If you are new to the world of supplements for athletes and bodybuilders, you may be wondering what options are available and how they work on your body. Most athletes usually take either BCAA or whey protein, either separately or combined. So which one is healthier? Why take both?
Both are essential supplements to implement in your daily workout regime, but there has always been a debate on BCAA vs whey as some people prefer one over the other. The thing is that, in addition to training at the gym, some people need an extra boost of protein to give energy to their muscles, stop fat from building up, and protect the muscles from tearing.
The real BCAA vs whey debate arises as pure whey protein powder actually contains a small portion of BCAA, so some people argue there is no need to take BCAA. Well, it’s not that simple. Here’s all the information you need on bcaa vs whey protein so that you can choose the best option for your workout.
What is Whey Protein?
As its name suggests, whey protein is a byproduct of milk. That is, after the milk is curdled and then strained, a powder is made out of that liquid. As this supplement is full of protein, it is a good supplement for any diet high in protein. Sometimes foods like meat, tofu, dairy, and beans do not give you as much protein as you need.
Because it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies need but cannot produce, many trainers and fitness coaches recommend taking whey protein before workouts so that muscles are energized and the performance is maximized.
Also, whey protein is good for repairing any microtears in the muscles that appear as a result of heavy workout.
Types of Whey Protein
There are three types of whey protein:
- Isolate: In this process, all carbohydrates are removed, and it is also good for people who are lactose intolerant.
- Hydrolysate: The peptides are broken down so hydrolysate is produced. This is absorbed faster than any other type of whey.
- Concentrate: This contains more protein than the other products.
What is BCAA?
BCAAs, that is, Branch Chain Amino Acids, are incomplete proteins. All proteins are made up of a type of amino acid, and BCAA is one type of amino acid: a combination of l-leucine, 6-valine, and l-isoleucine (3 essential amino acids). Taking BCAAs vs whey protein pre-workout is better as it enhances athletic performance, promotes the synthesis of protein, and the growth of lean muscle.
Plus, BCAAs have fewer calories than whey protein, so they are better for athletes who are trying to maintain or cut their weight but at the same time maintain muscle. They are also readily available, even more so than whey protein is, and can help with fatigue when training and fasting.
Types of BCAAs
BCAAs are available as powder that can be dissolved in water or as pills. This product gives you the essential amino acids to help your muscles have the energy they need to recover after working out. So it’s always a good idea to consume BCAA post-workout, even better than having whey protein.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is present in every cell of our bodies, and it is essential as it is responsible for:
- Building muscle and other types of tissue.
- Repairing muscle.
- Creating enzymes.
- It is part of hormones and other chemical compounds of our bodies.
- It is fundamental for keeping healthy skin, bones, cartilage, nails, and hair.
Protein is made up of amino acids and there are up to 20 amino acids that we need, 9 of which cannot be produced by the human body, so we need to take supplements.
What’s the Difference Between BCAA and Whey?
As we mentioned earlier, BCAA contains three groups of essential amino acids that our bodies need: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Amino acids can be defined as the agents that produce protein in our bodies. They build blocks of protein and can be either essential or non-essential.
Essential amino acids are not produced naturally so we need an external source that can be either food or supplements. For example, leucine is present in the skeletal muscles
BCAA or Whey – How to Choose One
Here’s a list of all the benefits that BCAA and whey bring about:
Benefits of Whey Protein
- Aids the loss of weight.
- Improves the synthesis of protein by muscles.
- Promotes the growth of lean muscle.
- Helps build muscle strength.
- Burns fat.
- Improves recovery times.
- Reduces fatigue in muscles.
- Gives you a feeling of being full.
- It is absorbed quickly.
Benefits of BCAA
- Preserves the growth of muscle tissue.
- Prevents breakdown and tearing in muscles.
- Helps muscle development.
- Provides oxygen to the blood vessels in the muscles so that when you exercise, energy is released and the muscle is not overworked.
- Can be used all day.
- Contains no carbohydrates or fats.
- Encourages the burning of fat, and not of muscle.
- It’s an essential part of muscular repair and growth.
- Reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
- Lowers serotonin levels so you can work out longer.
Which One Should You Choose Depending on the Type of Workout?
To sum up, both supplements are great for your workout routine. Though they may look similar, there are some subtle differences to take into account when choosing one. Both are sources of amino acids that are essential for our bodies.
While whey protein is good for moderate workouts, BCAA is much better for heavier and more intense ones. It is easier to measure the dose of BCAA and create a supplement plan that helps you achieve results faster.
BCAA vs protein shakes is another long due debate, though protein shakes are recommended mostly for new athletes. BCAA is a heavy investment to boost the strength of your muscles and it is recommended for heavy workout sessions.
Can We Take BCAA And Whey Together?
Some athletes take both Whey Protein and BCAA combined. However, there’s no need to boost your system with extra supplements. Remember that every time you are taking a supplement, you are feeding your body with extra calories and, therefore, you will need to burn those calories. So, the number of supplements you take will depend on the kind of workout you would like to do.
For a moderate workout, whey protein is recommended. Whereas for a more intense workout session, BCAA and protein shakes are more likely to help you achieve your goals. Any extra load of supplements will take a toll on your stomach and liver.
BCAA vs Creatine
Another popular supplement among bodybuilders is creatine monohydrate which is made up of two amino acids: arginine and methionine. Unlike BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), these are not essential amino acids and our bodies produce creatine naturally. Even though it is not necessary, many people still consume this supplement.
The benefits of consuming creatine include better performance, increased energy and muscle growth, and fewer injuries. However, there is little evidence to suggest that creatine is better than BCAAs and it has been proved that it can lead to initial weight gain as water is retained in the muscles. Also, there is sometimes stomach cramping when people forget to keep hydrated while on creatine.
When Should You Take Your BCAAs?
According to Healthline, there is little research on the benefits of taking BCAAs or any other protein supplement at a specific moment, such as pre or post-workout. However, a preliminary study has shown that after a group of young men took 10 grams of BCAAs before exercising they felt less muscle soreness and muscle damage, compared to the group that hadn’t taken any.
Another study showed that BCAAs levels in the blood after 30 minutes of having taken it in. There is a popular belief that there is a window of 45-60 minutes before and after working out to take protein, but new research has proved that there is a window of up to 5 hours.
So, if you are planning on taking extra supplements, you should read all the information available online and make an informed decision. You will need to consider several aspects: how much money you wish to spend (as whey protein is cheaper), if you can tolerate lactose (whey protein is a product derived from milk), if you want to workout heavily (BCAAs are more efficient for an intense workout), among many other aspects that we have discussed in this article. Whatever supplement you choose, make sure you buy it from an authorized manufacturer who uses the best quality products.
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