eaas-vs-bcaas
Articles, General Fitness

EAAs Vs BCAAs: How To Choose The Best Amino Acid Supplement

eaas-vs-bcaas

Amino acids have been one of the premier performance supplements for nearly 40 years. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are particularly popular among athletes, who swear by their effects on muscle gain, recovery, and athletic performance.

However, new research has revealed that BCAAs aren’t nearly as beneficial as people think they are. In fact, they could actually be slowing the rate of muscle gain and may even have deleterious effects on overall health.

While the wrong kind of amino acid supplement can be detrimental to your well-being, the right kind can support your health and accelerate your fitness goals. Cue essential amino acids (EAAs). EAAs carry all of the benefits of BCAAs without any of the drawbacks, and the scientific literature backs them up as one of the best supplements you can take to optimize your athletic performance, recovery, and overall health.

But don’t just take our word for it – you’re about to learn what the science has to say about how EAAs can optimize your well-being.


What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and serve as the catalyst for nearly every chemical process in the body. Most people associate amino acids purely with protein synthesis and muscle gain, but they’re also necessary for nearly every other physiological function, including enzyme production, hormone regulation, cognitive ability, neurotransmitter balance, and metabolism. There are 20 amino acids in total, and all of them are required to make these vital processes happen.


What Are the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)?

Of the 20 amino acids, nine are classified as essential. Essential amino acids are the ones that the body can’t produce itself; they must be acquired through diet, specifically from protein-rich foods like meat, fish, and eggs, and of course, amino acid supplements. EAAs support the body in several critical ways:

  • Lysine plays a role in growth hormone secretion, which supports muscle repair and recovery. It’s also a critical component of structural proteins like collagen and elastin, which are important for building strong connective tissue.
  • Methionine helps the body process and eliminate fat, promotes cardiovascular health, and supports liver function to help the body eliminate toxins.
  • Phenylalanine has a pain-killing and antidepressant effect and is necessary for the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine. It also stimulates the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are critical for nervous system function.
  • Threonine supports fat metabolism and immune function. Like lysine, it’s also a crucial component of structural proteins and connective tissue.
  • Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, which regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. It also has pain-suppressing qualities and can increase pain tolerance during hard workouts or competitions.
  • Leucine is critical for protein synthesis, blood sugar regulation, and growth hormone production.
  • Isoleucine helps prevent muscle from breaking down during exercise, which could lead to faster recovery. It’s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production, and energy regulation.
  • Valine helps stimulate muscle regeneration and is involved in energy production.
  • Histidine is a precursor to histamine, which can help you fight off the cell-damaging free radicals you produce during exercise. It’s also a precursor to carnosine, which helps turn lactic acid back into useable fuel and reduce soreness. Histidine’s status as “essential” is debatable since it can be easily produced in the presence of the other essential amino acids.

What Are the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?

Three of the essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – are known as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), named for their branched chemical structure.

The BCAAs are unique because they are metabolized in the muscle instead of the liver. This means that they’re available in the bloodstream soon after ingestion and can be used for quick energy during exercise. BCAA supplements are popular among athletes because they’ve been linked with increased muscle mass, decreased fatigue, and improved glycogen storage.

However, the supposed benefits of BCAAs are often embellished, misunderstood, and some even flat out wrong.


The Problem with BCAAs

A recent meta-analysis of research conducted between 1985 and 2017 revealed zero human studies in which BCAAs alone were responsible for more efficient protein synthesis or improved athletic performance.

In fact, the meta-analysis detailed two studies which found that BCAAs decreased muscle protein synthesis and actually accelerated the catabolic rate of lean tissue. This means that muscle was being broken down faster than it could be repaired.

The catabolic state was so aggressive in the presence of BCAAs because the body was rapidly trying to derive the other essential amino acids to complete protein synthesis. Without a complete profile of essential amino acids, the body was left with no choice but to break down muscle to derive the six that were missing.

In other words, BCAAs do not work in isolation; all of the essential amino acids are required to complete protein synthesis.

The study concluded that the idea that BCAA supplements stimulate muscle growth or produce an anabolic response is entirely unwarranted. And that’s just the beginning. In addition to being ineffective for building muscle or faster recovery, BCAAs can also have deleterious effects on overall health:


Why EAAs Are Superior to BCAAs

Despite all of this, BCAAs are still essential for human health and actually serve as a good source of fuel for workouts.

They simply don’t build muscle in isolation.

You need adequate levels of all of the essential amino acids to optimize health and complete protein synthesis. Think of it this way: BCAAs begin the process of protein synthesis, and the other six EAAs complete the process.

This is why it’s best to choose supplements that contain all of the essential amino acids if you truly want to maximize performance, recovery, and well-being.


