BCAA Vs Protein (Which Supplement Should You Take & Why)

There are many similarities between BCAA vs protein. They are both recognized as popular, effective supplements used to develop lean muscle, enhance performance, and speed up the recovery process. In addition, they are also backed by science! 

If you want to use either BCAA or protein to reach your fitness targets, then you will see much greater results by understanding the benefits of both. This will allow you to max out on your T-Bar Rows, bench press, and other strength-based exercises. 

Continue reading to learn the science behind protein and branched-chain amino acids. 

Protein is one of three macronutrients. It is crucial for muscle growth, muscle repair, synthesizing enzymes, and maintaining hormonal balance in the human body. 

It also stimulates the process of muscle protein synthesis and decreases the level of protein catabolism or degradation. 

Protein consists of amino acids. There are eleven non-essential and nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for many of the critical muscular functions in the body. 

A ‘complete protein’ will contain all twenty essential amino acids, and they can usually be found in animal proteins or supplements like whey, whey isolate, egg protein, and casein. 

Supplementing with protein powder, post or pre-workout helps to develop more muscle mass, increase the process of muscle building, enhance satiation and optimize body composition, according to growing evidence.  

Benefits Of Protein

  • Increases strength 
  • Improves recovery 
  • Develops more muscle 
  • Reduces muscle mass breakdown 
  • Boosts metabolism 
  • Helps to maintain weight loss 
man in black shirt mixing protein

What Are BCAAs?

BCAAs is an acronym for Branched Chain Amino Acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The building blocks are basically three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The human body does not create essential amino acids, which means that they must be consumed from food sources in your diet or through supplements. 

The chemical structure of BCAAs has a side chain with extra carbons. Furthermore, leucine is considered the most important BCAA when it comes to developing muscle. 

What Do BCAAs Do? 

BCAAs will perform the same, regardless of the source. 

After digestion, the three branched-chain amino acids are released from the liver. They will find themselves in one of five places: 

  • Brain 
  • Heart 
  • Kidneys 
  • Liver 
  • Muscle tissue

However, most of it is utilized in muscle tissue, which explains why many fitness enthusiasts will take BCAAs in excess for muscle growth. They are broken down (catabolized) during exercise, which increases their nutritional requirements for someone who exercises vigorously or who likes strength training. Other amino acids will be used for the synthesis of hormones and enzymes. 

It is important to note that more is not better when you take individual amino acids. The reason is that there can be potential imbalances as a result of competitive absorption. 

Benefits Of BCAAs  

  • Increases strength 
  • Improves recovery time 
  • Improves muscle growth 
  • Reduces muscle breakdown 
  • Reduces mental fatigue 
  • Delays muscle fatigue 
bcaa capsules

What Is The Difference Between BCAAs Vs Protein? 

BCAAs and protein are exactly the same on a molecular level. However, they are slightly different in composition. As we mentioned previously, protein contains all twenty amino acids, while BCAAs contain only three essential amino acids. 

All amino acids conduct a series of biological and enzymatic reactions compared to BCAAs, which mainly support muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs are protein in essence, but in a simple form — amino acids. 

Training and Other Benefits 

It has been shown that using BCAAs can lengthen moderate exercise in the middle of heat. If you are lifting, then this is not relevant. However, if you are training for distance running in a hot environment, then it is beneficial.  

BCAAs do contribute to developing muscle synthesis (also known as building muscle), mainly leucine. They also help to reduce muscle soreness post workout.  


Amino acids are known as building blocks that form protein when they are combined. Amino acids are crucial to life, which means that a source of protein that does not contain all of the essential amino acids is considered an incomplete source of protein. 

Whole protein is better absorbed compared to taking individual amino acids on their own. In other words, protein powder with amino acids is simply a shaker full of amino acids. 

Weight Loss 

The two protein supplements, BCAAs and whey protein, do not stimulate weight loss. However, they can be used to help maintain muscle tissue as you cut out fat, but neither of them will result in weight loss. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, using BCAAs alone will be your best choice to maintain muscle tissue. Do not use both. 

woman showing her weight loss journey


We have spoken to many experienced users of whey protein powder, and they recommend taking it:  

  • Post-Workout 
    Take whey protein powder after a strength training workout or endurance challenge straight away. It will help you to add muscle or spare muscle, along with assisting in recovery and reducing muscle soreness.
  • Pre-Workout  
    Take whey protein powder thirty minutes before a strength training workout or endurance challenge. It will help to spare muscle.

