I pride myself on being a lifelong natural athlete. But building muscle naturally takes time! Under optimal conditions, you can expect to gain anywhere from 1-2 pounds of muscle a month. However, the reality is closer to 1lb a month. And by optimal conditions, I mean that you are eating the right amount of food (especially protein), that you are training for muscle growth, and that you are getting proper sleep.
I mentioned above that protein is important, and that is because it is the building block of muscles. Muscle protein synthesis occurs naturally in the body. This is where protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise. Learning how to manipulate muscle protein synthesis using nutrition and exercise can help accelerate muscle growth, improve your recovery, and increase your overall athletic performance and endurance. You can enhance muscle protein synthesis by increasing your protein intake. The amino acids from the protein will then be used by the body to replace any muscle lost to exercise.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) have been a staple supplement among bodybuilders and athletes. I am going to talk a little about the benefits of both and why I use them in my supplementation.
There are 9 amino acids which our body cannot produce on its own and must come from our diet. BCAAs contain 3 of them: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. After you have an intense workout, your muscles are torn and need to be repaired. As long as you have plenty of these amino acids, the body will build these muscles back stronger and bigger. There is a lot of good evidence that BCAAs help with protein synthesis.
EAAs include BCAAs, as well as 6 other amino acids which are histidine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine. These EAAs play roles in metabolism, sleeping, waking, and other vital functions.
I like supplementing with BCAAs and EAAs because they have many benefits, and can be very useful to help build and preserve precious muscle. Here are some ways that I use BCAAs and EAAs:
- Intermittent fasting I sometimes use intermittent fasting, depending on my schedule. On weekends, for example, I may not have my first meal until 11 am. BCAAs and intermittent fasting are a great match, especially if you workout in a fasted state. The risk with fasting, however, is that if you do an intense workout and then don’t eat for many hours after, you won’t have the right amino acids to rebuild. This is where BCAAs come in handy. So taking BCAAs during a fasted state will help prevent muscle breakdown without breaking the fast.
- Low protein diets or being in a severe deficit for competition prep: Being on a low protein diet or on a completion prep diet can put you at risk of losing muscle. Often, when I am competing and in a severe calorie restriction, I drink BCAAs to help me prevent muscle breakdown and loss, as well as give me the energy, and electrolytes I need to push hard in the gym.
- Decrease Muscle Soreness: It is not uncommon to feel sore after an intense workout. I can especially feel sore 48 hours after. This is known as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Taking BCAAs helps to decrease muscle damage and therefore decreases the length of soreness.
- Reduces Exercise Fatigue: We all experience exercise fatigue. How quickly you get tired, depends on factors such as length of workout, intensity, and environmental conditions (heat, cold, etc). People who supplement with BCAAs have been shown to improve fatigue, which in turn improves mental focus during workouts.
EAAs have all of the benefits BCAAs, but they also provide these added benefits:
- Improved mood and sleep. Tryptophan is necessary for serotonin, which influences mood, sleep, and behavior.
- Boosted metabolism. You feel more fullness throughout the day. EAAs can reduce body fat while increasing muscle size and strength.
- Helps support the prevention of muscle breakdown.
So how do you know if you need BCAAs or EAAs?
BCAAs are great to use if you are not getting enough EAAs through your meals. Vegetarians, vegans, and those who may be in a restrictive diet, may not be getting enough EAAs in their food. So, if you are missing meals and/or not eating enough protein, then using EAAs would be best for you. Since the body needs protein, EAAs can provide an environment where there is consistent and productive protein synthesis in the body. In summary, EAAs are perfect for those not getting enough protein in their diets, and BCAAs are great for those who eat enough protein but want that extra added benefit.
So what do I use?
I love to use NutraBio EAA Natural. EAA natural has a great recovery formula. It is designed to be sipped throughout the day to keep you in an anabolic state. It can also be taken before, during, or after your workout. It contains Astragin, which increases the uptake of amino acids, a high dose of EAA’s to support lean muscle, and a hydration optimizer to support muscle function and health.
I also use NutraBio BCAA Natural. It contains the purest amino acids your body needs in an ideal ratio, 2:1:1 (2.5g leucine, 1.25g Isoleucine, 1.25g Valine). This is also designed to be sipped throughout the day or taken before, during/and or after your workout.
Both of these are naturally flavored and free of artificial color, flavor, and sweeteners. NutraBio BCAA and EAAs are both Kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, non-GMO, filler and excipient free, and feature fully disclosed labels.
One of the many things I love about NutraBio is that their products have the most amazing flavors. The Natural BCAA and EAA come in many different flavors. Their newest flavor, which comes out this week, is Strawberry Lemonade. I had the opportunity of getting a sneak taste of this new flavor, and once again they did not disappoint! This is a great new flavor, especially going into the summer season. I mean, who doesn’t love drinking lemonade on a hot summer day? Now you can drink a nice summer flavor while enjoying all the benefits of building and preserving muscle, and crushing your workouts! I would definitely recommend trying out their BCAA and EAA products, especially their newest flavor strawberry lemonade.