Health Benefits of Essential Amino Acids

What else are EAAs good for, other than packing on the muscle and gettin’ swole? Well, as it turns out, a lot of things:

  • Muscle Maintenance: EAAs have significant muscle-preserving effects, especially when training in a fasted state. These include decreased indicators of muscle damage and the maintenance of a healthy inflammatory response.
  • Exercise Recovery: Supplementing with EAAs post-workout increases muscle protein synthesis and net muscle protein balance. This may stimulate faster recovery and reduce fatigue after training.
  • Appetite Regulation: Having a sufficient balance of amino acids may help normalize appetite because EAAs activate the brain cells that regulate hunger and satiety.
  • Cognitive Function: Appropriate levels of tryptophan are necessary to produce serotonin and optimize cognitive performance.
  • Improved Sleep: Amino acid supplementation has been shown to improve sleep and mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Metabolic Health: Proper ratios of amino acids could increase red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and serum albumin. They can also lower fasting blood glucose, support better red blood cell formation, and improve glycogen replenishment
  • Fasting and Ketosis: Ingestion of high amounts of leucine triggers an insulin spike, which may “break a fast” and interfere with ketosis. However, this only happens when leucine levels aren’t balanced by the other EAAs, which help buffer the glycemic response. The insignificant insulin response from a supplement with the proper ratios of EAAs won’t interfere with fasting or ketosis, and might even make them easier!

Conclusion

The verdict is in: EAAs beat out BCAAs as the best amino acid supplement, and their benefits go far beyond building muscle. EAAs are a true nutritional powerhouse that can help you optimize your training, recovery, sleep, mood, and so much more.

However, finding a quality EAA supplement can prove to be challenging. Kion Aminos is one of the cleanest, most effective amino acids formulations available, with a whopping 99% utilization rate and the ability to be absorbed and metabolized by the body in just 20 minutes. Check out Kion Aminos here.

What other questions do you have about EAAs? What’s the most interesting benefit you’ve experienced from them? Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below!

41 thoughts on “EAAs Vs BCAAs: How To Choose The Best Amino Acid Supplement

  1. Andrew Miller says:

    Curious if there is any benefit or hindrance to stacking EAA’s with a caffeinated pre workout supplement? I realize EAA’s offer a “natural” energy boost. I need a bit more than that with a 5am crossfit wod. Thanks!

    1. Team Kion says:

      It depends on the supplement you’re using. If it’s pure caffeine, then there shouldn’t be any issues. However, if there are other ingredients, specifically added carbohydrates/sugars and fat, then they could impede the absorption of EAAs.

      We’re fond of stacking Kion Coffee and Kion Aminos post-workout for a solid pre-workout!

  2. Mark says:

    I understand for best utilisation we need to take them away from protein and fats Can you take the EAA’s with glycogen ( such as Ucan) and electrolytes, such as during a long course triathlon?

    1. Team Kion says:

      Yes, if you are in need of an additional fuel source, clean carbs would be better source from an absorption standpoint than proteins/fats

  3. Rob Cushman says:

    How EAAs synthesized? What is the source?

    1. Team Kion says:

      The amino acids are derived from plant based sources. The individual amino acids are extracted from the broth using a process involving centrifugal force which separates them by their weights. They are pure, pharmaceutical grade, crystalline amino acids. There are no plant residues or sugars, yeast, gluten, soy, corn, wheat, rice, preservatives, excipients or animal products. They are vegan, and produced in a cGMP Laboratory in the USA.

  4. A Narsh says:

    I do CrossFit, which is a high intensity workout. I need to build muscle. Additional energy and recovery are both important. Would you recommend taking Kion pre-workout and post-workout ? If yes, How many for pre-workout and post-workout?

    1. Team Kion says:

      You could absolutely benefit from Kion Aminos pre and post-workout. One serving (5 tablets or 1 scoop of powder) at each of those times will do the trick.

  5. Daniel Dorigiola says:

    Hello I live in Canada I just want to confirm that the pricing is in USD dollars?

    1. Team Kion says:

      That’s correct – the pricing is in USD.

  6. Sandy VanK says:

    Is there caffeine in this product?

    1. Team Kion says:

      There is no caffeine in Kion Aminos.

  7. John says:

    Why are the relative quantities of AA’s in your product proprietary? Do you know the secret ratio? Love your podcast, but this makes me wary. With supplements, I usually just assume “proprietary” means “produced in the cheapest way possible.”

    1. Team Kion says:

      In the interest of complete transparency and as a part of our mission to provide the highest quality products, we are working to phase out all proprietary blends and labeling. All of our products will list their exact ingredients and quantities over the next year.

  8. David says:

    Is it better to take a supplement that constains just the EAAs? or a supplement that contains all 18 amino acids including all 8 EAAs? Thanks!

    1. Team Kion says:

      The non-essential amino acids are easily produced by the body, so a supplement that contains just the EAAs will do the trick.

