BCAA or an EAA, and dinner, and then maybe a protein shake at night like a casein to basically keep muscle protein synthesis rates elevated.

What If I Already Eat Enough Protein? Are BCAAs Worthless?

Now, another common kind of debate out there is if you have adequate protein intake from your diet, BCAAs again are worthless.

And that's really not true because BCAAs serve other functions in the body or provide other benefits especially to endurance athletes.

How BCAAs Benefit Runners, Cyclists, OCR, And Other Endurance Athletes

These being is when you consume BCAAs during endurance exercise, they can do one of three things.

  1. They can blunt muscle fatigue
  2. It can reduce muscle protein breakdown
  3. Contribute to energy production during endurance exercise.
So to say BCAAs are completely worthless when enough protein is being consumed on a daily basis through diet is just not true. It's a bunch of bull...

Now, some of you might be saying, "Well, why can't I just drink a protein shake or eat a cheeseburger during endurance exercise?"

I don't know about you, but one, there's probably not a drive-through on your race course or during your training run or ride or whatever, and two, I highly doubt anyone is gonna wanna eat a cheeseburger or a nice warm protein shake during a hot and humid race that's like three to four hours long.

Come on, spare me the bullshit. So, that, in a nutshell, is BCAAs versus EAAs versus whey protein.

The Bottom Line On BCAAs, EAAs, and Whey Protein

To sum it all up, each have their own benefits and I can see a use from any training program as far as supplementation.

At the end of the day, the whey protein is superior just based solely on elevating the rates of muscle protein synthesis. But as you can kind of come to see from what I said previously in this video, the BCAAs and the EAS also have their own benefit.

So, right over, if you have a friend who believes BCAAs are worthless, please share this video with them.

If you want other videos like this on endurance's training, nutrition, and supplementation, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at www.endurelite.com.

Get social with us on insta slam in our EndurElite training and nutrition club Facebook page. And until next time, my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and don't fall for the bullshit.