If maximum gains are your goal, you’re probably aware of the crucial role protein plays in muscle synthesis. Being the basic building blocks of protein, amino acids play a key role, too. While it may seem like amino acid supplements and protein supplements do the same thing, boosting your protein intake with essential amino acids can provide additional beneficial support. Here’s how you can get the most out of each:
WHY YOU NEED PROTEIN
High-quality, complete protein from whey or casein contains all nine of the essential amino acids you need. These are key for meeting your daily protein demands for muscle gains and recovery. To figure out how much daily protein your body needs, try using a protein calculator to track how much you’re getting. If there’s a gap, a high-quality nutrient-packed protein powder or ready-to-drink shake is a satisfying, no-hassle way to fill it.
WHEN TO TAKE PROTEIN
Working to increase your lean muscle mass and support recovery after workouts? Choose specific pre and post-workout protein supplements and time them properly to enhance your gains. For example, whey protein is quickly absorbed and is best taken within 30 minutes after your workout. Casein protein, on the other hand, is slower absorbed and is ideal right before bed as it supplies a steady release of aminos that can be used for muscle repair while you rest.
WHY YOU NEED AMINOS
So, if you’re adhering to your daily protein intake goals and sticking to your workout regimen, you should be all set for optimal gains, right? Maybe. If you’re on a mission to get swole, the aptly named essential amino acids are indeed, essential. Three of the nine essential amino acids—leucine, isoleucine and valine—comprise 35 percent of our muscle protein. These three key players are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and they’re especially important. BCAAs are essential amino acids that are part of muscle protein. They help to preserve muscle glycogen stores and reduce the amount of protein breakdown. When it comes to protein synthesis, leucine is arguably the most important BCAA, and it’s in whey protein.
But this doesn’t mean that simply consuming more whey protein will give you the maximum BCAA benefits. In separate supplement form, BCAAs aren’t bound to other amino acids, like they are in whey protein. This means they can be digested and absorbed more quickly, which makes them available faster to impact protein synthesis.
WHEN TO TAKE AMINOS
It’s key to get your BCAAs with your protein shortly after working out, but BCAA supplements can also be consumed before and during exercise to fuel your muscles and preserve glycogen stores. Look for a protein blend that has a 2:1:1 BCAA ratio—10 grams of BCAAs per serving, five of which are leucine.
You can read more about how to use BCAAs as a pre-workout and intra-workout supplement here.