In this week’s blog we will break down everything you need to know about EAA’s and BCAA’s, starting with what that even stands for if you don’t already know!
Let’s start with Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) have been around the block and back again in the supplement game and we have some rock solid research to back them up. BCAA’s lead the way for recovery and reducing muscle soreness. There are three BCAA’s: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Of those three, leucine is the ‘Anabolic Amino’ because it turns on and activates muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Now to the ‘New Kid on the Block’ Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) but they aren't new, in fact they’ve been part of our biochemistry forever. There are nine essential amino acids and they are ‘essential’ because your body cannot make them on its own. They must be ingested from external sources like high-protein foods or EAA supplements.
We also have nonessential amino acids. They are synthesized by most of the cells, including hematopoietic lineages. Nonessential amino acids are mainly synthesized from glucose (alanine, arginine [from the urea cycle in hepatic cells], asparagine, aspartate, cysteine, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, proline, and serine), except for tyrosine, which is synthesized from phenylalanine.
So, are EAA’s better than BCAA’s?
Well, that’s a trick question because BCAA’s are in fact EAA’s! The nine EAA’s are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. You’ll see three familiar faces in that line up, so knowing that the three BCAA’s are actually part of the larger family of EAA’s means that oftentimes you are getting most/all of the performance benefits of BCAA’s along with EAA supplementation.
EAA supplementation is starting to gain an even more impressive list of scientifically-proven performance benefits than BCAAs alone, The most notable being that EAA is shown to provide as much muscle protein synthesis as WHEY protein itself.
Ok, now I know you’re probably wondering why we are still bothering with BCAA’s at all… But they are still a great source for improving intra-workout performance and post-workout recovery.
The reason why BCAA’s works even when consumed alone without the other 6 EAA’s is because most of the time our bodies DO get have enough circulating EAA’s through our modern diet to make good use of the BCAA’s we take without having to catabolize existing muscle to get them. However if you do follow speciality diets like vegan or fasting you would benefit even more from a good EAA supplement.
You also need to consider what amino acids are in the supplements you are taking. Some formulas include nonessential amino acids which your body already produces, so doubling up is a waste. Be sure to look closely at what you are consuming and do your research on what you need to meet your fitness specific goals.
But we’ve heard of tons of folks benefiting MORE from EAA’s than BCAA’s even when following a healthy, high-protein diet and that’s because EAA’s serve so many more functions in the body beyond providing energy and muscle benefits.
The nine EAA’s play major roles in so many other bodily functions besides muscle growth and recovery. Amino acids are like a clock, each one being a part that has a function to make the whole thing work!
Immunity: L-Histidine and L-Threonine help fight free radicals and support your immune system
Mental Health: L-Tryptophan, L-Tyrosine, and L-Phenylalanine are essential to produce the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Skin Health: L-Lysine and L-Threonine are critical building blocks for structural proteins like collagen, which repairs connective tissue and skin.
Weight Management: L-Threonine and L-Methionine help your body properly metabolize fat and also detoxify your blood.
Hormone Balance: EAA’s help keep your endocrine system balanced. The two ‘L’s L-Leucine and L-Lysine are the relevant ones here.
While we are seeing great results with EAA’s and the future looking promising it is important to note that it’s important to remember the ratios!
If you’re looking to try an EAA supplement, here are a few things to look for:
A researched ratio of EAA: Look for a product that has actual scientific studies behind the ratio being used.
Proper BCAA Concentration: As we’ve learned, BCAA’s are PART of EAA’s, and EAA’s work best in the presence of adequate levels of BCAA’s.
EAA’s amount per serving: Look for an EAA product that has at least 5 grams of EAA per serving.