EAA. BCAA. TSA. NWA. I’m comin’ straight outta my mind with all these acronyms! (⭐️Gold star to me for working an early 90’s rap reference into an amino acid article woot woot!).
Clever supplement jokes aside, there is a LOT of info our there around EAA, and my goal here is to consolidate some of the most compelling research around them to help you to understand:
A. What exactly are EAAs?
B. What is the difference between BCAAs and EAAs (and is one superior to the other) and
C. Are they used for more than just fitness?
Essentially, what you’re about to learn are the ‘ABC’s of Essential Amino Acids. Let’s get started.
Your Granddaddy’s BCAAs.
I know. I know. It would be logical to start with ‘A’ but we’re actually going to skip on ahead to B…
As in ‘B’-CAA.
Let’s start with what we’ve all been told about BCAAs for the past 20 years. We know these by heart by now…
- BCAAs are the BEST supplement 👑when it comes to recovery and reducing muscle soreness.
- The three BCAAs (leucine, iso-leucine, and valine) are the most important ‘building blocks’ of proteins. Thus, supplementing with them is essential for delivering results.
- Of the three BCAA’s, Leucine is the ‘anabolic amino’. It turns on, and ‘activates’ muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
So let’s start there. Actually NONE of these are wrong. The research behind BCAA is still bullet-proof, and BCAAs can still be an enormously beneficial part of your recovery routine.
But, as you know, in the past few months, there is a new kid on the block…
the ‘New Kid on the Block’: Essential Amino Acids.
EAA, or ‘Essential Amino Acids’ are technically the new kid on the block, but they aren’t really all that new.
In fact, EAAs have actually been around for a long time…Like, since the beginning of time.
EAAs have been part of our biochemistry forever.
There are 9 (nine) of EAAs, and they are called ‘essential’ because your body can not make them on its own- EAA’s MUST be ingested from external sources like high-protein foods, or EAA supplements.
But why are more people considering EAA powder as an alternative performance supplement over BCAA? What’s the difference between BCAAs and EAAs? Let’s look at EAAs vs. BCAAs.
Are EAAs Better Than BCAAs?
That’s a trick question. Because guess what?
BCAAs ARE EAAs. That’s right – Here are the nine EAAs- see any familiar faces?
The Nine Essential Amino Acids:
So knowing that the three BCAAs are actually part of the larger family of EAAs means that often times* you are getting most/all of the performance benefits of BCAA along with EAA supplementation.
*EAA must contain adequate amounts of BCAA, which not all do. See bottom of article
EAA supplementation is starting to gain an even more impressive list of scientifically-proven performance benefits than BCAAs alone, The most notable being that EAA is shown to provide as much muscle protein synthesis as WHEY protein itself. (source)
Another reason that EAA might be better than BCAA is that in the absence of other EAAs, BCAAs synthesize and borrow EAA from your existing cells (source).
With EAA supplementation, you are getting those new EAAs exogenously, and do not need to catabolize what you already have!
So from an athletic standpoint, the bottom line is that Essential Amino Acids are superior to BCAA as long as they contain enough BCAA.
Are BCAAs A Waste of Money?
You might be thinking at this point… “okay, so EAAs are superior…but does that mean my branched-chain amino acids are worthless?”
BCAA supplementation still has much more behind around it than EAA, proving its effectiveness for improving intra-workout performance and post-workout recovery.
The reason why BCAA works even when consumed alone without the other 6 EAAs is because most of the time our bodies DO get have enough circulating EAA through our modern American diet to make good use of the BCAAs we take without having to catabolize existing muscle to get them.
So the bottom line is that people who are getting adequate amounts of complete protein through their diet might still want to stick with BCAA, while people following speciality diets, especially vegan or fasting diets would benefit even more from a good EAA mixture.
But we’ve heard of tons of folks benefitting MORE from EAA than BCAA even when following a healthy, high-protein diet.
And that’s because EAAs serve so many more functions in the body beyond providing energy and muscle benefits.
EAAs Provide Benefits BEYOND the Gym.
We’ve been talking primarily about EAA as it can relate to muscle growth and recovery. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The cool thing about EAA is that these nutrients play a role in SO many other bodily functions beyond muscle tissue growth and repair.
The nine essential amino acids are like actors in a play – each one has special roles that are important to creating the main story. We know the three BCAAs are the stars of the show, but the rest of the cast is just as important.
Here are the most important roles that the other 6 EAAs play in your body:
- Immunity: L-Histidine and L-Threonine help fight free radicals and support your immune system
- Mental Health: L-Tryptophan, L-Tyrosine, and L-Phenylalanine are essential to produce the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
- Skin Health: L-Lysine and L-Threonine are critical building blocks for structural proteins like collagen, which repairs connective tissue and skin
- Weight Management: L-Threonine and L-Methionine help your body properly metabolize fat and also detoxify your blood.
- Hormone Balance: EAAs help keep your endocrine system balanced. The two ‘L’s L-Leucine and L-Lysine are the relevant ones here.
You Must Have the Right EAA Ratio.
While EAA is showing even better results than BCAA, you have to keep in mind that ratios are important. The levels of each EAA relative to one another is important, and you REALLY need to have the proper amount of BCAA to make the most of those other 6 EAAs.
Think of BCAAs like starting your car.
You can start it up, but in order to put it in gear and drive (
to Chik-Fil-A) (I mean the gym!), you need to have both the starter (BCAA) and the fuel to drive (EAA).
What to Look for in an Essential Amino Acid (EAA) supplement.
So we all agree- EAAs are incredibly promising. Not only do they provide the same muscle protein synthesis rates as complete protein, but they are being used by your body for SO many important functions.
If you’re looking to try an EAA, here are a few things to look for:
- A researched ratio of EAA: Look for a product that has actual scientific studies behind the ratio being used (such as the AMINO9 used in our YUMINO EAA)
- Made in the USA: Domestically manufactured EAA products are generally going to contain higher quality, more reliable EAA material.
- Proper BCAA Concentration: As we’ve learned, BCAAs are PART of EAA, and EAAs work best in the presence of adequate levels of BCAA.
- EAA amount per serving. Look for an EAA product that has at least 5 grams of EAA per serving.