Choices are great, so long as you know the differences between them, to choose the right one. Supplements can be confusing, especially when you’re just starting out. BCAAs and preworkout are two of the most common supplements used to provide more muscle fuel during your workout and maximizing your training performance and recovery. We’re going to discuss the differences between BCAAs vs preworkout so you can decide how to optimize your training.
What Are BCAAs And What Do They Do?
Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs are considered the building blocks of protein and are composed of the essential amino acids L-Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. BCAAS help increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis and inhibit muscle mass breakdown or muscle catabolism. Maintaining a positive amino acid balance, will ensure you have the muscle fuel you need to maintain a positive amino acid balance and maintain lean muscle mass.
Unlike other essential amino acids, BCAAs have aliphatic side chains, with a branch or (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms), distinguishing them molecularly and functionally. The main biological function of BCAAs is found in intramuscular signal transduction, which controls and facilitates muscle protein synthesis. Research suggests that Leucine is the most critical branched-chain amino acid in the muscle building process, due to its higher oxidation rate, which will increasingly help build lean muscle mass and increase strength. This is the reason why most BCAA supplements contain a greater ratio of L-Leucine, than isoleucine and valine.
A study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of BCAA supplementation on exercise induced muscle damage and recovery times. Twelve male participants performed 100 consecutive drop jumps to measure markers of exercise induced muscle damage. The results showed that BCAAs supplemented pre and post workout reduced markers muscle damage and accelerated recovery time, on all time variables 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post workout [R,R].
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Benefits Of Supplementing BCAAs include
- Improved Muscle Recovery
- Reduced Muscle Mass Breakdown
- Rebuilding Lean Muscle Mass
- Reduced Exercise-Induced Muscle Soreness
- Delays Muscle Fatigue
- Increase Energy Levels
- Improve Endurance
- Improves Body Composition
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What Is Pre Workout And What Does It Do?
Pre workout supplements are a combination of different ingredient’s, created to improve energy, strength and endurance. Pre workout can be a very beneficial supplement to improve performance and give you the extra bit of motivation you need, to hammer out more reps. However, a common problem found within most pre workout supplements, is that they don’t contain high enough doses of each ingredient to be truly effective.
Often times, pre workouts contain what’s called a proprietary blend.
Proprietary blends only list the combined total amount of all the ingredients used in the blend; they don't disclose how much of each ingredient the product contains.
A large majority of supplement companies and manufacturers typically use proprietary blends for several reasons
- Most brands claim that they use proprietary blends to prevent competing brands from learning the precise amounts and ratios of each ingredient, to protect their product formula, which is purely false.
- To trick consumers and hide the fact that their product contains only trace amounts of the active ingredients listed on the nutrition label, and are instead composed mostly of fillers, additives, or the ingredients you don’t really want.
- It creates hype! By marketing something different such as ‘new and improved formulas or ingredients!’, supplement companies can use marketing tactics to drive more revenue and get you to buy more stuff.
- Production costs are minimized while profit is maximized. Because the ‘Proprietary Blend’ does not reveal the exact amount, less than 1% of the supplement could be made up with the beneficial ingredients and usually more expensive ingredients while the rest are just ‘fillers’ or the ingredients that won’t be truly effective.
Before you purchase a pre workout, take a look at the supplement facts. If you see a combination of ingredients, listed under a blend that does not list the specific amount per ingredient, then don’t buy it. Blends provide supplement manufacturers with a loophole, to underdose the proven ingredients you need to effectively improve training capacity. Only purchase supplements that provide complete transparency in labeling, otherwise you’re most likely getting ripped off.
So what are the correct doses of the ingredients you need? We’ve listed out a few of the most popular pre workout ingredients below and included what the minimum effective dose you need to derive the performance benefit.
