EAAs vs BCAAs vs Protein

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Protein… What do they all have in common? They’re made up of amino acids!

There are 22 different amino acids. 13/22 amino acids are considered non-essential because our body produces them. However, 9/22 amino acids are essential and our body does NOT produce them so it must be obtained from foods and supplements. In addition, most proteins contain EAAs.

BCAAs are found in EAAs. BCAAs are 3 out of the 9 essential amino acids. They are considered BCAAs because the structure of the 3 particular amino acids are linked altogether. Each amino acid delivers a different role within the body and each is needed in order for your body to function properly and for overall health maintenance.

Amino acids are THE building blocks of protein. Now, what the hell does that even mean? It means that protein items are made of complete (including all 9 EAAs) or incomplete (does not include all 9 EAAs) proteins.

In this article, I’m focusing on the EAAs/BCAAs. I am going to refer EAAs to all 9 of the essential amino acids and BCAAs as the 3/9 essential amino acids. 

Here are the 9 EEAs, what they do, and where to find them (info founded from links below):

Valine – (BCAA) Needed for optimal muscle growth and repair. It’s also responsible for endurance and the overall maintenance of good muscle health.
Found in: beans, spinach, legumes, broccoli, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soy, peanuts, whole grains, figs, avocado

Isoleucine – (BCAA) Helps body produce energy and hemoglobin
Found in: rye, soy, cashews, almonds, oats, lentils, beans, brown rice, cabbage, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, sesame seeds, cranberries, quinoa, blueberries, apples, and kiwis.

Leucine (BCAA) – Stimulates muscle strength and growth. Helps regulate your blood sugar by moderating insulin into your body during and after exercise. Can also help prevent and treat depression.
Found in: seaweed, pumpkin, peas and pea protein, whole grain rice, sesame seeds, watercress, figs, avocados, raisins, dates, apples, blueberries, olives and even bananas

Histidine – This amino acid helps transport neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) to the brain and also helps overall muscle health within each muscle cells. It even helps detoxify the body by producing red and white blood cells needed for overall health and immunity.
Found in: rice, wheat, rye, seaweed, beans, legumes, cantaloupe, hemp seeds, chia seeds, buckwheat, potatoes

Lysine – responsible for proper growth and in the production of carnitine (a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into fuel to lower cholesterol). It’s vital to get enough of this amino acid since deficiency can lead to nausea, depression, fatigue, muscle depletion and even osteoporosis.
Found in: beans (the best), watercress, seeds, spirulina, parsley, avocados, soy protein, almonds, cashews, and some legumes with lentils and chickpeas being two of the best.

Methionine – Helps form cartilage in the body through the use of sulfur. Sulfur is a mineral essential to the production of bone cartilage and no other amino acids contain sulfur aside from methionine. People who don’t eat enough sulfur-containing foods to produce methionine in the body may suffer arthritis, damaged tissue, and poor healing.
Found in: sunflower seed butter and sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, whole grain rice, beans, legumes, onions, cacao, and raisins.

Phenylalanine – It turns into tyrosine once ingested, which is another amino acid that’s needed to make proteins, brain chemicals, and thyroid hormones. Not obtaining enough of this amino acid can result in brain fog, lack of energy, depression, lack of appetite, or memory problems.
Found in: spirulina and other seaweed, pumpkin, beans, rice, avocado, almonds, peanuts, quinoa, figs, raisins, leafy greens, most berries, olives, and seeds

Threonine – Help support a healthy immune system, heart, liver, and central nervous system health. This amino acid also helps the body’s connective tissues and joints in good health by producing glycine and serine in the body, two essential amino acids needed for healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails. In the liver it helps with fatty acid digestion to prevent fatty acid build-up and liver failure.
Found in: watercress, spirulina, pumpkin, leafy greens, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, sesame seeds, and sunflower butter, almonds, avocados.

Tryptophan – Is a relaxing amino acid. It is vital to a healthy nervous system and brain health, along with sleep, muscle growth and repair, and overall neurotransmitter function. It also converts to serotonin once in the brain, which creates a happy feeling tied to lower levels of stress and depression.
Found in: oat bran, seaweed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, parsley, beans, beats, asparagus, mushrooms.

For the amino acids listed in red, those are the amino acids that make up BCAAs. BCAAs are popular in the fitness industry because they are an ideal supplement to take when bodybuilding. When bodybuilding, it is crucial that you take supplements to repair, build and recover your muscles.

  1. Q: If EAAs contain all the amino acids that our body needs, then why do companies mainly produce BCAAs and leave out the other 6 amino acids?

A: BCAAs are the main amino acids that help muscles repair, recover and grow which is a popular marketing campaign within the fitness industry 🙂 And I’m also going to assume… easier to put together as well. Come on, only 3 EAAs rather than all 9. BCAA supplements also have a higher concentration of those 3 main amino acids than EAA supplements.

  1. Q: Should I start taking EAA supplements only and disregard BCAA supplements?

A: No. Again, EAA supplements provide your body with all the essential amino acids that it needs for overall health, recovery, growth and repair. Compared to BCAA supplements, it contains only 3/9 EAAs and primarily focuses on muscle repair, recovery and growth. If you are a bodybuilder, I’d recommend taking both! If you’re not physically active, I’d recommend taking an EAA supplement or better yet… consult a doctor or nutritionist lol

  1. Q: Can I eat more protein and not take any EAA supplements?

A: It depends on your goals. Protein such as chicken breast contains EAA which is good. However, when eating protein, not all amino acids are extracted and the remaining calories can either be filtered out by the liver or stored as fat. Taking an EAA supplement can help make sure you get all the EAAs in an efficient manner. Most importantly, when doing intense workouts, our body tends to break down muscle (Muscle Catabolism) and to help prevent that from happening, an EAA supplement needs to be taken. In that particular scenario, drinking EAAs will obviously be more convenient.

  1. Q: Do I need to work out in order to take EAA supplements?

A: Noooo! 🙂 If you’ve read the description of each EAA above, you’ll know that it is good for your body regardless if you work out or not. Again, EAAs are found in a variety of foods and not each food item contains all the EAAs. There are different awesome flavoured EAA supplements that I find can help curb sugar cravings. I find it’s like a mild kool aid drink 😛

I currently take EAAs from Advanced Genetics and BCAAs from Beyond Yourself 🙂

*resources: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/need-protein-amino-acids-found-abundantly-in-plants/

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