BCAA vs EAA: How To Choose The Best Amino Acid For Muscle Growth

If you’re looking for the best amino acids for muscle growth some of the options include BCAAs and EAAs. It’s important to know key facts about the two types so you can make the best choice when you select an amino acid supplement.

woman drinking protein shake after jogging

Are you looking for the best amino acids for muscle growth? Fun Fact: The average amount of muscle built in one month is 1-2 pounds. There are different types of amino acids including branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs). These are related since BCCAs are some of the 9 EAAs. It’s important to get all EAAs when building muscle and you’ll also need the 11 non-essential amino acids (NEAAs). However, you’ll also need to know whether BCAAs are more critical than EAAs, and vice versa. In recent years BCAAs have been trending but they only make up one-third of all EAAs and a small percentage of the 20 total amino acids.

EAAs usually get more attention from supplement buyers. That’s because we have to get these aminos from food/supplements, while our bodies make NEAAs. This is a major difference. Three of the most important EAAs are BCAAs. This includes Leucine, which requires the highest daily amount among all EAAs at about 40mg. In many cases, the body makes enough NEAAs so we don’t have to get them from outside sources. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes diet, illness, age, etc. affect our body’s amounts of NEAAs.

What Are BCAAs and EAAS?

We should start out with the difference between these two amino acids. First, the two main types of amino acids are essential and non-essential. This seems to suggest that one kind is needed and the other might or might not be needed by the body.

That’s not exactly the situation. It turns out that our bodies don’t make EAAs so we must always get them from food/supplements. In fact, if we don’t get enough then it can cause physical/mental problems that can be tough to deal with.

So there’s no question that EAAs are critical. For example, while we need different amounts of the EAAs they’re all critical for building lean muscle mass, workout recovery, and other factors. In some cases, a deficiency in any EAA can become quite serious if the person already has a health condition related to them.

How about BCAAs? These amino acids are “branched-chain.” This refers to the amino acid’s structure since it branches off to one side. BCAAs have been trending in recent years for muscle building/workout recovery in particular.

There’s no question that BCAAs are critical. However, it’s worth noting that you can’t build muscle without all 2 aminos. So even if you have enough BCAAs you can’t achieve that goal if you don’t have enough of the other 17 aminos. It’s that simple.

There are two main ways to get your EAAs. The first and best method is through food. For example, if you consume a beef steak, boiled egg, or fried tofu you’re getting all the protein you need for a day in terms of EAAs.

Another option is to combine EAAs by consuming 2+ “incomplete” proteins. For example, you could pair brown rice and kidney beans to convert the incomplete protein into a complete one. There are other combinations like whole-wheat pita bread and hummus.

Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth: EAAs

There’s no question that you’ll need to get enough EAAs to build muscle mass. Isn’t that true of NEAAs? It is but most of the time the body makes enough of them. There are some exceptions like normal aging, illness/disease, and bad/unhealthy diet. In these situations, your body might have problems making enough aminos.

In fact, it could be a snowball effect. For example, in some cases, two aminos are required to make a different one. So if you get enough of one amino but not enough of the other it could result in the “new” amino not being made. So you’d actually have a deficiency in two amino acids.

However, in many cases, you simply have to consume a well-balanced diet so your body makes all the NEAAs it needs. It’s actually an easier process when consuming EAAs. You get the aminos directly from the food instead of your body producing them after you consume food.

This highlights the need to make sure you’re consuming different animal/plant-based proteins. When you do that you can make sure you’re getting all the aminos you require. This is critical to get the best results.

If you’re vegan it will be somewhat tougher to build muscle because you’ll be ditching foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You’ll have to research which foods are high in nutrients like Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, etc. These are nutrients that can be tougher to get from plant-based foods.

Another caveat is whether you should take EAA supplements. It’s an option but the main source of your nutrients including protein/aminos should always be real food. You could then add some EAAs with supplements but it shouldn’t be your first choice. It’s also important to make sure you’re picking high-quality supplements to get the best results.  

Best Amino Acids for Muscle Growth: BCAAs

This includes three of nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are all important aminos, especially leucine. It’s considered the general/quarterback of EAAs. In other words, you’ll need it so all the EAAs work effectively. Meanwhile, it will be tougher if you don’t have enough of Leucine.

If you don’t get enough of the other BCAAs you’ll also have trouble building muscle. In fact, that’s the case regardless of how tough your workouts are. You’ll need to feed your muscles and that includes boosting calories and protein in particular. Make sure to remember carbs and fat since they’re also important for muscles and good health in general.

BCAAs have been trending recently but there’s some debate in the weightlifting/bodybuilding industry about how critical they are. For example, it’s important to note that they’re only one-third of all EAAs. In other words, you’ll still need to get enough of the other aminos if you want to build lean muscle mass.

Another issue is just because certain supplements are trending doesn’t mean you’ll need more. It just means people are buying more of the supplement. This could be the same situation as other aminos and other supplements.

In fact, many experts suggest making sure you get enough of all 20 amino acids. This starts with a healthy diet, which is critical for maintaining good health. If you want to add some BCAAs to your diet it’s a good idea and it could help with building muscle. However, you’ll always need to get enough of all 20 aminos.

Another factor is like EAAs it’s critical to make sure you’re getting your nutrients from food whenever possible Consume lots of healthy sources of protein including animal and plant-based foods. Then you can build on that with some BCAA supplements. However, these should add to the best amino acids for muscle growth.

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