Popular pre workout ingredients include but are not limited to
- Citrulline Malate: ≥ 5g
- Beta-Alanine– ≥ 3.2g
- Betaine Anhydrous ≥ 2.5 g
- L-Theanine ≥ 200 mg
- L-Carnitine – ≥ 1.5g
- Agmatine ≥ 1g
- Taurine ≥ 1.2g
- Pomegranate ≥ 500 mg
- Beet Root ≥ 500 mg
- Actigin≥ 50 mg
Making your own pre workout, and stacking with stand-alone ingredients like Beta-Alanine, Citrulline Malate, and Kre-Alkalyn creatine is the most optimal way to increase strength and performance. By creating your own pre workout, you don't have to worry about proprietary blends, fillers, or underdosed products.
Benefits Of Pre Workout
- Increases Energy
- May Enhance Mental Focus
- Boosts Nitric Oxide = Better Pumps
- Increases Strength
- Improves Athletic Performance
BCAAs Vs Preworkout Differences
Molecularly, and pharmacologically, BCAAs and preworkout are very different. The exact mechanisms will slightly differ between each pre workout supplement, depending upon formula variables such as dose and ingredients. For example, a preworkout supplement may contain the proven ingredient Citrulline Malate. Citrulline Malate is a nitric oxide (NO) booster and NO is a vasodilator, which widens blood vessels, to enhance the uptake of oxygen and blood flow, therefore, attributing to a bigger pump improving muscular endurance, strength, and workout recovery, so long as, it contains the appropriate dose.
An opposing preworkout supplement, may not contain Citrulline Malate at all, and have caffeine as a main ingredient, along with vitamins and minerals, which will produce more energy, but little, if any performance benefits.
Preworkout may also contain several different amino acids and active ingredients, as opposed to BCAAs which generally only contain three essential amino acids; leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Some preworkout formulas also contain BCAAs, which is a great way to improve strength, endurance, and optimize training recovery. Combining BCAAs and preworkout will help you maintain a positive amino acid balance, building more lean muscle mass, while improving optimal energy output.
When it comes to proprietary blends, BCAAs are generally pretty straight forward and transparent, as opposed to a majority of preworkout supplements, that hide their respective dosages. Without the proper dose, preworkout is not worth it. You might as well just save your money or go grab yourself a coffee or natural caffeine alternative.
Differences Between BCAAs Vs Preworkout – In Summary
- BCAAs and preworkout are entirely different molecularly and pharmacologically, regarding their exact mechanism of action, and how they work within your body
- BCAAs will help maintain lean muscle mass and improve workout recovery
- Preworkout is for increased energy, endurance better performance gains, and increased strength
- BCAAs generally do not have proprietary blends and hide ingredient dosages, as opposed to a majority of preworkout supplements that do.
- Most preworkouts are underdosed, and most BCAAs are clinically dosed
- BCAAs are recommended to serious athletes, who need to maintain a positive amino acid balance, such as endurance athletes, bodybuilders, or those working out in a fasted state.
- With enough protein in your diet, BCAAs are not entirely necessary. Preworkout contains concentrated amounts of certain ingredients, that are much harder to obtain through diet alone, therefore, supplementation is recommended for those looking to improve exercise performance.
BCAAs Vs Preworkout: Takeaway
Supplements, nutrition, and your training program are all dependent on one another. If one of these variables is missing from the equation, then you’ll never truly maximize your gains. Training five days per week, may help you get in better shape, but without the appropriate supplements and nutrition plan you’ll have a challenging time making any progress. If you’re getting an adequate amount of protein in your diet, then BCAAs may not be entirely necessary to your training performance, unless you’re a serious athlete and need to maintain a positive amino acid balance. When dosed correctly, preworkout can be a truly effective supplement, and offer several benefits to your overall training, improving energy, building more strength, and enhancing muscular endurance. Whatever supplement you decide to go with both bcaas and preworkout can positively impact your workout performance and improve your results, making your workouts more efficient and effective.
Ready to take your performance to the next level and add some BCAAs to training?
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We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.