As the most fundamental process in any muscle-building effort, muscle recovery is the focus of many a fitness supplement regimen. Athletes of all stripes try to find the ideal cocktail or compound that can send their bodies’ muscle production into high gear, especially right after exercise, and this widespread goal has given rise to a huge number of products. Two of the most popular of these products are amino acid recovery supplements made with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and traditional whey protein powder. Both products have produced results for many athletes and casual gym-goers, but is one better than the other? Below, the amino acid supplement experts at aminoVITAL® discuss the question of BCAAs vs. whey for muscle recovery; keep reading to learn more.
How Whey Helps Muscle Recovery
For decades, protein powders have dominated the fitness supplement market, and no source of protein has been anywhere near as popular as whey. This substance, which (along with casein, another common protein) is derived from milk, is now available in powdered form in grocery stores, drug stores, online marketplaces, and a variety of other outlets the world over.
Part of the reason whey protein is so popular is that it boasts a deep body of both clinical and anecdotal evidence to support its effects. Studies regularly demonstrate whey’s ability to aid muscle growth and recovery in everyone from older adults to young athletes. The secret behind these effects seems to lie in whey’s powerful collection of amino acids, which includes the three BCAAs – called leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These compounds offer a variety of fitness-promoting benefits, including the ability to promote muscle recovery.
Although whey is undoubtedly a useful supplement for helping with this goal, it also has one or two drawbacks, chief among them the relatively high number of calories found in most protein powders. A single scoop of whey protein can contain well over a hundred calories, not to mention lots of sugar. For someone struggling to get the calories they need to bulk up, this high-calorie nutritional profile may be beneficial, but it somewhat diminishes whey’s usefulness as a fuel for building lean mass. In addition, the whole proteins in whey take time for your body to break down before their amino acids can be used, so expect a delay in the effects of whey when drinking a shake right after a workout.
BCAA Supplements and Muscle Recovery
As mentioned above, it’s the amino acids in whey that you’re really after when you use a whey-based protein powder, so it was only a matter of time before a supplement showed up to offer those amino acids (and little else). BCAA supplements have become very popular in recent years because they offer essentially the same benefits as whey but in a streamlined, low-calorie package that many fitness buffs prefer.
The first of the BCAAs, leucine, is especially notable1 among muscle recovery compounds. It’s the amino acid that triggers muscle protein synthesis – the process through which your body makes new muscle tissue – and it can also serve as a building block for those new muscles. As a bonus, leucine can work as a fuel during exercise, and its metabolites – the substances created when your body processes leucine – can help to protect the muscles from damage as you work out.
The other two BCAAs also play key roles in muscle recovery, either by preventing some of the damage done to muscle tissue (thereby reducing the amount of recovery that’s needed in the first place) or by boosting the recovery process in a similar way to leucine. Many BCAA supplements, including those from aminoVITAL®, feature additional amino acids to improve this process; one example is glutamine, an amino acid that has been shown2 to reduce soreness after exercise and improve the speed at which you return to peak strength after a tough routine.
Choosing Between Whey and BCAA Muscle Recovery Supplements
Because both have their benefits, the question of BCAAs vs. whey for muscle recovery is one that’s largely dependent on each person’s individual fitness goals. Because whey protein powders are widely available, they tend to be a bit cheaper, and their high calorie content makes them a good choice for those looking to put on as much overall mass as possible. However, those focused on building or maintaining a lean physique may want to shy away from this popular source of protein.
BCAA supplements, on the other hand, are very low in calories; the Action mix from aminoVITAL®, for instance, has only 15 calories and no sugar at all. In spite of this, BCAAs can offer the same benefits to muscle recovery and growth as whey because they provide the very compounds that make whey effective – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. As a bonus, BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® come with electrolytes to balance hydration, and in the case of our Rapid Recovery mix, a dose of carbs to replenish the muscles’ stores of glycogen.
Try a Low-Calorie BCAA Supplement for Muscle Recovery from aminoVITAL®
Finding the right muscle recovery supplement for you can be a tedious process, given the huge number of options out there, but BCAAs provide some compelling benefits that easily bring them to the top of the pile. If you exercise regularly and want to see improved gains, greater energy, and a faster muscle recovery process, try a BCAA supplement from aminoVITAL® today. Learn more by visiting us online or calling (888) 264-6673.