BCAA vs Whey: Comparing Two Protein Supplements

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You can call me the Fitness & Health GEEK. I've been involved in the fitness industry since 2015. Exercise and Nutrition are my bread and butter.

Going to a commercial gym and getting mixed with different people in the fitness industry teach you a lot.

One of the most interesting debates in the fitness world is that of BCAA vs whey.

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BCAA vs Whey debate is a hot debate because each of these supplements has its fans and haters. Many people would take BCAA over the whey protein every time, while others would do the opposite.

BCAA and Whey are the most famous gym supplements that are ever used. You will probably find your best pro-bodybuilder taking either one of them or even both.

BCAA and Whey are cheap but so important supplements to someone who cares about his/her muscles and shape.

If you are someone that workout regularly, then you definitely heard about or even used one of them. In this post, we will break down this debate and discuss every little detail so you can decide and pick your sides.

What is BCAA?

Branched Chain Amino Acids A.K.A “BCAA” is a protein-derived supplement consisting of 3 essential amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine.

These 3 essential amino acids are the most important amino acids for building muscle and protein synthesis. BCAA is usually taken in your workout, which is not the usual thing with supplements.

BCAA is known to speed your recovery time and decrease fatigue, as it consists of the 3 essential amino acids. This supplement usually comes in a powder shape, but sometimes it comes in pills.

The BCAA powder is delicious and would have many flavors to choose from, which will act as a juice and increase the freshness while you are training.

Many bodybuilders use and sponsor the BCAA supplement as a recovery supplement that would decrease muscle pain or what is known as “DOMS” and increase muscle-building ability.

While that is somehow true, researchers were curious about such supplements and made many studies about the product. The research was somehow confusing.

Most of the research suggested that supplementing with BCAA as a trained and non-trained person could be beneficial and not beneficial at the same time.

In other words, if you have the goal of building muscle and losing fat, and you eat enough protein in your diet, supplementing with BCAA would not do anything more regarding your goal.

However, if the same person who wants to build muscle and lose fat does not eat enough protein in their diet, supplementing BCAA would greatly complement the diet.

Pros of BCAA

  • Could be used intra-workout: Unlike most supplements, BCAA is a great choice for people that are sick of drinking water and want something to boost them and let them feel fresh while training. Many pro-bodybuilders suggest that if you do not feel like a BCAA supplement is worthy for building muscle, drink it as a juice.
  • Lean: A big advantage of BCAA is that it contains zero carbohydrates and zero fats. That’s because it only consists of the 3 essential amino acids, which are mainly protein.
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis: Leucine is the most important amino acid for muscle protein synthesis, “the main driver of hypertrophy.” As BCAA contains a huge amount of leucine, it increases muscle protein synthesis, resulting in building muscle and losing fat.
  • Tasty: BCAA supplements usually come in tasty flavors such as watermelon, strawberry, and mixed fruits, so they’re refreshing and hydrating. It is a good choice for people that do not prefer to drink water only while training because of a similar routine every day.

Cons of BCAA

  • Could be not as effective: Supplementing with BCAA could not be effective in many cases. It could not be effective if you get a huge amount of protein through food per day, as the BCAA will not add anything else.
  • Not enough research: What is not so good about BCAA is that it is not well-researched. Studies are conflicted when it comes to the effectiveness of the BCAA.
  • It may be more expensive: Taking BCAA may cost you more money than taking whey protein when it comes to the benefits. We will discuss whey protein advantages and benefits later in the post.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is by far the most famous and the most important supplement that ever existed. Whey protein supplements consist mainly of all the essential amino acids ones and non-essential ones to build muscle.

The essential amino acids are 9 amino acids that are not produced by the body and are responsible for building muscle. The non-essential amino acids are produced by the body and are not needed as much as the essential ones for growth.

The whey protein, unlike BCAA, consists of all essential amino acids, not just 3 of them. Whey protein is derived from milk and cheese production, making it a high-quality complete source of protein.

Whey protein comes in a powder form and usually comes in different flavors. Many companies manufacture whey protein, and some have delicious flavors that could be compared to the BCAA’s flavors.

Whey protein has three types, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolyzed. These types of whey protein vary in protein, carbohydrate, and fat concentration.

As it is derived from milk, it contains all three macronutrients. For example, whey protein concentrate has a larger number of carbs and fats compared to others and a smaller number in protein.

Whey protein isolate and concentrate are the same because they do not contain any carbs or fats, just protein.

