Written by Nathalie Niddam | Academy Of Lions Nutritionist | Toronto

BCAA’s vs EAA’s - What's the difference? How do they work and should you use them?

This could be an exhaustive article but I’m going to keep it (relatively) short with the intention of discussing it in greater detail in a future podcast. As most of you know, BCAA’s are a favourite supplement used by athletes before and during workouts to help with muscle growth and repair.

They're also used for their muscle glycogen sparing effect - the formulas vary but always only include the three essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine in some ratio deemed by the manufacturer to be the most optimal. They can be converted by the body into glucose and as such be used as an energy source (hence the glycogen sparing effect).

EAA’s or essential amino acids are slightly less commonly used and are composed of 8 of the 9 amino acids that the body cannot make for itself. There are a few different formulas around and people who have worked with me know that my favourite is one called MAP or Master Amino Acid Pattern - this is a formula that was developed by a doctor that offers the 8 essential amino acids in a specific ratio that guarantees optimal use by the body. To be specific, this formula of EAA’s generates only 1% Nitrogen waste, a measure of how efficiently amino acids are metabolized by the body, making them safe to use even by people who have compromised kidney function. 

EAA’s can be used prior to, during or post workout to preserve muscle mass and promote muscle repair and building.  I recently read an article where cyclists on the Tour de France used EAA’s and by the end of the race found that they had maintained their muscle mass whereas they would normally have lost muscle. Aside from endurance athletes other people can benefit from EAA’s, these include any other athletes, people with compromised digestion (since they require no digestion), people with kidney disease, vegans and vegetarians. 5 tablets equal a full portion of protein and 25 minutes later they are in circulation ready to be used.  More to come in the podcast, but in the meantime Happy New Year!  See you all in 2016!!