Amino acids are one of the most studied performance enhancers in the last 40 years. Of the many aminos acid supplements available, branched-chain aminos (BCAAs) are the most popular amongst athletes. Some performance athletes swear by their benefits for muscle gain, recovery, and athletic performance.
But BCAAs may not be as great for muscle building and performance as you think.
New research has shown BCAAs may actually slow the rate of muscle gain and may even have negative effects on overall health.
So, what do you choose? If BCAAs aren’t fantastic for performance, how do you know which amino acid supplement to consider?
Well, the truth is, choosing the right amino acid supplement can be tricky. If you choose the wrong one, it can have detrimental effects on your well-being. On the other hand, choosing the right amino acid supplement can support your overall health and accelerate your fitness goals in powerful ways.
Here’s an amino acid supplement to consider: Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids (EAAs) have all of the benefits of BCAAs and then some. The scientific literature backs them up as one of the best supplements you can take to enhance your athletic performance, recovery, and overall health.
So Wait, What Are Amino Acids Again?
Amino acids are the main building blocks of protein. They act as the catalyst for nearly every chemical process in the body. They support processes like protein synthesis, muscle gain, brain function, hormone regulation, metabolism, and more. There are 20 amino acids in total, and all of them are necessary to make the magic happen for your health and performance.
Okay, so what are EAAs and how do they help my performance?
Of the 20 total amino acids you can have, nine are classified as essential. Essential amino acids are the ones that the body can’t make by itself. They must be eaten or consumed through diet. EAAs are easily found in protein-rich foods like meat, fish, and eggs, and of course, amino acid supplements.
Each EAA plays a different role in supporting the body. Here are the top nine EAAs and what they do to support your health and performance:
- Lysine plays a role in growth hormone secretion, which supports muscle repair and recovery. It’s also an important part of structural proteins like collagen and elastin, which help build strong connective tissue.
- Methionine helps the body process and eliminate fat, promotes heart health, and supports the liver to eliminate toxins in the body.
- Phenylalanine has pain-killing and anti-depressant effects and is important for processing norepinephrine and dopamine. It also helps the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are important for a healthy nervous system.
- Threonine promotes a healthy metabolism and immune system. Like Lysine, it’s also an important component of structural proteins and connective tissue.
- Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, which manages sleep, appetite, and mood. It also has pain-suppressing qualities and can increase pain tolerance during hard workouts or competitions.
- Leucine is essential for protein synthesis, blood sugar regulation, and producing growth hormones.
- Isoleucine helps prevent muscles from breaking down during exercise, which may support faster recovery.
- Valine helps stimulate muscle regeneration and is involved in energy production. It’s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production, and energy regulation.
- Histidine is a precursor to histamine, which can help the body respond to free radicals produced during exercise. It’s also a precursor to carnosine, which turns lactic acid back into usable fuel and reduces soreness.
So, Here’s the Problem With BCAAs
The popular benefits that many people associate with BCAAs, like muscle growth and performance enhancement are often overstated, misunderstood, and sometimes flat out wrong.
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 discussed two studies that found that BCAAs actually decreased muscle protein synthesis and instead increased the catabolic rate of lean tissue. This means that muscle was being broken down faster than it was repaired.
The catabolic state was so aggressive with BCAAs because the body was trying to find the other EAAs to complete protein synthesis. But it couldn’t. Without having all of the EAAs, the body was left with no choice but to break down muscle in order to find the last six aminos that were missing.
In other words, BCAAs don’t work on their own. All of the EAAs are necessary to complete protein synthesis and muscle growth.
The study concluded that the idea that BCAA supplements alone stimulate muscle growth or produce an anabolic response is entirely untrue. And that’s just the beginning. In addition to being ineffective for building muscle or faster recovery, BCAAs can also have a negative impact on one’s overall health:
- High doses of BCAAs can deplete B vitamins. The use of BCAAs requires several B vitamins in order to work. A B vitamin deficiency can disrupt hundreds of biological functions like digestion, nervous system function, brain health, and hormone production.
- An overabundance of BCAAs can hinder serotonin production. The BCAAs and tryptophan both use the same carrier system to get to the brain. This means too many BCAAs can disrupt the brain’s ability to process tryptophan and can create a shortage of serotonin. Low serotonin is linked to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, carbohydrate cravings, attention disorders, and more.
- BCAAs may cause insulin resistance and interfere with blood glucose levels. Increased BCAA levels are linked to a high risk of metabolic disorder and insulin resistance, and may even predict the development of type 2 diabetes.
EAAs Are Better Than BCAAs and Here’s Why
The verdict is in: EAAs beat out BCAAs as the best amino acid supplement, and their benefits go far beyond building muscle.
Even though BCAAs are still essential for human health and actually serve as a good source of fuel for workouts, they simply don’t build muscle without the help of EAAs.
Here’s how EAAs can support your performance in ways that BCAAs cannot:
- Muscle Maintenance: EAAs help preserve muscle mass, especially when training in a fasted state. They help decrease muscle damage and promote a healthy inflammatory response.
- Exercise Recovery: Supplementing with EAAs after working out increases muscle protein synthesis and helps grow muscle mass. This may support faster recovery and less fatigue after training.
- Appetite Regulation: Having the right balance of amino acids may help with appetite and hunger pangs because EAAs activate the brain cells that regulate hunger and feelings of fullness.
- Cognitive Function: Ample tryptophan is necessary to make serotonin in order to promote good sleep and better cognitive performance.
- Improved Sleep: Amino acid supplementation has been shown to improve sleep and mood.
- Metabolic Health: The proper ratio of amino acids could increase red blood cell count. They can also lower fasting blood glucose levels, support better red blood cell formation, and improve glycogen stores.
- Fasting and Ketosis: Consuming too much leucine can trigger 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 insulin response from supplementing with the right ratios of EAAs won’t interfere with fasting or ketosis, and might even make these processes better!
As you can see, providing your body with the full spectrum of EAAs—rather than just a few of the BCAAs—has a myriad of benefits that extend far beyond muscle-building. Think of it this way: BCAAs start the race, but the other six EAAs finish the race.
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. Many EAA supplements have added sugar, stimulants, artificial ingredients, or extra calories.
But there’s one EAA supplement that has all of the benefits and none of the junk: Kion Aminos.
Kion Aminos is one of the cleanest, most effective amino acid supplements available, with a whopping 99% absorption rate, that makes them ready to be used by the body in just 30 minutes.
But don’t just take our word for it. See how Kion Aminos have helped our customers.
Here’s what customer Kerry H. said, “I’ve been taking Kion Aminos for a year now and I have noticed a complete change in my energy throughout the day. They taste delicious and allow me to push through the day with a clear head. They even help after my workout when I am fasting by reducing my appetite...”
And Vince M. says, “Since taking Kion Aminos I notice more energy during my workouts and less soreness after my workouts. I enjoy them so much I have recommended them to others in my gym.”
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!