BCAA vs. Protein

Often times when talking about sport nutrition supplements, people get protein and branch chain amino acids (BCAA) confused. This is quite easy to do since both are very popular muscle enhancing products, and many times both are consumed in the form of powder. However, BCAA’s and protein are two very different things that perform different functions for the body. Protein at its most basic function is the building blocks of the muscles. However, BCAA is the building blocks of protein. What does this mean you ask? Well let me explain.

Protein is what your muscles feed on to get stronger and become better developed. A person will usually consume their main protein intake through meat and dairy products. However, many times athletes and bodybuilders will take protein supplements that usually come from a dairy source that has been pulled out of the whey lactose of cow’s milk. The specialty of this type of (whey) protein is to build muscle fibers, and repair broken down or damaged ones.

BCAA performs a much different job. The only way that protein can get to your muscles and begin feeding them is if three essential amino acids are involved. Those three amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. All three of these essential amino acids put together form over 35% of your body’s essential amino acids, and are more popularly known as BCAA.

What Does BCAA Do?

What BCAA is able to do is initiate the process called “protein synthesis”. This is where protein is allowed to travel from the digestive system and into the muscles to begin providing them with nutrients and energy. Without BCAA to send these signals from the brain to the digestive system and muscles, protein would be unable to do its job in building muscles, which makes BCAA the building blocks of protein.

BCAA and Protein Work Together

Your body cannot use the protein without the BCAA, and the BCAA is rather ineffective at helping the muscles unless there is protein to synthesize. This is why you need both if you are looking to develop stronger and bigger muscles by taking supplements. They work together to produce better results for your body in the gym, and cannot be viewed as separate entities. This is why often time’s athletes who only take protein without a BCAA will not get as good results as athletes who take both. So evaluating BCAA and protein against each other is not really helpful in determining which one is better for you, because you need both if you are looking to get better muscle gains. That would be like asking if you should take oil or gas for your cars engine. Well, it’s not either or in this case, it’s both.

BCAA and a High Protein Diet

Both protein and BCAA provide benefits to your body that you cannot typically get through diet alone. Now this may be an exception if you are inactive and eat a diet that is heavy in meat and dairy products. In that case, you may want to be careful about taking either of these supplements as you may run into some negative side effects from having levels of BCAA or protein that are too high for your body to handle.

Taking a BCAA supplement can help your protein synthesis, increase growth hormones, and help give you healthier blood. So it would be helpful to take a protein supplement in conjunction with BCAA to make sure that the BCAA has protein to synthesize in your digestive system that it can feed to the muscles to increase their mass and strength.

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