BCAAs vs. Protein

James Grage, BPI Sports co-founder, shares his point of view on the best supplements for muscle growth. More specifically, the difference between supplementing with BCAAs vs. protein powder.

In this BPI Sports informational video, James reviews the basics behind amino acids, the essential ones vs. the non-essential ones, as well as the three crucial branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine. Below you’ll find a few highlights, but for a full explanation of why you should supplement with BCAAs vs. protein, watch the entire video.

Can BCAAs decrease unwanted muscle breakdown?

When building muscle, anabolism is good and catabolism isn’t. Unlike most aminos that are metabolized in the liver, BCAAs are metabolized primarily in the skeletal muscle, so your body can break them down quickly for fuel. In short, BCAAs are readily utilized by the body, and necessary for building and repairing muscle. They can also be beneficial for someone looking to lose weight, without sacrificing hard-earned muscle. Restricting calories can put your body in a catabolic state, where it begins to breakdown lean muscle as a source of energy, instead of fat stores. Supplementing with BCAAs can help reduce this unwanted muscle breakdown.

If you can get your BCAAs from protein powder, why take a separate BCAAs supplement?

The answer lies in the speed at which your body is able to utilize those specific aminos. Protein is made up of amino acids bonded together with peptides to form long chains. Imagine peptides being the glue the holds them all together. In order for you to utilize those individual amino acids, your body first has to break apart those bonds. So, although you’re getting your BCAAs in your protein, those aminos aren’t as readily available for fuel as they are in a standalone BCAA supplement.

repair better, recover faster

Which one wins the battle for muscle-building supremacy in BCAAs vs. Protein?

The answer is both, but in different ways. James includes both in his daily nutrition and supplement regimen. Because peptides are better absorbed and utilized than free form amino acids, he uses a peptide-linked BCAA supplement. With the same reasoning, he uses a protein powder with a high amount of whey hydrolysates. Whey hydrolysate has gone through an extra process to help break apart some of the amino bonds, making smaller peptide chains, which helps increase the ease and speed of digestion. James takes his BCAAs right before his workout, and a whey hydrolysate-rich protein powder right after. It’s the best of both worlds for a complete approach to building lean muscle.