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August 10, 2021 8 min read

Thinking about getting on the dietary protein supplement train? We know how difficult that can be, especially if you do not have a degree in nutrition or biology and you are unfamiliar with the concept of amino acids and macronutrients.

There is so much information out there, and so many terrible, deceptive products that you can sometimes find yourself lost in all of this industry. Now, we can not tell you that this mere article will tell you all that you need to know about all dietary supplements, but we believe it is an absolute great start.

You already know that enough protein is incredibly important when you are trying to build muscle. This is why you have to make sure you are getting not only the right amount of protein intake, but also the best kind.

If you would like a short little summary before we begin, here is the breakdown.

Whey protein is a whole protein, which is healthier, faster, and easier to absorb into your body. BCAA is made up of individual amino acids, and it can help you if you are not looking for a very thorough, very intense supplement. There is more to it, of course.

Whey protein food supplement for training and exercise

Apart from what each workout supplement is and what they do, where they come from, you will likely also want to learn about when to take them and how. This article will cover it all, so you can get out of here with a better understanding of the subject and go out and make an informed decision.

So, let us stop all this preface talk and get down to business about BCAA and Whey protein - everything you need to know!

What Is The Value Of Protein Supplements?

Obviously, if you have an iron-clad meal plan that makes it so that you do not miss out on any protein or carb or fat, then there is absolutely no need for you to be thinking about supplements.

Not every bodybuilder needs to drink protein powder every morning and you might be able to reach the levels that you want to get to without needing to look into additives. However, if you do think there is something missing that you think you cannot get with food alone, then there are definitely  good supplements as well as bad supplements.

In this article, we are going to look at two good caloric protein source supplements, compare and contrast them, see how they would fare when taken together, and then how good of an investment they actually are. These will be BCAA and Whey protein products.

What Is Whey Protein And Where Does It Come From?

Whey protein is a dietary supplement that comes from the milk of a cow. Cow’s milk also features casein protein, which you may have also heard of within or outside fitness circles. Whey protein powder has been used in many different forms throughout the centuries.

Obviously, it was and still is used to feed livestock, but it was also used as a fertilizer in fields until it made it to our households as a common food additive. Nowadays, a Whey protein supplement is used in many different foods and dietary supplements, and it speaks to its absolute ability how popular it has become over the evolution of our human history.

What Does Whey Protein Do?

Whey protein is a fantastic supplement that can help in the process of muscle protein synthesis, which is the same as saying muscle growth. You can take up to 20 grams of Whey protein after you work out so it can stimulate muscle mass growth (this is the standard for an average male of 80 kilos or 176 pounds). There are also further uses for this protein that will be further detailed below.

What Are BCAA?

BCAA is the short version of branched-chain amino acids.

Branched-chain amino acids refer to leucine, isoleucine, as well as valine. These are only three of the total of nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the kinds of amino acids that you need to have in your diet in order to develop and be healthy, but that your body is unable to produce on your own.

In contrast, nonessential amino acids are the kinds your body produces naturally. Amino acids are nitrogen-containing building blocks of protein that form when they are combined. BCAA are called branched-chain amino acids because their chemical structure essentially features a side chain that contains extra carbons.

Out of all of the BCAA, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, leucine is thought to be the most important out of all in the muscle building process.

How Are BCAA Absorbed?

BCAA uses the help of your insulin in order to enter your muscle cell. When BCAA enters your body, they elicit both a small and a short lasting insulin release. This process is slightly different from the one carbohydrates use, and it is even a more effective, faster, and easier absorption process than the one for other kinds of amino acids.

However, there are certain kinds of proteins that absorb even faster than BCAA and other kinds of individual amino acids, and those are called whole proteins. This is because they take a different transportation route that makes them be absorbed faster by your body.

This means that if you have the right meal plan, you might have actually no need for BCAA, as healthy, more high-quality proteins definitely aid in the bulking process much more than mere supplements. However, it could also be that you have limited access to high-quality foods and proteins, and in this case, a BCAA supplement can definitely be of help.

What Are The Benefits Of BCAA?

BCAA does not affect only your muscle tissue. They also affect other parts of your body and are used for different things other than muscle growth. BCAA also affects your brain, your heart, your liver, and your kidneys. They are digested in your liver and then brought over to where they need to be through your bloodstream.

BCAA are broken down during exercise, which means that they are extra useful when you are training your strength and training for long periods of time. While BCAA does end up in other parts of your body, most do end up being used in your muscle tissue, which makes it so that they are best used for people who practice often.

You can definitely have too much of a good thing and you should only take supplements if you will spend that energy and use up that extra nutritional value. Your other amino acids will likely end up being used to synthesize enzymes and hormones, because of a concept called competitive absorption.

This concept creates potential imbalances in the absorption of amino acids which may make your excess amino acids be converted to fatty acids, ketones or glucose instead of helping with your muscle growth.

