BCAAs and creatine dominate the world of sports supplements. Both play a unique role in muscle building, performance, and energy but is one necessarily better than the other? Let’s take a look at the benefits of BCAAs and creatine, how each one stacks against the other, and which one you should use in this BCAAs vs. Creatine review. Here are the categories we’re going to compare when it comes to BCAAs vs Creatine:
Building MuscleLeucine, isoleucine, and valine are categorized as branched-chain amino acids. BCAAs are the building blocks of muscle tissue, making them invaluable for muscle building. In particular, one of the key benefits of leucine is increased levels of protein synthesis, an essential process for muscle growth. BCAAs also support muscle building by protecting against muscle wasting. Studies show that BCAAs have an anti-catabolic effect, which means they protect lean muscle tissue from being used as fuel. (1) Creatine also supports muscle building in two unique ways: First, creatine is broken down into a compound called adenosine triphosphate, the preferred fuel source of muscle tissue during workouts. When you take creatine before or during a workout, you are providing an immediate supply of usable energy to muscle tissue. Creatine has been shown to support strength and power output, which is important for triggering hypertrophy. (2) Creatine also triggers the release of the anabolic hormone, IGF-1. The term anabolic refers to a growth environment in muscle tissue. When levels of IGF-1 are elevated, the result is greater gains in muscle mass. (3)
Increasing EnergyBCAAs are now found in many pre-workout supplements because of their ability to support energy levels. Studies show that BCAA supplementation can reduce exercise fatigue. (4) Creatine also supports intra-workout energy levels by providing an immediate source of fuel to the muscle tissue. As mentioned above, creatine is broken down into ATP and can be rushed into the muscle cells for more energy and better performance.
Sports PerformanceEnergy levels aside, can BCAAs or creatine directly support performance in regards to strength, power, and better measurable results? In one study, subjects were given either a BCAA supplement or a whey protein supplement. At the conclusion of eight weeks, subjects were tested in their 10-repetition maximum for gains on the bench press and barbell squat. Researchers found that the BCAA group had significantly higher strength gains than the whey protein group. (5) A comprehensive research review looked through 22 creatine studies to find an average for gains in performance. Researchers concluded that subjects taking creatine during resistance training experienced up to a 20% increase in strength. In particular, some subjects saw a 45% increase in their bench press performance. Results did vary between individuals but across all studies, those taking creatine saw improvements in strength, power, and performance. (6)
Fat LossBCAAs are a great way to support weight loss and maintain a healthy goal weight. Studies show that diets rich in amino acids were correlated with a lower risk of obesity. What’s more, leucine has been shown to be an effective appetite suppressant while supporting a higher level of metabolism or calorie burning. (7) Once thought to only be useful for gaining size, a relatively new study suggests that creatine can also support fat loss while supporting muscle building. Researchers confirmed that creatine may be useful in blocking the activation of a metabolic pathway associated with weight gain and obesity called phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase or PI3K. (8)
BCAAs vs. Creatine: Which One Should You Buy?In short, both BCAAs and creatine should both have a space on your kitchen counter. Both supplements contribute to sports performance, muscle building, fat loss, and recovery in their own unique ways. Most importantly, when taken together, you’ll see far better results.