Both EAAs and BCAAs are specific groups of amino acids often taken as supplements by athletes and bodybuilders. This article runs through BCAAs vs EAAs, explaining their similarities and differences and how to know if you should consider them.
- What are the differences between EAAs and BCAAs?
- Do you need EAAs?
- Who might consider taking additional EAAs?
- When to take EAAs
What are the differences between EAAs and BCAAs?
Amino acids are the smaller components, or building blocks, of protein. It’s vital for us to consume amino acids to build and repair the proteins and muscles in our bodies. Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are amino acids that our body can’t make on its own – and we have to get them from our diet.
There are nine essential amino acids: phenylalanine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, leucine, and lysine1.
Three of these essential amino acids have a unique chemical structure with branching, and are known as branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs. They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
All BCAAs are Essential Amino Acids, but not all EAAs are Branched Chain Amino Acids.
By consuming EAAs instead of just BCAAs you’ll get all of your amino acids without missing out on your BCAA needs.
Summary: The body requires nine essential amino acids (EAAs) from our diet; three of these are BCAAs.
Do you need EAAs?
EAAs are found in many of the foods we consume each day because all proteins are made up of amino acids. Whether you eat meat, dairy, or vegan protein sources, they all contain unique proteins, and therefore unique groupings of amino acids.
Getting plenty of amino acids in your diet is good for overall health and body function. It’s also useful for building and maintaining muscle mass, and enhancing muscle recovery or healing from injury.2 Even though our body can’t make EAAs, most people can likely get enough through a varied, balanced diet.
Who might consider taking additional EAAs?
Exercise creates microtears in our muscles that require repair, so you may need to support muscle recovery for your next workout. Amino acids are the building blocks for our muscles to heal and recover, so supplementing with EAAs is a good way to go.
If you’re trying to build muscle mass
There are three essential factors to putting on muscle: adequate calories, proper exercise, and amino acids (protein). You need extra sources of protein when you’re trying to build muscle rather than just maintain weight, so EAAs could definitely be helpful.
If you follow a restricted diet
You may not be getting all of the EAAs you need if your diet is low on complete proteins, which can be the case for some vegetarian/vegan diets. Quinoa and soy are complete proteins, but some plant-based proteins don’t contain all of the EAAs.
Summary: Many high-protein foods contain all of the EAAs, but some protein sources do not. If you need to repair or build muscle, make sure you’re getting adequate EAAs.
When to take EAAs
Whether you are choosing BCAAs or EAAs, both should ideally be consumed during your workout to support your muscles as they are being stressed. Having EAAs and BCAAs available for recovery is what’s key. They may also prevent fatigue.3 Chowing down on chicken or tofu in the gym isn’t very practical, so a convenient option is to take an EAA supplement or BCAA supplement.
Take home message
So, now we’ve weighed up BCAAs vs EAAs things should be a little clearer. While BCAAs are great for supporting overall health and repairing your muscles, EAAs contain the three amino acids that make up the BCAAs, plus the other amino acids your body needs.
By providing the proper muscle-building ingredients, EAAs can help you recover, build muscle, or maintain muscle while losing weight. If you’re concerned about getting enough EAAs or BCAAs in your diet, a supplement might help. EAAs, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3…