With this in mind, however, it is important to not that BCAA is considered very safe and its upper limit is quite high, meaning you will likely note harm your body or your bulking process by accidentally taking too much BCAA.

Are BCAA In Whey Protein?

Whey protein contains BCAA depending on the kind of product and the brand, but on average, whey protein includes about 20 percent of BCAA or about 5.5 grams. Other kinds of protein also often contain BCAA, not just whey protein.

What Is The Difference Between BCAA Vs Whey Protein?

BCAAs are made up of three kinds of essential amino acids. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids are widely thought to increase protein synthesis abilities, increase lean muscle mass, and improve athletic performance.

Whey protein is a more complete product, as it contains a full spectrum of amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine (BCAA). It features all essential amino acids too. This makes it the best choice for a supplement if you are looking for the full service, but BCAA might be enough if you are only a hobbyist in bodybuilding.

What Is The Return On Investment From BCAA?

BCAA is a good supplement. It will help you minimize the soreness of your muscles after a workout routine, and it will also help you build muscle. Now, this does not mean you should take BCAA together with Whey protein, as Whey protein contains BCAA and it will be too much for even the most built of bodies.

Taking too much protein can cause the extra amino acids to turn into ketone bodies, fatty acids, or glucose. BCAA is a cheaper, simpler type of supplement than Whey protein.

This means that it can be enough for you if your demands are not too high. At the same time, it is a good alternative if you have allergies or some sort of restriction that keeps you from taking Whey protein.

What Is The Return On Investment From Whey Protein?

While Whey protein may be more expensive than BCAA, we believe it will give you a better return on your investment, since it both features BCAA as one of its components and it is also chock full of other amino acids.

Here is a shortlist of why it is such a good supplement:

  • It is inexpensive when compared to meat
  • It features fast absorption
  • It is high in essential amino acids
  • It is high in BCAA

A Whey protein shake will contain around 5 grams of BCAA. That amount of BCAA a day promotes muscle synthesis and lessens the effects of muscle soreness. However, it could make it so other kinds of amino acids are not as well absorbed due to absorption competition, so if you are in need of BCAA for a professional competition, it would also make sense to go for the former option.

When To Take Whey Protein – Pre-Workout, Post-Workout, And Before Bed?

You can take whey protein thirty minutes before you start your workout since it helps prepare your muscles for endurance. You should not do this if you have eaten a very heavy meal with lots of protein 2 to 3 hours before your workout, as it might be too much, or overkill.

You can also take Whey protein right after your strength training or resistance training workout, as it will help minimize your muscle soreness and aid in your recovery. If you choose to take Whey protein before your workout, you should probably refrain from taking it after your workout.

Whey is a very full supplement and there is no need to take it twice in such a short period of time. If you are uncertain on when to take it, people often recommend taking it after your workout, as it will be better absorbed after digestion or exercise.

You can also use Whey protein at different times, such as:

  • Before you go to bed, if you are trying to gain muscle
  • As meal replacement when you are unable to consume whole food
  • As a supplement for bodybuilding competitions

When To Take BCAA: Pre-Workout, Post-Workout, And Before Bed?

If you are taking BCAA before your workout, then you should take it immediately before, especially if you are doing strength training. Taking BCAA before you work out can help you preserve your muscles.

Plastic bottle or cup with fitness drink of branched-chain amino acid close up

If you are taking BCAA after your workout, then you should also take it immediately after your strength training session. BCAA can help your muscles recover after a long workout. Finally, you can also take BCAA before bed. This will help your body maintain its muscle mass.

A Head-To-Head Comparison Of BCAAs Vs Whey Protein

  • The most bioavailable: Whey protein
  • The least expensive: BCAA
  • Provides the best bang for the buck: Whey protein
  • Provides the biggest return on your investment: Whey protein
  • The best meal replacement: Whey protein
  • The best for muscle gain: Whey protein
  • The best for avoiding dairy products: BCAA
  • The best for staying very lean: BCAA
  • The fastest absorbed: Whey protein
  • The most convenient: BCAA
  • The best for post-workout: Whey protein

Final Verdict

If you want to bulk up, we recommend that you choose Whey protein instead of BCAA. It is a better supplement under most categories and in the end it is the most cost-effective, even if BCAA is cheaper. This is because Whey protein is a more complete protein that actually includes BCAAs as well as all other essential amino acids.

On the other hand, if you are only looking to maintain your muscle mass as well as lose some weight, then you might want to actually  go for BCAA. Also, if you have some sort of health issue that prevents you from using Whey protein or an allergy to Whey protein of some sort then BCAA is your best option.

In the end, whichever you end up choosing, you will be taking care of your gains and your muscles, so you will already be doing more for your bulk and your health than most men do.