Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are a total of twenty amino acids that comprise muscle protein. Nine of the twenty are considered essential amino acids (EAAS) and three of those nine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAS), which are responsible for enhancing muscle growth and reducing muscle mass breakdown to improve recovery. But if protein is made of amino acids, should you still be supplementing with BCAAs, protein, or both? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Protein?
Protein is one of three macronutrients, which helps in enhancing muscle growth, muscle repair, synthesizing enzymes and maintaining your hormonal balance by stimulating the process of muscle protein synthesis (the muscle-building process), while decreasing the rate of protein degradation or catabolism (muscle-mass loss).
Protein is comprised of amino acids, specifically eleven non-essential and nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are responsible for providing the fuel you need to adequately build lean muscle mass and recover faster post-workout.
When considering protein sources either from food or from supplements, it’s important to determine two things; whether or not that protein source is a complete protein, and the leucine content of the protein you’re consuming.
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Complete proteins contain all twenty essential amino acids and are most commonly found with animal proteins, or supplements like egg protein, whey, whey isolate, and casein. The majority of plant protein sources are incomplete proteins, however, some plant protein supplements do contain complete amino acid profiles, due to a combination of different plant protein sources. For example, Swolverine’s PLANTPRO5 contains five sources of protein, Pea, Hemp, Quinoa, Sacha Inchi, and Pumpkin Seed protein that together form a complete protein containing all twenty amino acids.
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An ever-growing body of evidence has shown that supplementing with protein powder post or pre-workout, will help build more muscle mass, enhance the muscle-building process, optimize body composition, and increase satiation. Protein supplements such as whey isolate are considered, “fast-acting” proteins due to the quick rise of plasma amino acid concentration after ingestion.
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What Are BCAAs
Branched Chain Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. These building blocks refer to the three essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. The human body cannot manufacture essential amino acids; therefore, they must be obtained from food sources in your diet, or through supplementation.
Much like protein, research suggests that BCAAs have a positive impact on enhancing muscle growth and preventing muscle mass breakdown. Leucine, in particular, has been suggested to play a larger role in building and rebuilding muscle mass. Studies have shown that BCAAs have many proposed performance benefits such as
- Reducing mental fatigue
- Improving muscle growth
- Reducing muscle breakdown
- Delaying muscle fatigue
- Improving recovery times
- Increasing strength
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What’s The Difference Between BCAAs Vs. Protein
Molecularly, BCAAs and protein are the exact same, just a bit different in composition. Protein contains all twenty amino acids, and BCAAs contain three essential amino acids. All amino acids perform countless biological and enzymatic reactions, as opposed to BCAAs which primarily support muscle protein synthesis.
Do I Need BCAAs If I Take Protein?
Although protein is comprised of amino acids, the biggest difference between the two in terms of supplementation are situational. Below you’ll find a list of questions, in which we would recommend supplementing with protein, BCAAS, or both.
SHOULD I TAKE BCAAS OR PROTEIN ON A CALORIE RESTRICTED DIET
Dependent upon your specific dietary needs and macro calculations, protein powder such as whey protein isolate, will deliver a large amount of protein content, with fewer carbohydrates and fat, to support optimal body composition. BCAAs, however, don’t have any caloric energy, meaning they have zero calories. Therefore, you get the benefits of promoting muscle growth and preventing muscle mass breakdown without the calories. Thus, on a calorie-restricted diet, you can supplement with both whey protein isolate and BCAAs. It really just depends on if you’re getting enough protein through your diet and hitting your protein intake or not. If you’re hitting your protein goals, then you really don’t need to supplement with protein. You can, however, continue to supplement with BCAAs to support muscle growth and recovery.
SHOULD I TAKE BCAAS OR PROTEIN WHILE INTERMITTENT FASTING
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DOES PROTEIN OR BCAAS HELP BUILD MORE MUSCLE MASS
Studies have consistently shown that both protein and BCAAS increase lean muscle mass, growth, and repair.
SHOULD I PUT BCAAS IN MY POST WORKOUT PROTEIN SHAKE
Considering that protein is a complete protein that already contains the branched-chain amino acids, I would recommend holding off on adding more BCAAS to your protein shake, since it would not be the most optimal use of your supplement.
SHOULD I TAKE BCAAS BEFORE OR AFTER MY WORKOUT
BCAAs can be taken at any time pre, post, and intra-workout. By supplementing with BCAAS or sipping on them throughout the day, you are essentially playing your body in a positive amino acid balance, or muscle building state. Therefore, when you work out your muscle tissue can utilize BCAAs as fuel during your workout to build and rebuild lean muscle mass. My suggestion is to supplement before and during. If you need help with post-workout recovery, supplement one scoop of BCAAS after your workout with added L-Glutamine for faster muscle recovery and repair.
So Which One Should I Take BCAAS Or Protein?
If you’re serious about your training and performance, then supplementing with both BCAAs and promote will provide the most optimal benefits to build and rebuild lean muscle mass. BCAAs help delay muscle and mental fatigue during exercise, which can promote higher volume workouts and translate into better performance. Swolverine’s BCAAS also contain added electrolytes and L-glutamine for intra-workout hydration and optimal recovery.
If you’re already meeting your daily protein intake goals through whole food sources, supplementation of protein is unnecessary. However, when you’re unable to hit your macro calculations through whole food sources, protein supplementation incorporated with a healthful diet and training regimen can help optimize your fitness and nutrition goals.
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