Do essential amino acid supplements help you build muscle and lose fat? Or are they a waste of money? 

You will discover the answer in this evidence-based article.

We will look at what the current scientific literature says about essential amino acids (EAAs) so that you can make an informed decision on what is best for your situation.

What Are Essential Amino Acid Supplements?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are vital for your health and well-being because your body needs them for many functions, including building and repairing tissues.

In total, there are twenty amino acids that are important for your health, although only nine of them are considered essential. We call those the “essential amino acids.”

Contrary to nonessential amino acids, your body can’t make essential amino acids itself. This means you must consume them through your diet.

What Is The Difference Between BCAA and EAA Supplements?

Consume Enough protein

When it comes to amino acid supplementation, BCAAs are the top choice for most lifters. Many people use them pre-, intra-, or post-workout. (See related: does protein timing matter?)

But what is the difference between BCAAs (which stands for branched-chain amino acids) and EAAs? The difference is that EAAs refer to all nine essential amino acids, while BCAAs refer to just three of them.

BCAA supplements contain the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Lifters often claim that those amino acids boost gym performance, muscle growth, and fat loss.

However, as covered in previous posts, BCAA products do not live up to those expectations. They are a waste of money if you get enough protein via your diet.

Getting enough protein is easy to do. Just consume at least 0.8 grams of the macronutrient per kilogram of body weight per day. You will then get all the BCAAs you need to optimize your fitness results.

Adding more BCAAs on top of that through supplementation will not provide extra benefits.

Also, while consuming enough protein will provide you with enough BCAAs, there is another reason it is ineffective to supplement with them.

BCAAs don’t offer benefits if you do not consume them alongside the other six essential amino acids, which are histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan.

Since EAA supplements contain all the essential amino acids, some people claim that it is superior to a BCAA product. But is that true? Let’s find out.

Are EAA Supplements Effective For Gym Performance, Muscle Growth, And Fat Loss?

On a head-to-head basis, an EAA supplement is superior to a BCAA supplement because you need all the essential amino acids to build and repair muscle.

However, if you get enough protein from your diet, adding more essential amino acids on top of that will not provide extra benefits. 

Your body can only use a limited amount of amino acids each day for muscle growth. You can not force gains by stacking more building blocks on top of that.

Are Essential Amino Acids Beneficial If You Train Fasted? 

People who train fasted often take essential amino acids to prevent muscle breakdown during their workouts. 

While amino acids before exercise might benefit muscle growth, the difference will be small if you get enough protein throughout the day as a whole.

Also, you would be better off consuming a regular protein powder instead. You see, many people believe that BCAAs or EAAs are “zero calorie” and thus do not break their fast. But the reality is that they do contain calories.

On a gram-to-gram basis, amino acids are pretty much on par with regular dietary protein. So, regardless of whether you consume BCAAs, EAAs, or whey protein, you are no longer in a fasted state.

There also are no unique benefits to training fasted in the first place. Plus, regular protein is superior to an essential amino acid supplement because it provides the full spectrum of amino in their natural ratios. 

The problem with most EAA supplements is that they use proprietary blends. They lump together all the amino acids into one mixture and list the total amount for all of them combined.

Manufacturers generally do not state the specific dosage per amino acid. By doing so, they can front-load the cheapest amino acids in their blend and only use small amounts of the more expensive ones.

While the label states each serving has ten grams of an “amino acid matrix,” it might be that 80% of it is in the form of a cheap amino acid like taurine.

Generally, if a supplement company uses a proprietary blend, it is because there is something there they do not want you to see. Otherwise, they would have no reason to use one.

For the EAA supplements that do not use proprietary blends, most still prioritize the BCAAs and only include a tiny bit of other essential amino acids. You should avoid such products.

The Bottom Line On Essential Amino Acid Supplements

There is no good reason to use an essential amino acid supplement over a standard protein powder. That is true whether you are training “fasted” or not.

I place “fasted” in quotation marks because you are not in a fasted state anymore if you consume amino acids. 

A protein powder offers you all the benefits of essential amino acids (and more) while being much cheaper than an EAA supplement. So, that is the superior choice.

Whether it is whey, egg, casein, or a plant-based powder, such products provide the full and natural spectrum of essential amino acids.

Sure, you will get a tiny amount of carbs and fats from the protein powder, which will not be the case with an EAA supplement. But the amount is so small that it does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

That is especially true if you buy whey isolate, which contains almost no carbs or fat—it is basically pure protein.

To sum it up: BCAAs and EAAs are unnecessary supplements. You can get all the amino acids you need for optimal gains through your diet.

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