BCAAs vs Whey Protein, Which is The Best to Grow Muscles?

Quick Answer

Protein and amino acids (the building blocks that make it) are incredibly important in the quest to grow muscle size and strength.

BCAAs or branched chain amino acids give your muscles energy during a workout. This can help you get those extra reps without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, whey protein is best after a workout in order to boost protein synthesis and aid post workout recovery.

If you are new to the gym and is looking to build muscle size and strength, you may be confused about what supplements you should be taking to get the most out of your training.

Let’s face it, for the fitness newbie, the sheer list of available products is mind boggling! Do you need pre or post workout? Protein or amino acids or both?

Well, allow me to give you the lowdown when it comes to BCAAs vs whey protein.

What are Protein and Amino Acids and Why Should You Care?

Protein is the most essential macronutrient that our body needs because it is found in every cell of our bodies. It makes up our hair, skin, nails, muscles and tendons.

Getting enough protein is essential for everyday life, but becomes even more important if you’re hitting the gym hard.

It’s vital from a workout perspective because protein is what repairs and helps build our muscles.

The National Institute of Health recommends that the average person should consume around 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

If you’re working out (especially weight training) on a regular basis, you should be aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

All proteins are made up of even smaller building blocks, you guessed it, they are called amino acids.

There are 20 amino acids in the human body. Nine of these are classed as “essential” meaning our body is unable to produce them on its own and needs to source them from the foods we eat.

Supplementing with protein and amino acids can help not only build muscle but prevent muscle loss, reduce muscle fatigue and reduce post workout recovery time.

What Are BCAAs?

The term BCAAs or branched chain amino acids, refers to three specific essential amino acids which are called l-leucine, l-isoleucine and l-valine.

These play a key role in promoting protein synthesis within muscles, supplying muscle energy and preserving lean mass. All three can be found in any BCAA supplement.

When you start cutting calories significantly, your body tries to hold onto its fat stores and starts to break down muscle for energy. BCAAs can help you to lose weight while preventing your body from breaking down muscle.

This is probably the biggest advantage of BCAAs for those on a very low calorie diet.

Research has shown that the use of branched-chain amino acids have a number of workout benefits including:

  • building lean muscle
  • promoting post workout recovery
  • reducing the levels of serotonin you naturally produce.

What Are Whey Protein Supplements?

When milk is acidified, you’re left with two things. Curd which is the solid and whey which is liquid - think Little Miss Muffet

Whey can be turned from a liquid into a powder by removing all of the water.

There are numerous types of protein powder available on the market, however, when someone talks about protein powder, it’s generally safe to assume they are talking about whey protein.

Whey protein is an easily absorbed forms of protein. This is why it’s perfect after a workout.

Here are some of the benefits of taking whey:

  • Helps build muscle
  • Helps reduce recovery times
  • Fast absorbing into the body
  • Helps reduce muscle fatigue
  • Protects muscle
  • Appetite suppressant

It’s been proven in various studies that whey has the greatest positive effect on muscle protein synthesis, especially in resistance training. It also enhances recovery (source).

Whey can also reduce your appetite (source) which could help fend off the post-workout binge.

Research also shows whey could increase your metabolism and help you burn fat while maintaining that all important muscle (source).

When to Choose BCAAs

BCAAs are often advertised for use before, during and after a workout. However most workout warriors would agree that they work best as a muscle fuel boost mid way through your gym session.

BCAAs also tend to be one of the cheapest amino acid derived products available meaning you get the muscle building benefits while remaining easy on your wallet.

The BCCA Pros


  • 2:1:1 ratio of amino acids
  • Clean powder
  • No additives or fillers
  • Lab tested to guarantee purity
  • Lots of size options available for convenience

The BCCA Cons


  • Some dislike the taste
  • Some find it hard to mix

When to Choose Whey Protein Supplements

Whey protein (as long as you're not vegan) is a great way to ramp up your protein intake.

Whey is best used as a post workout supplement in the magic 20 minute window after a gym session.

Although a variety of whey products are available, the best quality tend to come at a higher price.

The Whey Protein Pros


  • Around 20 grams per serving 100% whey protein
  • low carbs per serving
  • Low calories per scoop
  • Non GMO
  • Natural sweeteners (stevia) and flavors
  • No artificial additives or fillers
  • Manufactured in GMP and NSF approved facility
  • Made in the US

The Whey Protein Cons


  • Taste is too sweet for some
  • Expensive

Conclusion

As whey protein is best post workout and BCAAs are best used mid session, they both make great additions to your stack as a combination of both products can ramp up your muscle building potential.

However, if you’re looking to lose weight, whey makes an excellent meal replacement, meaning you can lose weight while getting all the muscle benefits.

Yet BCAAs are the better value option for anyone looking for a thrifty choice.

Helen Sanders
 

Chief editor here at Health Ambition, I'm a proud mother of two passionate about nutrition and ways to live healthier with more energy!