Pre-Workout vs BCAAs: Which One Should You Take Before Your Workout?

There are a variety of pre-workout supplements in the supplements market including, creatine, beta-alanine, BCAA's (branched-chain amino acids), and pre-workout powder. Pre-workout and BCAA supplements are two that are often compared due to their similarities. This might come as a surprise to new lifters, but BCAA's aren't only great for post-workout recovery. In fact, taking it pre-workout or during your workout can share similar benefits to pre-workout.

Does this mean that one is better than the other?

Not necessarily, but you might like the benefits of one supplement over the other! Since we make our very own 373 Pre-Workout and BCAA's, we know basically everything there is to know about them, from how to make them to how they work. So, to help you find the best pre-workout supplement for your fitness goals, we're breaking down pre-workout vs BCAA's - let's find your match!

BCAA's pre-workout benefits

BCAA supplements are composed of the three branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are three essential amino acids (EAAs) that are basically muscle fuel! They are best known for their muscle recovery benefits which in turn helps increase overall muscle mass – so if your goal is to build muscle, BCAAs should be one of your supplements to keep on hand. Eating enough quality high-protein foods is a great way to boost your amino acid intake, but having a BCAA supplement before your workout, or even during can help enhance your training in ways you probably didn't know, like it...

  • Can reduce exercise-induced fatigue: Long durations of high-intensity training will decrease the levels of the three BCAA's in your blood and increase the amino acid tryptophan. When tryptophan increases, sleepiness and fatigue increase, which is something you don't want when you're training! Taking a BCAA supplement right before your workout or during can help reduce the risk of this happening. And according to some studies, BCAAs does show to be effective at preventing fatigue and supplying a steady level of energy.[1][2] Although BCAA supplements don't contain caffeine they do help boost exercise endurance thanks to their benefits of reducing fatigue.
  • Can stimulate muscle growth: One of the main reasons lifters have love BCAA supplements for so long is due to their benefit of increasing muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Increased muscle protein synthesis helps reduce the opposing force, muscle breakdown by repairing muscle damage caused by high-intensity training. You can thank the amino acid, leucine, for this wonderful benefit!
  • Improve muscle recovery: BCAAs are known for their muscle recovery benefits, this, in turn, will help reduce your recovery time so you can get back to crushing it at the gym ASAP! Taking BCAA's before your workout will help to lower the levels of enzymes responsible for damaging muscle which in turn helps reduce the severity and duration of delayed onset muscle soreness.

However, we can't look at the benefits of BCAAs without looking at the potential downsides! A few side effects/cons to be aware of are...

  • Potential fatigue issues.
  • May cause problems with coordination.
  • Potential negative effect on blood sugar metabolism.

These side effects only appear when BCAAs are over consumed, so to avoid this from happening keep track of your dosage intake. Research recommends taking between 0.03-0.05 per kg of body weight. This is roughly around 2-5 grams per hour during your training and recovery process.

How do pre-workout supplements differ from BCAAs?

BCAA supplements have some great pre-workout benefits, but don't let this rule out pre-workout supplements completely! Pre-workouts have a combination of ingredients which can include caffeine, B vitamins, amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and others. Each pre-workout supplement is unique because each brand has its own formula blend, but all-in-all, they do the same – increase energy levels to help you achieve peak performance.

So, what's the difference between pre-workout and BCAAs?

The main difference is that pre-workouts are focused on improving your overall training performance, while BCAAs are focused on fueling your muscles what they need to repair and rebuild. However, this doesn't mean that pre-workout powders don't have muscle-building benefits. It all really depends on the formula you buy! For example, pre-workouts with caffeine help improve endurance and reduce fatigue in a way that BCAAs don't because they don't contain a stimulant. Pre-workouts that contain creatine can help maximize your performance while reducing muscle damage. Creatine is also known to help increase strength and facilitate quick energy bursts for powerlifting or sprinting. So, it really depends on what pre-workout formula you get! If you're not sure which ingredients do what in your pre-workout, or simply need help finding one, here's the full breakdown on pre-workout supplement ingredients and which ones to avoid

At the end of the day, the combination of ingredients found in pre-workout are designed for a specific goal either to increase energy and enhance performance for fat burning goals or muscle-building goals. This makes it easy for you to find one that best suits your goals.

Which one should you take: BCAA or Pre-Workout?

When it comes down to choosing one, there is no right or wrong answer. BCAA's and pre-workout supplements each have their own benefits that may persuade you more than the other. If you're looking for something that's really going to give you a massive energy boost and take your training to the next level then choose a high-quality pre-workout that has the ingredients needed for your goals. If your main goal is to preserve lean muscle mass and promote muscle growth, and you prefer a non-stimulant, then BCAAs might be a better choice.

If BCAA's is your choice of pre-workout then stay within the recommended dose of 2-5 grams. However, studies show that taking 5-6 grams before a workout is the best dose for maximal effectiveness. It's also recommended to be consumed 15-30 minutes prior to allow for proper digestion.

If pre-workout supplements are your choice then make sure it's high quality (no proprietary blends) and take it 30-60 minutes before your workout. The active ingredients found in pre-workout take time to reach peak levels, so avoid chugging it as you're walking into the gym.

But, do you really need to choose one or the other?

No! In fact,those who want to reap the benefits of both supplements can incorporate both into their supplementation routine. Each supplement has a different set of ingredients that provide you with different benefits,and best of all, they complement each other. Pre-workouts will help enhance your focus and increase your energy when you need it the most, during your intense training sessions. BCAA's can be taken during or post-workout to support better muscle recovery and growth.

Just remember, supplements are as their name refers them. They are used only when necessary. Your main priority should always be a nutrient-dense diet that gives your body what it needs to function at optimal levels. Animal products can provide your body with sufficient essential amino acids, but supplements like BCAAs and whey protein powder (contains naturally occurring amino acids), can help supply your muscles with that they need when they need it. The same goes for pre-workout! Supplementation can just give your training the edge it needs - avoid relying on them too heavily.

In summary, pre-workout and BCAAs both make for great pre-workout supplements, but they can also work great together. Depending on your fitness goals and lifestyle you can choose one or the other, or reap the benefits of both!

At 373 Lab we pride ourselves on creating supplements that will enhance your training performance and recovery by creating formula blends with high-quality ingredients. To give your body what it needs, not what it doesn’t. Check out our collection of supplements and discover why they’re the best – Whey Protein Isolate (Chocolate Cheesecake), BCAA’s (Pineapple Mint), and Pre-Workout (Sour Raspberries).

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