BCAAs vs Creatine, Which One Should YOU Take?
We all know that when it comes to working out, especially weight training, getting enough protein is essential to get the most out of your gym sessions.
However, many people want to skip regular protein and get down to the nitty gritty by using its building blocks, amino acids.
But as usual, nothing is straightforward. With so many different amino acids-derived supplements out there such as creatine and BCAAs, it’s hard to know which one you should take.
That’s why I am going to let you in on the facts when it comes to getting the most out of amino acids. I’ll also explain when to use BCAAs vs creatine and their pros and cons.
What are Amino Acids and Why Should You Care?
It is a fact of life that protein is essential to maintain a healthy body.
Protein synthesis is necessary for everything from growing your hair and nails to building strong muscles.
All of our cells contain protein, and what makes up protein? That’s right, you guessed it: amino acids!
There are 20 amino acids in the human genetic code and nine of those are classed as “essential”.
When we speak of essential amino acids, we mean your body cannot produce them on its own. You need to get them either from the food you eat or through supplementation.
What Are BCAAs?
In the past few years, using branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements has become very popular throughout the fitness community.
When we talk about BCAAs we are referring to three specific essential amino acids called l-leucine, l-isoleucine and l-valine. All of these are found in any branched chain amino acid supplement.
These are the three amino acids primarily responsible for promoting protein synthesis, supplying muscle energy and preserving lean mass.
The biggest advantage when it comes to using BCAAs for the average Joe, is that if you’re on a calorie restrictive diet, BCAAs can help you to lose weight from fat and prevent your body from breaking down muscle.
This is one way to lower your body fat percentage and retain your lean muscle mass.
Research has shown that the use of branched-chain amino acids has a number of other benefits, particularly in regards to working out:
- Promote protein synthesis
- Aid post workout recovery
- Prevent muscle fatigue
BCAAs can reduce the levels of serotonin you naturally produce while hitting the gym. This means you experience less fatigue and can go harder for longer.
BCAAs not only help you retain lean muscle, they can help you build muscle as well. Best of all, they promote faster post-workout recovery.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is made within the body from two amino acids - arginine and methionine. It has an essential role in maintaining healthy skin but is found predominantly in the muscles.
You can also consume creatine through food sources including red meat and fish.
The main benefits of supplementing with creatine are:
- Improves performance
- Gives you energy
- Increases muscle
- Reduces potentials for injury/fatigue
Research has shown that using creatine supplements can increase muscular force and power, reduce fatigue and increase muscle mass (source).
One of main roles that creatine plays is providing your muscles with energy so that they can function correctly. If you can give your muscles a boost of energy, theoretically you could work harder for longer when you’re training.
One study looked at the effects of creatine supplementation on weight lifting, muscle strength and resistance training. Results showed that resistance training increased muscle strength by 8%. However, when weightlifting and resistance training were combined, the muscle strength was increased by 14% (source)