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BCAAs or Whey, which is best, and should I use both together?

I get asked this question often. The Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids. Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. They are key amino's that make up your muscles.

BCAAs may help with 3 roles that people who are working out are interested in. Muscle protection, muscle recovery, and more energy. BCAAs are important muscle building blocks, as well as a useful energy source the body can use during intense activity. 

BCAAs can be supplemented in the diet by using BCAA powder, or by using Whey. Pea Protein also provides BCAAs, but in lower amounts than Whey. 

BCAAs are found naturally in Whey in very high amounts. This is one of Whey's biggest advantages over other foods, and why it's so helpful for exercisers. As far as providing sufficient support levels of BCAAs for lean muscle, Whey protein can help do the job very well.

So why would you use a BCAA powder as well, is there any advantage? We really need to take a look at the main difference.

BCAA powder is freeform. This means it's amino's are already in a faster digested, broken apart form. BCAA powder is absorbed very quickly into the body. Whey protein is absorbed fast too, but because the amino acids are still 'linked', they need to be broken up by the body before they can be used. Whey is not as fast into muscles as freeform BCAAs. Looking at Pea Protein, then its amino's are broken apart much more slowly than Whey, they are harder for the body to access. It's a slower process to get to BCAAs in Pea Protein.

During exercise the body may search for BCAAs as an energy source option. This may also happen at different times if you're on a low calorie weight loss diet. Because muscle tissue contains BCAAs, when exercising (or on a diet) the body can turn to muscle and rob it of its BCAAs for a fuel supply. This is one reason BCAA supplements have become so popular. By drinking a BCAA powder supplement at the right time, athletes and trainers aim to help provide a very fast absorbed, ready supply of BCAAs the body can use. Helping to slow down or prevent the body attacking it's own muscle as a fuel source.

So what's the best way to go? Taking Whey protein up to an hour before exercise may help provide a ready pool of BCAAs in the bloodstream for when activity begins. This might help you feel like you have more energy for training, and help with some muscle protection. If training is intense enough then the body's 'fuel tank' may be depleted. Having a BCAA powder drink at this time may help. Taking it immediately post workout is also a great time. It's considered to be a helpful first recovery step to take for lean muscle repair and development. Take your Whey or Pea Protein about 20 to 30 minutes after this.

If in your plan you don't use Whey and you use Pea Protein instead, then BCAA powders may be even more helpful for you. You might benefit from taking BCAAs in higher amounts, and being more strict about the timing of them around training.
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