BCAAs Vs. EAAs: What is the Right Choice for Big and Strong Muscles?

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BCAA supplements have remained a top choice for building muscles. However, lately, we heard a lot of good things about EAAs. Some are saying you should take EAAs, while others suggest you to stay with BCAAs. 

As we can see, a strong BCAA vs. EAA debate is growing up. Today, we will provide our take on the topic, and tell you when to take BCAA, and when EAA makes sense. 

First, we will share a few words on essential amino acids.

What are Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)

Before we go into the differences between BCAA and EAA, let’s take some time to know our amino acids

As you know, 20 amino acids play a range of functions in our bodies. Out of these, 9 are essential amino acids or EAAs. Why are they essential?

Our body can make some amino acids. Those we cannot make must come from our food. Out of the 20 amino acids, our bodies can only produce 11. The remaining 9 amino acids are present in the protein, especially animal protein. 

These 9 amino acids we cannot produce are called essential amino acids or EAAs. They are-

  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

What are BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are part of the 9 essential amino acids. The last three amino acids from the above list are called BCAAs, viz., leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids are called BCAAs for their structure. 

BCAAs play a role in promoting muscle growth, as you all know. They are also beneficial for improving performance and muscle recovery.

BCAAs are also essential amino acids, meaning we must get them from our diet.

Now the question comes, which is better for bodybuilders? Do you need BCAAs or EAAs?

The Role of Essential Amino Acids in Building Muscles

It’s a proven fact that we need protein to build muscles. And what does protein contain?

Protein is also made up of amino acids and contains all EAAs, including BCAAs. Animal sources of protein like meat and dairy are rich in EAAs, much more than plant sources. 

Protein or amino acids play a large role in activating protein synthesis. How does this happen?

Muscle growth is a two-step process:

  1. Muscle breakdown: The proteins in our muscles breakdown due to wear and stress like working out. The protein that breaks down is replaced by new amino acids we get from food. 

2. Muscle growth: The new protein in our muscles leads to protein synthesis. A number of other ways also act together to lead to anabolic effects after muscle breakdown. 

So, you can say that building muscles is not possible without EAAs. We need to eat protein so that we get our EAAs to replace the protein our bodies break down. 

Now, the question comes, how did BCAAs get importance?

Leucine, isoleucine, and valine, or the BCAAs, are popular bodybuilding supplements. Encouraging research on BCAAs showed them to be super effective in building muscle fibers. These claims are backed by evidence, and BCAAs really help you-

  • Build muscles
  • Improve muscle recovery
  • Reduce muscle soreness
  • Reduce fatigue

As a result, bodybuilders soon started using BCAA supplements, and with great results. However, one thing didn’t change- you still need to eat protein to build muscles even if you take BCAAs.

EAA Vs. BCAA: What’s the Deal?

The effectiveness of BCAAs was discovered many years back. Researchers focused only on the three branched-chain amino acids instead of the entire EAA chain. But as we said above, you still need protein even if you take BCAAs. Else, you won’t be able to build muscles.

Now, what does protein contain?

You know protein contains the 9 essential amino acids. You also know we need protein to build muscles. What does this tell you?

It tells you that we need the 9 essential amino acids to build muscles. 

As we said earlier, early research focused only on BCAAs. But in reality, we need all 9 EAAs, along with BCAAs for protein synthesis and muscle growth. BCAAs just play a more important role.

This fact is now proven by many studies. Taking EAAs after exercising triggers muscle growth and anabolism in our bodies. In fact, the level of anabolic effects is directly dependent on the dose of EAAs you take. 

Other researches also agree. A 2012 study showed we need all three BCAAs along with the 9 EAAs to fuel hypertrophy and muscle growth. 

Interestingly, BCAA itself is not fully capable of activating protein synthesis after exercise. To maximize the results, we need the presence of all EAAs in our skeletal muscles.

We hope one thing is clear now. You need both BCAAs and EAAs to build muscles. But which is the right one for you?

BCAA Vs. EAA: Which is the Right Choice

You need protein to facilitate protein synthesis. Or in other words, you need EAAs (including BCAAs) to drive muscle growth. 

 Most of us get our EAAs from our diet. If you eat adequate meat and dairy, you are likely to fulfill your EAA or protein requirements. However, active people and bodybuilders need more protein, even up to 2g per kg of body weight.

So, the thing is, you don’t need EAAs if you can get them from your food. You can consult a dietician or your trainer to know how much protein you need. Once you fulfill that, you can very well do without EAAS. 

But if you don’t meet your daily protein requirements, EAAs will help a lot to make up your protein shortfall. Not only that, but you can also even build muscles by working out.

On the other hand, people who eat adequate protein will benefit from BCAAs. The BCAAs act as a catalyst and fuel your muscle growth, but only after your EAA or protein requirements are met.

So, take BCAAs only when your diet is rich in protein. If not, then take EAAs. Simple!

Final Thoughts

BCAAs and EAAs are all essential amino acids we must get from food or supplements. EAAs are absolutely necessary, and you get them from sources of protein. So, the first thing to ensure is you get enough protein with enough EAAs.

After you fulfil the above criterion, you can use BCAAs to improve your results. The best way is to eat adequate protein and take BCAA supplements together. That will give you maximum muscle growth and strength. 


Do EAAs build muscles?

You can’t build muscles without EAAs. You have to get your EAAs from your diet. Else, you can use a quality supplement.

What’s the difference between BCAAs and EAAs?

Technically, BCAAs and EAAs are the same, as they belong to the group of 9 essential amino acids. BCAAs play a more important role in building muscles. However, it’s not possible to build muscles with only BCAAs. You also need all the other six EAAs for the process. 

Can you take BCAA and EAA together?

You can very well combine BCAAs with EAAs as long as you don’t end up overdosing. We all should eat healthy levels of protein that contains EAA and BCAA. Generally, you can have 20 -25grams protein per meal or 50grams in a day. If you know your protein requirements, you can easily determine how much BCAA and EAA are right for you.

Are EAAs better than BCAAs?

No. Both are essential amino acids and needed for building muscles. That being said, you can’t build muscles just by drinking BCAAs. You also have to take EAA in the form of supplements or protein from your diet.

What are the benefits of EAAs?

You can get all benefits of BCAAs from EAAs. Additionally, they play a big role in facilitating recovery and repair of muscles. EAAs also contain amino acids that provide energy to your muscles after glycogen stores are depleted.