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Whey protein vs. BCAAs – how and why should you use these supplements?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and whey protein are two top-rated dietary supplements. They are usually used by professional athletes and people who do strength training. However, more and more strength athletes are also turning to protein and BCAAs. Such people often follow the advice of more experienced colleagues. However, it is worth knowing when and how to use the mentioned supplements. That is why we will try to answer these questions in this article.

BCAA – effects and advantages

The basic building blocks of proteins in the human body are various amino acids. Notably, the body can produce some of them on its own. This is why nutritionists refer to them as endogenous amino acids. However, there are also compounds, the synthesis of which does not occur naturally in the human body. Therefore, the so-called essential amino acids must be supplied with food.

Among essential amino acids, researchers have isolated three precious compounds. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids have a unique “branched” chemical structure. For this reason, researchers have named them branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).

BCAA has been the focus of attention of strength athletes for decades. All because of their unique properties. It is well known that BCAA is essential for building muscle tissue. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are directly involved in protein synthesis to form new cells. That’s why gaining muscle mass would be impossible without these compounds.

Moreover, it was once believed that BCAA reduces the amount of lactic acid secreted after training. Therefore their consumption was supposed to reduce post-workout muscle soreness (the so-called soreness). In this case, however, recent studies have not provided conclusive confirmation of this hypothesis.

When it comes to dietary supplements containing BCAAs, they are created according to different assumptions. Usually, manufacturers rely on a powder with a 2:1:1 ratio, which means that the finished product contains twice as much leucine as isoleucine and valine. However, you can also find preparations with an amino acid ratio of 4:1:1 on the market.

It used to be recommended that athletes took BCAA supplements immediately before strength or aerobic training. The amino acids were supposed to inhibit muscle catabolism and increase the anabolic effect of exercise. However, newer studies have not given a clear answer as to when BCAAs should be taken.

Whey protein (WPC) – effects and benefits

Protein supplements have become a symbol of the world of bodybuilding and strength sports. However, this is hardly surprising. Without an adequate protein supply in the diet, it is impossible to achieve adequate muscle mass gains. Of course, the primary protein sources are food products such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy products, etc. However, many people may have problems with achieving the required protein supply through diet alone. This is when protein supplements come into play, allowing you to quickly replenish proteins.

Of course, you can find numerous types of proteins in stores. Nevertheless, the most popular among bodybuilders is still the traditional whey protein WPC (Whey Protein Complex). It is extracted from milk whey in such a way as to achieve maximum protein content in the dry product. Importantly, WPC is considered a complete protein. This means that all essential amino acids can be found in their composition.

Does this mean that every strength trainee must absolutely use whey protein? Not at all. If someone has no problems with arranging a diet in such a way as to provide the body with the necessary amount of protein – supplementation will not make much sense. However, you need to remember that the demand for protein increases with body weight. For example, a person weighing 100 kilograms needs significantly more protein than someone weighing 30 kilograms less. It is therefore worth bearing this in mind when choosing a possible supplementation.

When it comes to the method of use, whey protein should be consumed immediately after training. This way, the body will be able to quickly start the process of rebuilding damaged muscle tissue. Also, athletes often consume protein just before going to bed. Here too, the aim is to support the anabolic effect occurring during muscle regeneration while you sleep.

Whey protein or BCAA – which to choose?

In light of the latest research, whey protein seems to be a much better option for people who train for strength. First of all, it contains all essential amino acids. Meanwhile, only three of them can be found in BCAA. Protein also supports muscle tissue recovery in a more effective way. So if you regularly consume whey protein, you usually won’t need to take additional BCAAs.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Some people can suffer from lactose intolerance, which makes it practically impossible to safely use whey protein. Of course, you can then choose another nutrient (e.g., beef protein powder) or BCAAs. Branched-chain amino acids are also worth recommending to vegans and people who mainly do aerobic sports.

Both traditional whey protein and branched-chain amino acids BCAA are supplements that train people with several significant benefits. Protein supports the process of rebuilding muscle mass, and it is also a wholesome product, which means that it contains all essential amino acids. That’s why it’s generally a much better choice than BCAAs for people who train for strength. On the other hand, the mentioned amino acids can be recommended to all those who, for various reasons, cannot consume protein supplements. Moreover, BCAA supplementation may be beneficial for runners and other athletes practicing aerobic activities.

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