Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements have long held a special place in the hearts of bodybuilders and endurance athletes alike. But recently, essential amino acid(EAA) supplements have started cropping up everywhere, threatening to edge out BCAAs as fitness enthusiasts’ go-to sports supplement.
Is one really better than the other? Which supplement is right for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the two popular sports supplements.
Amino Acid Basics
The proteins that make up our muscles are in a constant state of turnover; as old proteins degrade, we produce new proteins to take their place. When the number of proteins being created exceeds the number of proteins breaking down, your body ‘grows,’ and you build muscle mass (this is called an anabolic state). When the number of proteins breaking down exceeds the number of proteins being created, though, the entire body enters a state of breakdown and you may lose muscle mass (this is called a catabolic state).
Related: Exactly What To Eat (And Drink) After A Workout To Boost Recovery
If you’re working out to build muscle and perform at your absolute best, you want your body to spend as much time as possible in ‘grow’ mode. Thing is, exercise typically shifts it into ‘breakdown’ mode. That’s where amino acids come in. To repair proteins and produce new ones—and ultimately boost your ability to pack on muscle—after exercising, your body needs an adequate amount of protein building blocks, molecules called amino acids.