When it comes to supplements, two prominent categories are amino acids and protein. Both are marketed to have various jobs and various type of products in those categories to help you achieve your goals. Little do most people know … amino acids come from protein. Therefore, when it comes to using amino acids and protein powders there will be some similar advantages and some unique advantages to using both as part of your plan to reach your goals. To understand how to do this effectively, we must first have an understanding of protein. For protein to carry out its role effectively it needs all 22 amino acids to be present in the right amount. That is why, getting complete protein sources in throughout the day is crucial. This way your body has all the amino acids it needs for muscle growth and repair, digestion, and metabolism.
So what is the deal with Amino Acid Supplements?
Well, as an adult, we can make 13 of the 22 amino acids in our bodies. They are the Non-Essential amino acids. Which means we need them, but since we can produce them with in our bodies it is not essential to get them through food, protein shakes, or amino acids supplements. That leaves us with nine more, the essential amino acids or better known as EAAs. Which means we must obtain these through food … hence the name, essential amino acids.
Now, three of those Essential Amino Acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These three Amino Acids are are the most important for energy production and kick-starting muscle protein synthesis. They are called Branch Chained Amino Acids.
Currently, in the Health and Fitness Industry, the big buzz is about Branch Chained Amino Acids. Many supplement companies have come out with a BCAA product and market them many different ways. For weight loss, for muscle growth, to be sipped on during the day, post workout, intra-workout, and the list goes on and on.
Are Branched Chained Amino Acids effective?
The simple answer, yes. But no matter what your goals are, there are certain things you need to know and understand to get the best results. Whole food protein sources are best … Whole protein supplements (Phormula-1 and Level-1) are second best … then Essential Amino Acid products like Anabolic Bridge … and lastly Branch Chained Amino Acid Products like BCAA.
Now, even though EAA and BCAA are third and fourth on the list they will still help you reach your fat loss or muscle growth goal when used properly. I want to cover the two most popular times, in-between meals and around your workout, for using amino acid products and which type is best.
Should I use an EAA or BCAA supplement between meals?
For supplementing in-between meals or use during the day, an Essential Amino Acid (EAA) product is a superior choice than a Branch Chained Amino Acid (BCAA) product. This is because as discussed above if you want to grow muscle, have a leaner physique or recover more quickly, you need essential amino acids in your diet throughout the day. This is why you make sure you eat protein at each meal or use protein supplements like Level 1 when you can’t eat protein. By ingesting Essential Amino Acids through food, shakes, or an EAA product you are giving your body the Amino Acids it needs to stay in the anabolic state (burning fat and building muscle).
When you get busy and miss a meal or shake your body goes from an anabolic state of building muscle and burning fat to a catabolic state of breaking down muscle tissue and storing fat … which is definitely not what you want!
The current trend is for people to sip on BCAA during the day to stay in the anabolic state between meals. This is not nearly as beneficial as an EAA product (Reminder: BCAA are in EAA) for multiple reasons. The biggest reason being you are simply missing 6 essential amino acids. Think of it like this. EAAs are bricks and BCAAs are bricklayers it does you no good to have more bricklayers if you don’t have enough bricks for them to use. Once again, this is why we are always making sure to eat protein or drink Level 1 at meals to make sure your body has the Essential Amino Acids it needs to stay anabolic.
This is why I always choose and recommend Anabolic Bridge over BCAA for use in-between meals and shakes. Anabolic Bridge is specifically formulated with the precise ratio of essential amino acids your body needs to stay in the anabolic state when you miss meals or shakes. Personally, I always keep a bottle of Anabolic Bridge in my truck and a few servings in my backpack. You most likely won’t use Anabolic Bridge every day, I know I don’t, but it is great to have on hand for when you need it!
What Amino Acids should I use before training?
Once again, BCAA are heavily marketed to be taken pre, intra, and post workout. So lets dive into this a bit. When it comes to BCAA before your workout… You do not need to take them. This is assuming that you are not training fasted or on an empty stomach. Meaning, you have eaten within 2 hours of going to the gym. If you have not eaten in the last two hours and are headed to the gym, Essential Amino Acids are best before training. Once again, since EAA will have BCAA in them, you get your serving of BCAA along with giving your body the full spectrum of amino acids it needs. So either a scoop of Phormula-1 or a serving of Anabolic Bridge is your best pre-workout amino acid supplement when it has been a few hours since your last meal.
Amino acids during my workout?
… here is my rule of thumb. If you are doing cardio, lifting weights, or training in any way for less than an hour, you do not need to supplement with amino acids. It is very popular to drink BCAAs during training. Now, is there anything wrong with drinking BCAA during your training? No not at all. You can always drink BCAA, as they won’t hurt and will give you some benefit …. I just don’t consider it necessary in this situation.
When is the best time to use a BCAA supplement?
If you’re training for longer than an hour Branched Chain Amino Acids become a useful supplement to add to your regiment! They are great to take during your workout to help prime your body for recovery after a long hard training session. Back to the Bricklayers analogy. Having your bricklayers get there early makes sure that when the bricks show up ( All 22 amino acids from Phormula 1 post workout) … they are ready to rock and roll and get some serious work done! Personally, I like to take 1 scoop of BCAA or 1 scoop of Intra-Formance (has BCAAs in it) and sip on it from the 45-minute mark until the end of the training session.
Do you need to take amino acids post workout?
If you are doing post workout properly with Phormula 1 and Ignition, you do not need to take EAAs or BCAAs post workout. Phormula 1 and Ignition will already have everything your body needs to initiate proper recovery from training. In each scoop of Phormula 1, you will get 5 grams of naturally occurring BCAA’s in it plus all the essential and non-essential amino acids. Therefore you do not need to supplement with additional amino acids.
Even though BCAA are the “hottest” amino acid supplement … When it comes down to achieving the best results, you want to focus on whole food protein sources, Phormula-1 and Ignition post workout, Level 1 when you can’t eat, and Anabolic Bridge when you can’t eat or drink a shake. By giving your body all 22 amino acids or at a bare minimum, the nine essential amino acids (which includes BCAA), you are setting yourself up for better fat loss and muscle growth!
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.