December 11th, 2018
Faith Leatherman BCAAs vs Protein

Are BCAAs More Important Than Protein?

Most health conscious individuals understand the importance of protein in helping them achieve their physique goals.

After all, increased protein intake has been shown in hundreds of studies to help reduce body fat, curb appetite, increase lean muscle and even enhance immunity.

And while protein, specifically whey protein, is undoubtedly highly effective at helping us improve our physiques, a new study shows that specific ingredients found naturally within whey protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), can be utilized to be even more effective than whey protein alone.

Experts have known about the importance and effectiveness of BCAAs for quite some time so that is nothing new.

However, when they designed a study to compare the effectiveness of athletes consuming BCAAs only vs. whey protein only, they saw some surprising results suggesting that BCAAs are significantly more effective than whey protein at helping athletes decrease body fat, increase lean muscle, and increase strength compared to whey protein.

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Now before you go out and toss your whey protein in favor of BCAAs, let’s take a closer look at this study + get the advice of fitness professionals to see the best way to utilize both protein and BCAAs for optimal results.

BCAAs vs. Whey Protein

bcaas vs protein
To understand why whey protein is so effective, it helps to get a little nerdy and look at its structure.

Whey protein is naturally very high in certain amino acids—in particular it is an excellent source of leucine, isoleucine, and valine—collectively known as branched chain amino acids or BCAAs.

As scientists and researchers conducted more research on BCAAs, they quickly realized they are highly effective on their own and could be utilized to have not only many of the same benefits of whey protein, but additional benefits beyond what whey offers on its own at certain dosages.

Which brings us to the study referenced above

The Study: Are BCAAs Really More Effective Than Protein?

protein supplements
In this study the experimenters compared the body fat levels, lean muscle mass, and strength of three groups of trained individuals who trained once per week for 8 weeks. These groups were broken up as follows:

1) 12 people who consumed 28 grams of whey protein
2) 12 people who consumed 14 grams of BCAAs
3) 12 people who consumed 28 grams of carbohydrates from a sports drink

While the results did indeed show that the BCAA group decreased body fat the most and increased lean muscle + strength the most, we think it is worth mentioning a few things here…

14 grams of BCAAs is a lot. With most BCAA supplements containing roughly 5 grams of BCAAs per serving, you are looking at ~3 servings of most products for this group.

28 grams of protein on the other hand, is roughly 1 serving of protein. 28 grams of carbs is also about 1 serving of a sports drink.

So in effect this study is comparing the effectiveness of taking 3 servings of 1 product (BCAAs) vs 1 serving of 2 other products (Whey and Sports Drinks).

And since most whey proteins naturally contain about 5 grams of protein per serving, if you utilized 3 servings of whey protein you’d also get about 15 grams of BCAAs + all the other helpful amino acids found in whey protein as well which would likely change the results of the study.

Finally, this study was funded by Scivation—one of the largest manufacturers of BCAAs in the country. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that they’d want the results to show how awesome BCAAs are ☺

Our Verdict: Whey Protein AND BCAAs Are Awesome and Highly Effective

Faith BCAA Burn
All that the above study really shows is that BOTH whey protein and BCAAs are highly effective at helping people improve their body composition by decreasing fat, increasing lean muscle, and getting stronger.

Bottom line: If you want to improve your physique and burn fat safely and consistently over time, you should consider using both Whey Protein and BCAAs.

To maximize the effectiveness of these products, remember the following:

-BCAAs give you the most bang for your buck before, during, and after workouts when your body needs amino acids for energy during the workout and to begin repairing itself after the workout. Look for products that contain 3+ grams of BCAAs/serving.

We recommend taking 1 serving of BCAAs before your workout and 1 serving during your workout.

Premium BCAA products like our BCAA Burn are calorie free and taste great so they are easy to fit in before/during a workout without getting bloated. Plus, our BCAA Burn also includes non-stimulant based fat burners to help you burn more fat during your workouts.

-Whey protein (which is naturally high in BCAAs) is also great before and after workouts, but since even the purest proteins contain ~100 calories per serving, some prefer to save protein shakes for after their workout or as a meal replacement.

We recommend taking 1 serving of whey protein within an hour after finishing your workout and optionally adding in another serving as a snack or meal replacement throughout the day.

Putting It All Together

Faith Leatherman Deadlift

Whey Protein and BCAAs are two of the most effective supplements you can use to get lean and recover faster. For optimal results, try the following on workout days:

30 minutes before your workout

-1 serving of BCAAs mixed with 8 to 12 oz. of water
-Optional: light snack containing carbs (oatmeal, fruit, etc).

During your workout

-1 serving of BCAAs mixed with 8 to 12 oz. of water

After your workout

-1 serving of whey protein mixed with 8-12 oz. of your favorite beverage. Post-workout is also the perfect time to consume carbohydrates as it helps replenish the energy you just burned AND helps protein be more effective by driving it into muscle cells. Aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbs with your shake for optimal results.

Snack/Meal Replacement

-1 serving of whey protein mixed with 8-12 oz. of your favorite beverage.

Alex Lewis

Alex is the co-founder & CEO of PrettyFit. He previously built and sold the sports nutrition company He was team captain of the Harvard men's track team in 2007-2008 where he set a school record in the Heptathlon and was 2nd all-time in the Decathlon. He is now focused on helping others discover the best ways to improve their lives through a healthy and fit lifestyle.

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