BCAAs VS. Protein

BCAAs VS. Protein: What’s the Difference?

There are debates on two nutritional elements these are, BCAAs and Protein. Many of the bodybuilders and athletes think BCAAs are better than protein and vice versa. So whether you should consume BCAAs or Protein this is what we are going to discuss in this article. Although they both resemble at some points, but they both have different roles in our body and they both act differently. In this article of BCAAs vs. Protein we will try to understand their basic differences and benefits of consumption of BCAAs and protein.

What are Proteins?

Protein is an essential nutrient out of 3 macronutrients. Proteins are made of amino acids which act as building blocks of protein. Protein includes 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. These EAAs help to gain muscle mass. Proteins help to grow and repair cells, essential for structure, regulation and function of the body’s tissues and organs. Protein can be consumed from Meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes etc. Further, protein is also sold as supplements in the form of whey/isolate/hydrolyzed protein powder.

Benefits of Protein Consumption

Muscle Growth:

Protein is essential for muscle growth. If you are an athlete or a body builder your body has a huge requirement for protein. This must be full-filled by intake of supplements or via protein based food consumption. Protein is rich in essential amino acids that helps to enhance, grow lean muscle mass and strengthens muscle.

Muscle Recovery:

Protein supplements are great for those who do strength or resistance exercise training. Post-Workout protein supplements offer a quick recovery from muscle damage after exercise by making muscle protein synthesis faster and better. This repairs muscle tissues and helps to recover from muscle soreness which improves muscle recovery and that helps to improve the training volume and athletic performance.

Weight Loss:

Protein intake helps in reducing weight. Protein can help to lose weight by reducing hunger. If you feel less hungry then you will eat less which helps to lose weight. According to a review protein supplement intake is helpful for obese patients as this helps in reducing fat mass and body.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are incomplete protein. BCAAs stand for Branched Chain Amino Acids that are combinations of 3 essential amino acids. These three essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The molecular structure of these three EAAs includes branches; this is why they are referred to as Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAAs cannot be produced by the body instead they must be obtained from foods. BCAAs have a lower caloric content than whey protein that helps in weight loss. This also boosts protein synthesis which helps to reduce muscle breakdown and generates lean muscle mass and enhances athletic performance.

Benefits of BCAAs Consumption

Improves Post Workout Muscle Recovery:

BCAA supplements help to reduce post workout muscle soreness which helps in quick muscle recovery. The pre workout BCAA supplements help to speed up your recovery time which helps to maintain your regularly scheduled program, rep volume, peak power and strength.

Improve Athletics Performance:

BCAAs help to stimulate anabolic signaling as they are oxidized in the skeletal muscles. BCAAs have a more direct and quick effect on muscle which enhances the athletics performance.

Muscle Growth:

BCAAs and leucine help in muscle growth by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. You can have 22% improvement in muscle protein synthesis if the BCAA supplements are consumed along with the resistance training or work out.

BCAAs VS. Protein: Understand the Differences

In the discussion of BCAAs vs. Protein the primary difference between them is protein contains all 20 essential amino acids whereas BCAAs include only 3 amino acids which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. One may think that then we should consume protein instead of BCAAs but this is not that simple. Protein obviously contains all EAAs but the body takes time to break down protein into amino acids for muscle buildup or repair but on the other hand BCAAs are readily available to the body for muscle recovery or growth that speed up the muscle protein synthesis.

Another difference is protein takes longer to digest. As we have mentioned this earlier, the body breaks down protein into amino acid which makes the process a bit lengthy whereas BCAAs are already broken down which gets digested easily and faster compared to protein.

Since, BCAAs are more effective on enhancing instant performance hence during resistance training or exercise BCAAs help to delay muscle and mental fatigue which can enhance performance and increase workout volume. However, on the other hand complete protein offers other different benefits in the long run.

Protein Vs. BCAA for Muscle Growth:

If you are doing extensive muscle building training then you need all essential amino acids to meet the protein requirements. Also this helps to build muscle mass. These all essential amino acids can only be found in protein. You may consume protein supplements to meet the daily protein requirement. While protein takes some time to break down, BCAAs offer essential amino acids instantly to the body to support buildup of the muscle mass.

Whether you consume protein from food or supplements, if it is between BCAAs Vs. Protein powders or protein based food consumption for muscle growth then Protein wins as protein contains all EAAs including BCAAs.

Protein Vs. BCAA for Muscle Recovery:

For muscle recovery it requires muscle synthesis and repair which protein alone does for you. For muscle recovery you need all EAAs and protein contains all of them which BCAAs doesn’t. So here as well protein wins. Just be sure before buying a protein supplement that it contains BCAAs.

Protein Vs. BCAA for Athletic Performance:

BCAAs or Protein powder?? Choosing between them becomes tougher when you want to enhance your athletic performance. Since BCAAs are already broken down hence they have direct effect. BCAAs are oxidized in your skeletal muscles which help to stimulate anabolic signaling and enhance performance instantly. On the other hand Protein takes longer to break down hence does not put much effect on muscles’ performance. Hence here BCAAs win.

Adding BCAA to Protein Shake

There is no need to add BCAAs in protein powder as Protein already contains all BCAAs and the rest of the EAAs. Leucine which is one of three EAAs in BCAAs used for muscle protein synthesis is also available in protein. So protein alone can take care of your muscle growth and recovery if it is taken in the proper amount. But in some cases you may need to add BCAA to your protein shake.

You will always find all EAAs including BCAAs in a protein powder/supplement but you must identify what amount of protein that supplement is containing. This means if the protein content is less than 20g then the leucine content will also be lesser which will slow down the muscle protein synthesis process. So adding BCAAs to the protein shake would increase the leucine content into your diet that will help to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis. In this scenario you can enjoy the benefits of adding BCAA to protein shake. On the other hand if the protein content is more than 20 to 30g in a protein supplement then there is no need to add BCAAs to it.


Both these protein and BCAAs work for muscle protein synthesis but both of them have their own role in our body. The consumption of these depends upon requirement. From this article on BCAAs Vs. Protein we can understand that if you want to increase the capacity for muscle recovery and develop more lean muscle mass then protein alone can help you to do this but if you want an instant effect such as improvement in athletic performance then you can consume BCAA supplement. Unlike protein, BCAAs are readily available to the body which make them easy to digest and have a direct effect on performance improvement.

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