It is important to note that you should not use whey protein if you have already consumed a meal with heavy protein content within 2 to 3 hours before you start to exercise. It is completely unnecessary and overkill to do this. You should choose one or the other. 

In addition, there is little to no value when you take whey protein pre-workout and also take it post-workout. When you start to exercise, the digestion and absorption rate will slow down, which means that there will be enough in your body. Ultimately, the best time to consume whey protein is immediately after a workout. 

There are also a few other instances where you can make good use of whey protein: 

  • Before Bed
    Take whey protein powder before bed if you want to add muscle. In this case, casein protein can be more beneficial than whey.
  • Meal Replacement 
    Take whey protein powder as a meal replacement when you cannot consume whole food.
  • Competition 
    Take whey protein powder in order to prepare for competition because it is an inexpensive way to feed muscles and sustain their strength for an event.

If you are on a strict diet, then BCAAs are a good choice for you. However, it does make sense that you should know the best times to take BCAAs. We recommend that you should take BCAAs at these times: 

  • Pre-Workout 
    Take BCAAs before you start strength training right away. It will help you to preserve muscle.
  • Post-Workout 
    Take BCAAs after a session of strength training right away. It will help in muscle recovery.
  • Before Bed
    Take BCAAs before bed. It will help to maintain muscle mass.

It is worth noting that the methods will only apply in the event that you are dieting for a competition. Furthermore, taking BCAAs pre-workout, post-workout and pre-bed can also work for you when you have a lot of muscle mass. 

However, you cannot take BCAAs as a meal replacement like you can with whey protein. 

Combating Aging  

When people age, they lose muscle tissue. The process is called sarcopenia. However, there are measures that you can take to stop the change. Research has shown that strength training can help to offset losing muscle tissue as you get older, along with supplementing whey protein to induce muscle protein synthesis.  

If you take additional whey with BCAAs after strength training, then it will definitely help to minimize sarcopenia. Whey protein will seriously help to maintain your hard-earned muscle as you age. 

What Is The Difference Between BCAA Vs Whey Protein? 

Like we have already stated, BCAAs consist of 3 essential amino acids, which are known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are believed to enhance protein synthesis, athletic performance, and lean muscle mass. 

On the other hand, whey protein has a full range of amino acids, which includes BCAAs and every other essential amino acids. So, in simple terms, whey protein is the superior choice of supplement since it has a full spectrum of amino acids, including BCAAs. 

It is also worth noting that taking both whey protein and BCAAs will not provide additional benefits. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

When to take BCAAs and whey protein? 

Take either whey protein or BCAAs— do not take both! 

We recommend that you take either one after a workout to maximize the benefits and absorb the protein in a better way. 

Can we mix whey protein and BCAAs? 

There is no gain when you add extra BCAAs to whey protein. The simple thing is to pick only one and save your money. 

BCAAs vs whey protein for post-workout? 

It is better to use whey protein after a workout, and it has plenty of BCAAs in it already. Keep in mind that there is much more to building muscle than simply consuming leucine, isoleucine, or valine. 

Does whey protein contain BCAAs? 

Yes, it does! 

There are around 5.5 grams of BCAAs per serving of whey protein. 

Should I take whey protein and BCAAs before bed? 

There is a benefit to consuming whey protein or BCAAs before bed as a result of the elevated growth hormone levels. However, we suggest taking casein protein instead, which is absorbed before bed at a slower rate. 

Should I take BCAAs or whey protein? 

If you are not on a strict diet for a bodybuilding competition or a bikini competition, then you should always take whey protein. You will achieve much better results for your investment and effort. 


In most cases, whey protein is the better supplement compared to BCAAs. Whey protein is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that you need to develop muscle, including BCAAs.  

However, BCAAs are beneficial for people that want to maintain muscle mass while losing weight (specifically a bodybuilding competition or a bikini competition). 

Last Updated on February 22, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.