      1. David says:

        Good to know. Thank you!

        1. Team Kion says:

          You’re welcome!

  9. Andrea says:

    Will taking your aminos activate mTor just like any other source of protein?

    1. Team Kion says:

      Yes, but activation of the mTor pathway is necessary to build muscle. While there is a link to mTor activation and decreased longevity, the effects can be largely mitigated by simple steps like fasting or even just protein fasting for a stretch.

  10. Andrey says:

    Is there any guarantee that the expensive EAAs will work for muscle building rather than for energy need (burn like glucose during the workout)?

    1. Team Kion says:

      A small percentage of the EAAs (specifically the three branched chain amino acids) will be used for fuel during your workout. However, the complete EAA profile will contribute to muscle maintenance and repair. Consider taking EAAs after your workout to aid in the recovery process if muscle-building is your primary goal.

  11. Wade Schnell says:

    If you are doing IF will taking EAAs in the morning disrupt the fast?

    1. Team Kion says:

      It depends on your goal for fasting. EAAs can make fasting easier and more sustainable by suppressing hunger and cravings, improving energy levels, helping you maintain muscle mass, and supporting training in a fasted state. If your primary goal for fasting is to lose weight and improve body composition, EAAs will not negatively impact your fast and will likely improve your results.

      Amino acids have been shown to inhibit autophagy, so you might want to skip them if maximizing autophagy is your goal.

  12. Justin Singh says:

    How does EAA differ in absorption than say whey protein isolate? My understanding is that the whey consists of EAA’s as well.

    1. Team Kion says:

      Whey does indeed contain the essential amino acids. However, whey protein isolate has a utilization rate of about 18%, whereas isolated EAAs have a utilization rate of 99%. So, there’s essentially zero waste and very minimal calories in EAAs when compared to whey.

  13. Cherie Sell says:

    How much protein is in the tablets ? I’m doing autophagy fasting 3 x a week, and need to keep my protein very low

    1. Team Kion says:

      The tablets contain 5 grams of EAAs per serving.

  14. Joe says:

    Great article- I might have missed this – “Of the 20 amino acids, nine are classified as essential. Essential amino acids are the ones that the body can’t produce itself”. The product only had 8 not 9. Is there a reason why all 9 are not included? Also, thought in a podcast with Ann Gittleman and you, she mentioned that 9 needed to be in there as well.

    1. Team Kion says:

      You’re correct – Kion EAAs contain 8 of the 9 EAAs. Our formulation excludes Histidine because blood Histidine levels will rise naturally when you consume the other EAAs.

  15. Audrey Glemba says:

    When is the best time to consume EAA’s? And should they be taken with food?

    1. Team Kion says:

      The best time to take EAAs depends on your goals. Here are several options for timing:

      1. Take them 20-30 minutes before a workout as a pre-workout boost or to support fasted exercise
      2. Take them during your workout if you need an extra push through a high-intensity session or every 1-2 hours during long sessions
      3. Take them within 1 hour after a workout to improve your recovery
      4. Take them first thing in the morning to support fasting and improved energy levels
      5. Take them 30-60 minutes before bed to support deep sleep.

      It’s best to use EAAs on an empty stomach. Food, especially additional protein or fat, will interfere with the utilization rate of our formula. Having said that, our aminos are fully absorbed within 30 minutes, so any food consumed outside of that timeframe will not interfere with utilization.

  16. Steve Protzman says:

    Looking for the extra edge to get lean

    1. Team Kion says:

      EAAs can help with that! Check out our article on fasting for weight loss to learn how aminos can support weight management.

  17. Joel Weston says:

    When’s the best time to take this supplement. Before or after training or whenever?

    1. Team Kion says:

      You can take EAAs at any time around your workout, depending on your personal goals:

      1. Take them 20-30 minutes before a workout as a pre-workout boost or to support fasted exercise
      2. Take them during your workout if you need an extra push through a high-intensity session or every 1-2 hours during long sessions
      3. Take them within 1 hour after you workout to improve your recovery

  18. David Zack says:

    What is you recommendation for a 67 year old male who works out either strength and or cardio daily for about an hour? Mounting biking, road and deadlifts, squats, bench etc in the gym with sandbags thrown in 2 days per week. How much aminos daily

    1. Team Kion says:

      We recommend starting with one serving a day, either pre-workout for an energy boost or post-workout to aid in recovery. You can add in an additional serving if you feel like you need an additional recovery or performance aid.

  19. Kyle Teague says:

    An important thing to add would be the ideal time to take them. I have a few bottles of the Kion aminos is it better to take before or after training ?

    Thanks Ben !

    1. Team Kion says:

      The ideal time to take EAAs depends on your personal needs. You can take them as a pre-workout boost performance or support fasted training, and you can take them post-workout to improve recovery.

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