Another aspect that differs from different types of whey protein is how fast the body absorbs it. Whey protein hydrolyzed is the fastest source of protein when it comes to absorption.

Followed by whey protein isolate, then whey protein concentrate. Also, different types of whey protein differ regarding cost. The more it is purified, the more it costs.

In other words, the whey protein concentrate is the most affordable type of whey protein, while the hydrolyzed one is the most expensive.

Whey protein is considered the most important supplement for a reason. It serves as a complete alternative for protein from food, as it contains all the amino acids needed to build muscle.

Studies and research also found out that supplementing with whey protein increased muscle mass, helped with recovery, and increased muscle protein synthesis to a very great degree.

However, you might not need it if you are eating enough protein from your diet.

Pros of whey

  • Complete protein: Unlike BCAA, Whey protein is a complete protein source that serves as a meal replacement and could be one of your main sources of protein in your diet.
  • Builds muscle and burns fat: As whey protein consists of all the 9 essential amino acids needed to build muscle, along with training, it will let you build muscle, and the large intake of protein will let you burn more fat as it has a high thermic effect of food.
  • Increase fullness: As whey protein contains mainly high-quality protein, it helps you feel full. Studies have shown that getting protein will help you feel full more than carbohydrates and fats, which is an advantage when dieting.
  • Different types: Whey protein has different types, allowing you to have different choices and options ranging from concentrate to isolate to hydrolyzed.

Cons of whey

  • Lactose: What is bad about whey protein is that it is likely to have lactose, the sugar in milk. The problem with lactose is that 70% of people have lactose intolerance meaning that as lactose intolerant, you will get gases, bloating, or diarrhea from using it.
  • Could be high-calorie: Whey protein, unlike BCAA, could contain a high-caloric number as it has a high concentration of protein and usually carbohydrates and fats.
  • Quality: What is tricky about whey protein is that you need to be assured of the quality. Low-quality whey protein would not dissolve properly in the water and would likely cause you gases and bloating.

BCAA vs Whey Protein: Which one is better?

When it comes to which one is better, it is tricky in some way. BCAA, as we said, could be beneficial in reducing pain, increasing recovery, and increasing muscle protein synthesis, which is responsible for building muscle.

BCAA could be vital and would play a huge role if you do not take enough protein, as your body needs more amino acids flowing in to perform every process perfectly.

It is also good if you would like to drink anything other than water while training and want to change the habit.

Other than that, BCAA won’t fit you. BCAA supplement can not replace a meal, as it does not contain all the amino acids required to build muscle. It is also not beneficial for you if you take all the protein required for you to build muscle.

On the other hand, whey protein could act as a meal replacement, as it is a complete protein source and could replace any protein source from food.

It is also very effective for building muscle, and its results are guaranteed as it is researched and well studied.

However, if you are lactose intolerant or having trouble with the high calories, you would need to stick to the hydrolyzed or isolated version of whey protein, which would definitely cost you more.

If you ask me which one is better, I can’t give you a straight answer as each one has its uses.

But most experts in the field suggest that BCAA could be a waste of money for someone getting enough protein.

Can I take them together?

Taking BCAA along with Whey protein would not cause any problem or side effect and could be, in fact, possible.

But the thing is, should you if you’re already supplementing with whey protein?

In other words, is taking BCAA along with more amino acids, so why should you take BCAA in the first place?

The only reason I would recommend taking them together is for someone that has a very high protein requirement that can not be fulfilled from food and whey.

Someone that is very advanced in bodybuilding and has a huge muscle mass would need more than 200 grams of protein daily, which is very hard to achieve with food and whey protein supplementing.

In that case, supplementing with BCAA would benefit you and would increase recovery, muscle protein synthesis, and decrease delayed onset muscle soreness.

Another reason is that if you have extra money and you prefer to spend it on BCAA as juice if you are taking whey and fulfilling your protein requirements properly. Other than that, there is no obvious reason to take both supplements together.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, BCAA and Whey protein are two of the most famous supplements that have a good rep among the fitness community. Some people argue that BCAA is better than whey, while others the opposite.

While in fact, each one of them has its uses and has its benefits and disadvantages. There is such one thing that fits all. Everyone has different needs and different personal preferences.

We discussed every little detail in the BCAA vs Whey debate without picking any sides to inform you and let you have enough information and knowledge about the topic to pick yourself. Is it possible that BCAA is beneficial?

Yes. Is it possible to take both supplements together? Yes.

Which one is better? It depends.

And that’s the wrap of the post. Read carefully, consider your budget, personal preferences, and you will be all set to go to choose either one of them.

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