BCAAs & EAAs 101 X What you really need to know about BCAAs & EAAs
Posted on July 02 2018
Personally, I’ve been using BCAAs in my supplement stack for years! But don’t settle for under-dosed, watered down, and chalky flavors. Go with something that, not only works but, you enjoy taking. Lets be straight; dieting sucks and sometimes having a BCAA that tastes like candy is the only thing that keeps you sane when prepping for a show or trying to look stacked on the beach. But what hell are BCAAs and EAAs?
Branched Chain Amino Acid 101
Branched Chain Amino Acids are one of the health and fitness industries most effective muscle building supplements. These four letters have catapulted muscle building and physique sculpting to a new anabolic level. Branch Chain Amino Acids (referred to as BCAAs, BC-double-As, or when said really fast, BCAs) are a sub-group of the amino acid family that contain a “side chain” of one or two carbons and several hydrogens.
BCAAs consist of three important amino acids that help in the process of muscle building: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These three amino acids stimulate the growth of new muscle cells in a metabolic process called protein synthesis (1,3,4,5).
Essential Amino Acid 101
EAA stands for “Essential Amino Acid.” These are compounds that the body does not make—you get them from the foods you eat. EAA’s work to stimulate cellular repair and boost cell energy, which can help gain lean muscle. They also help to extract the nutrients from the food you eat so they can be properly absorbed by the body. You can find EAA’s naturally in proteins such as meat or eggs, but if you want to see a difference in muscle growth and energy, try an EAA product to supplement your workout.
Whether your goal is muscle building, fat loss, or exercise performance, supplementing with BCAAs can drive the anabolic response you need. BCAAs support key metabolic processes that drive muscle building through protein synthesis. Strategically using your BCAAs before/during/after workouts, as well as during periods of calorie restriction and fasting can help drive the changes in physique you’re looking for!
How Do BCAA and EAA Drive Muscle Growth?
BCAAs and EAAs in the correct doses can have a huge effect on stimulating protein synthesis, which in-turn builds new muscle mass.
Leucine, one of the three critical aminos, is able to trigger the biological muscle-building response through a metabolic pathway called mTOR (2). Scientifically speaking, mTOR triggers a series of biological events, which lead to the transcription and translation of DNA to fusing amino acids. But in regular terms, this biological process just means the building of new muscle cells!
Overtime, the more proteins our body is able to create, the more we will be able to contribute to our already existing muscle fibers, causing EXTRA lean muscle gains. These new muscle fibers will help you significantly increase your size and strength.
Not only are BCAAs effective for building new, lean, muscle, but they also play a role in helping us hold onto muscle during periods of catabolism (times when our body is breaking down muscle cells for fuel).
During periods of catabolism, our body breaks down muscle cells so it can use these proteins for energy.
BCAAs help offset this catabolism by triggering protein synthesis, which in turn, shifts our bodies from the catabolic state to the anabolic state.
Taking BCAAs at the correct time can help you optimize your body’s anabolic response.
If you want to achieve a whole-body effect, BCAA’s alone won’t do the trick. Reports are showing that EAAs can more effectively sustain protein synthesis in a post-workout setting. EAAs can help control hunger (which BCAAs don’t do), and there’s even research that shows they can have mental benefits! In all, EAAs are a more all-encompassing version of supplemental amino acids than BCAAs, and work as an agent to improve workout performance and sustain muscle repair growth over a longer time than BCAAs.
How To Take BCAAs For Maximum Results
For maximum results, I recommend you take BCAAs at certain time points throughout your day.
First, I always recommend taking a heaping serving right before/during a hard training session. Its optimal to take BCAAs before a training session because training is catabolic, which means it can lead to muscle breakdown. By consuming BCAAs you flip your bodies “catabolic switch” off and your “anabolic switch” on, thus turning your body from breakdown mode to build-up mode. Once you finish your training session, this is when you should take whey protein.
Second, I recommend strategically using BCAAs when you are in a calorie deficit (dieting). Just like training, dieting is also catabolic. By supplementing with BCAAs you are effectively able to stimulate protein synthesis while being in a catabolic state. BCAAs are low in calories while still giving you the muscle building response you need to hold onto precious muscle. Take a scoop between meals with longer stretches to help keep you anabolic all day long.
Third, and finally, I recommend taking BCAAs during periods of fasting. Similar to dieting and training, periods of extended fasts can also be catabolic because the less energy the body has from the calories it takes in, the more protein breakdown from muscle amino acids it will rely on for energy. This is why during longer fasts that I do, I make sure to have my BCAAs handy. When I do my intermittent fasts, I have a scoop of BCAAs before a hard training session to trigger the anabolic response.
- Anthony JC, et al. Signaling pathways involved in translational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle by leucine. J Nutr 2001;131:856S-860S.
- Atherton, P. J., Smith, K., Etheridge, T., Rankin, D., & Rennie, M. J. (2010). Distinct anabolic signalling responses to amino acids in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells. Amino acids, 38(5), 1533-1539.
- Harper AE, et al. Branched-chain amino acid metabolism. Annu Rev Nutr 1984;4:409-454.
- Patti ME, et al. Bidirectional modulation of insulin action by amino acids. J Clin Invest 1998;101:1519-1529.
- Xu G, et al. Branched-chain amino acids are essential in the regulation of PHAS-I and p70 S6 kinase by pancreatic beta cells. J Biol Chem 1998;273:28178-28184.