If you’ve been in the fitness world, strength world, or my personal favorite.. the world of CrossFit you might have heard someone bring up BCAAs or less commonly EAAs.
Do you know what they’re talking about?
First, protein (like a piece of meat) is made up of amino acids. When we eat a piece of meat our bodies break down the meat into its component parts- with one of the parts being protein. That protein is then broken down into amino acids that our bodies use to make all kinds of things, from building muscle to hormones.
Branched Chain Amino Acids are 3 specific amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are used in protein synthesis (making new muscle) and glucose metabolism.
Essential Amino Acids are the 9 amino acids that we must get from food (we need 20 amino acids, 11 of which our bodies can make, 9 of which must be eaten)
So, should YOU be taking BCAAs or EAAs? Well, the answer is, it depends.
The logic behind BCAAs is that Leucine initiates muscle protein synthesis, so if we consume it, it will make our muscles grow. Unfortunately that’s not exactly how it works, and most studies show that supplementing with BCAAs are not very effective (with one of the reasons being that muscle synthesis requires a whole system of amino acids, not just one).
If you’re supplementing with EAAs you’re at least getting all of the essential amino acids, so you’re supplying your body with baseline what it would need for muscle (the same array of aminos that you would get with a protein shake).
And this is why one might argue if you want to supplement, EAAs are better.
The more I’ve learned about EAAs, the more I would advocate for my female athletes to use them, especially during longer training sessions.
Precision Nutrition recommends them for athletes who are focusing on building lean muscle mass while trying to lose body fat (to protect against muscle loss).
In addition, because of how hormones impact muscle breakdown and protein needs, supplementing with EAAs specifically during strength training and high intensity exercise could potentially spare muscle tissue as well as improve rate of muscle growth. This means that you’re giving your body exactly what it needs when it needs it to help it do what you want- get strong AF.
Do you use either of these supplements? What are your thoughts on using them? Do you have questions? Let me know!
Coach Shawna is a Certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition working primarily with female athletes. She is also the founder and coach at Competitive Female Training (CFT).
CFT is a comprehensive program designed for the unique needs of women in the sport of Functional Fitness. With 5 levels of programming available as well as an accessory program, we have fitness for just about any athlete- from beginner to competitor.
We also provide guidance on how to coordinate your training around your menstrual cycle AND we have a program for women in late perimenopause, menopause, and post.
You can learn more HERE.