BCAA vs Creatine –
Which One Is Better for Building Muscle?
Are you finding yourself plateauing in your workouts lately? Are you looking for a way to enhance your weight training, build lean muscle, and achieve a physique you’re proud of?
If so, it’s time to look into adding supplements to your exercise routine. Two of the most popular supplements on the market today are BCAA and creatine. Both promise to boost muscle gain as well as increase your energy and power during training.
But which supplement is actually better for building muscle, BCAA vs creatine? Let’s start by talking about what these supplements actually are, how they work in your body, and the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids. They are a group of essential amino acids. That means that your body doesn’t produce them on its own, so you have to get them from outside sources like food or supplements.
BCAAs include the amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
What do BCAAs Do?
Using BCAA supplements can support muscle growth, alleviate soreness, and decrease muscle fatigue.
Leucine activates a pathway in the body that stimulates the process of making muscle. In one PubMed Central study, people who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAA after their workout had a 22% increase in muscle growth compared to people who consumed a placebo drink.
While a BCAA supplement can increase the synthesis of muscle protein, it can’t work to its maximum potential without the support of the other essential amino acids. You can find these in whey protein and other complete protein sources such as eggs, turkey, fish, and certain beans.
A BCAA supplement can also help decrease muscle soreness after an intense workout. It’s normal to feel sore for a day or two after working out, particularly if your routine is new or you max out a particular muscle group.
This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. DOMS can be particularly annoying if the soreness sits in an essential group of muscles like your abs. Severe DOMS in this area can make coughing, sneezing, or even breathing painful.
Several studies have shown that BCAA decreases protein breakdown and muscle damage during exercise. This can seriously reduce the length and severity of DOMS. Taking a BCAA supplement, especially before exercise, can help you speed up recovery time and get back in the gym.
More Power During Your Workout
A BCAA supplement can also help decrease exercise-induced muscle fatigue. Your muscles use up BCAA during exercise, which causes their levels in your blood to decrease.
This decline triggers your brain to produce tryptophan, which is then converted to serotonin. Serotonin is widely known as the feel-good chemical that makes your brain feel happy. But it is also thought to contribute to the eventual onset of fatigue during exercise.
Taking a BCAA supplement before your workout ensures that there are adequate amounts of the essential amino acids in your blood. This can increase the amount of time you can spend exercising before you get fatigued.
Supplementing with BCAA can provide many advantages to athletes. They can support lean muscle growth, decrease the severity and length of muscle soreness, and decrease workout fatigue. If you decide to take BCAA, make sure you’re eating foods rich in the other essential amino acids so that they can work to their maximum potential.
Creatine, also known as creatine monohydrate, is also comprised of three amino acids, arginine, methionine, and glycine. Unlike BCAA, your body produces creatine naturally. It is also found in foods like lean meats and fish.
Creatine is primarily synthesized in your kidneys and then completed in your liver. The three amino acids are converted into creatine phosphate and phosphocreatine. These chemicals are stored in your skeletal muscles and converted to ATP for rapid energy use and muscle contraction.
When it hit the market in 1993, creatine quickly became one of the most popular workout supplements. Because it’s been around for almost 30 years, it has been studied extensively to determine its benefits and effectiveness.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine is proven to be effective for both short and long-term muscle gain. It increases the total work or volume you’re able to complete during a single training session. This is the key to starting and maintaining muscle growth.
A 14-week study in adults determined that supplementing with creatine during a weight training program significantly increased leg strength and muscle mass. In a 12-week study with weightlifters, supplementing with creatine increased muscle growth 2-3 times more than training alone. The weightlifters’ one-rep max bench press also increased at a faster rate than the placebo group did.
Creatine can also help you improve your strength and power during high-intensity workouts. A combination of weightlifting and cardio is the key to building lean muscle, reducing fat, and achieving an overall level of fitness that you can be proud of.
Supplementing with creatine has also been shown to improve cell signaling, which helps with muscle repair and new muscle growth. It reduces muscle breakdown and lowers your body’s levels of myostatin. Elevated levels of myostatin slow or even inhibit muscle growth.
There is an impressive amount of clinical evidence that proves creatine monohydrate’s effectiveness when it comes to improving workout performance. However, there are a few drawbacks that you need to be aware of and know how to combat.
Side Effects of Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine can sometimes cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, stomach aches, or cramping if taken in high quantities. This occurs as your body converts creatine monohydrate into creatinine, which is a toxic byproduct of creatine conversion.
This most often occurs during the loading phase. Many supplements will recommend that you take a highly increased dose of creatine monohydrate for the first five to seven days that you are supplementing. After the loading phase, you decrease your dosage to one serving immediately after training.
The loading phase is great for bulking up quickly, but it’s not actually necessary. Dr. Chris Mohr, co-owner of nutrition consulting company Mohr Results says this.
“While the loading phase is not dangerous or unhealthy, research suggests after 30 days, results from using creatine end up the same for strength gains. That said if someone needed faster results, for example, five days versus 30 days, then the loading phase could be considered.”
Whether or not you decide to include the loading phase, make sure you are hydrating constantly while supplementing with creatine monohydrate. This reduces the worst of the unpleasant symptoms and ensures that your body has enough water to complete the conversion to ADP.
BCAA vs Creatine
So the question is, which supplement is better for building muscle: BCAA vs creatine? The answer is that it depends on the person taking them and their goals.
BCAA and creatine help you build muscle in very different ways. BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis and reduces the rate of protein breakdown, even in the absence of exercise. Creatine on the other hand fuels your body with extra ATP so that you’re able to complete heavier and higher intensity workouts.
But the truth is, you really won’t know how these supplements interact with your body until you actually take them. BCAAs might be super effective for one person, while creatine may be more effective for another. The answer to the BCAA vs creatine debate ultimately depends on how your body reacts to them.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each supplement. BCAA promises an increase in muscle gain, fat loss, and a decrease in muscle soreness. However, it hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as creatine, and clinical results regarding its effectiveness are mixed.
Creatine has been thoroughly studied and has the clinical results to back up its claims. But it sometimes causes negative side effects, especially during the loading phase.
The question of which is better for building muscle, BCAA vs creatine is hard to answer definitively. You know your body better than anyone else, so you have to make the decision of which one works the best for you.
The Results Are Up to You
At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to decide whether BCAA vs creatine is more effective for building muscle. The answer may be different for you than it is for someone else. It all depends on how your body reacts to the supplements.
So what’s the best way to figure out which supplement is right for you? Try them both. Cycle through one supplement and then the other and monitor your results. Both supplements have been proven to build muscle, it’s just a question of which one your body takes to more.
If you’re ready to reach the next level of fitness, pick a supplement and try it out today. Whether you chose to start with BCAA or creatine, you’re guaranteed to see results. Conduct your own experiment using your body and figure out which one is right for you.