BCAA vs Creatine: Which One is Better for Building Muscle

What Are BCAAs?

The three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) ( 1).

How BCAAs Work

As BCAAs get absorbed directly from the bloodstream, they can fuel your workout through a process called gluconeogenesis, where it burns itself as fuel thereby helping preserve the muscle breakdown ( 6).

  • By activating the mTOR signaling pathway, BCAAs stimulate and enhance muscle protein synthesis.
  • Activate enzymes such as protein kinase. This initiates phosphorylation and increases the rate of protein synthesis (7).
  • Reduces muscle soreness induced by exercise (8).
  • Optimizes post-workout recovery (9).
  • Increases lean muscle mass (10).
  • Promotes fat loss by suppressing appetite and increased metabolism (11, 12).
  • Increases strength (13).
  • It helps you work harder without getting exercise-induced-fatigue (14).
  • Used as a fuel for instant energy production (15).

When is BCAA Supplementation Favorable?

BCAA supplementation is a favorable choice in the following circumstances:

  • When you want to reduce body fat without compromising your lean muscle mass.
  • When you are protein deficient while following a low-calorie diet. BCAAs can be taken before working out in a fasted state.
  • When you are doing cardio, gymnastics, aerobics, HIIT, strength training, etc. and need to improve on your endurance levels.
  • When you need sufficient amino acid for muscle protein synthesis during and after an extensive workout.
  • You are a vegetarian and not getting enough of the amino acids that are more commonly found in animal protein sources.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is made of three non-essential amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine ( 16). Unlike the BCAAs, creatine is naturally produced in the human body and stored in the muscles in the form of creatine phosphate where it gets used as energy fuel ( 17).

What Does Creatine Do?

Unlike BCAAs, creatine is not absorbed into the bloodstream directly. It gets stored in the skeletal muscles as creatine phosphate where it replenishes ATP and serves as a potent energy source ( 21, 22).

  • Provides rapid energy for muscle contractions (23)
  • Causes the release of anaerobic hormone IGF-1 that is used in promoting muscle growth (24)
  • Is a quick source of muscle energy that offers more total work in a single training session (25)
  • Aids long term bone strength for weight trainers (26)
  • Increases strength during resistance training by up to 20% (27)
  • Increases water content in the muscle cells thereby causing cell volumization that is crucial in the growth of big muscles (28)
  • Enhances muscle size (29)

When is Creatine Supplementation Favorable?

Since BCAA and creatine have some similar properties, they are both helpful in certain circumstances. But they also have unique properties that offer them other advantages. Creatine supplementation is favorable when:

  • When you are doing heavier and longer workout sessions to increase muscle mass and you need more energy.
  • When you want big, bulky muscles as creatine draws in more water into the muscles making them look larger and gain more strength.
  • When you need a spurt of extra energy while performing HIIT workouts.

BCAA vs Creatine: The Winner

Now that you know how the two supplements work, the biggest difference between BCAAs and creatine is how each of them affects athletic performance.

Can BCAA And Creatine Supplements be Taken Together?

Yes, BCAAs and creatine can be taken together. But, they work differently. Consuming them together gives you both protein sources for new muscle synthesis and energy for your workout. This potent combination offers you extra power and endurance.

FAQs

1. Are BCAA Supplements Safe?

For most people, BCAA supplements are generally safe to have. Even though studies on the safe upper limit are quite rare, some that are available report that total BCAA intake between 15–35 grams per day is normally fine (31).

2. Will Creatine Make you Look Bigger?

Creatine prompts your muscle cells to store more water which causes your muscles to appear fuller and larger. Not only the muscles look bigger but they also become big (32).

3. How to Supplement with Creatine?

Creatine supplementation is done fastest during the loading phase. This involves taking a high dose of creatine for a few days and then a lower dose after that (34).

4. When Should You Take BCAA?

It entirely depends upon your fitness regime.

5. What Happens When You Stop Creatine?

It is possible to stop creatine as you don’t need to take it forever. But your muscle’s creatine level will start to dip about two weeks after you stop taking it.

The Final Note

BCAA and Creatine are both popular bodybuilding supplements, with their own set of benefits.

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Anju Mobin

Anju Mobin

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I am a certified nutritionist and the managing editor of bestfornutrition.com. I develop powerful content for health products. Reach me at anjumobin@gmail.com