Common bodybuilding lore is that in order to build substantial amounts of muscle, you have to consume gobs and gobs of protein. You know we’re talking about, the typical bro dieter that’s chugging protein shakes in between sets of curls and chowing down on endless batches of dry chicken breasts the rest of the day. Protein is king, and there’s no contesting the point
But, that might not be the case according to some scientific research. In fact, the tubs of whey protein you’ve been stockpiling may be completely unnecessary all together, provided you’re using a high quality essential amino acids (EAA) supplement.
We know what you’re thinking...Is it really possible that consuming essential amino acids may be more effective at building muscle than your favorite post workout shake?
Let’s find out!
EAAs vs Protein Powder
When you exercise, your muscles are placed under substantial stress, which results in damaged muscle fibers. Following the workout, your body enacts its recovery process, which starts with pulling amino acids from the available pool of amino acids in your body to construct proteins, which are then sent to the muscles to repair the damaged portions. The end results is a bigger, stronger, more durable muscle, otherwise known as GAINS!
Now, the reason that bodybuilders typically consume protein post workout isn’t so much for the protein macros (although that does help), it’s for the amino acids contained in the proteins of the protein powder.
We know that protein is composed of amino acids held together by peptide bonds to form long chains of amino acids known as polypeptides. When you consume a protein (either as whole foods or powder), your body has to digest the protein first, meaning it must expend energy (and time) to break apart the peptide bonds to liberate the amino acids. Only after the protein has passed through the stomach, lumen, and intestinal cells is it then passed into the bloodstream for delivery to the muscle cells in need of repair.
However, amino acid supplements (like EAA Max) contain only the free form essential amino acids, meaning there’s no peptide bonds that need breaking. The end result is that following ingestion, the amino acids are immediately taken up into the bloodstream and either delivered to the damaged muscles or sent to the amino acid pool to be utilized further in the body.
In other words, essential amino acid supplements provide a more direct and effective delivery method for the crucial building blocks needed for faster muscle repair, recovery, and growth! Additionally, EAA supplements contain only the essential components needed by the body. Whole proteins contain a wide spectrum of amino acids, both essential and nonessential.
In truth, the body only requires the nine essential amino acids, as it cannot synthesize those. If you’re getting sufficient amounts of those from your EAA supplement, then there’s really no need for a protein supplement at all. Plus, while a protein powder may contain all nine EAAs, there’s no guarantee the powder has the necessary amounts of EAAs for optimal muscle growth. With EAA supplements, you know exactly how much you’re getting to ensure you’re maximizing your muscle building potential.
Seem a little skeptical?
Well, that’s fine, numerous clinical trials have shown the superiority of EAA supplementation to protein powders for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and enhancing muscle growth, which we’ll get to next!
So, if EAAs are superior to protein supplements for improving muscle mass and protein synthesis, surely there must be some significant research demonstrating its superiority. It just so happens there is!
Previous research had shown that 6g EAAs consumed alongside 35g of carbohydrates was able to stimulate muscle protein synthesis following resistance training. Following the results of that study, a 2002 study showed that you only need to consume 6g of essential amino acids to effectively stimulate muscle protein synthesis and increase anabolism. The same trial also showed that consumption of nonessential amino acids resulted in no significant change in muscle protein synthesis.
A 2000 study compared essential amino acids to 40g whey protein. Researchers found that the drink containing the essential amino acids more efficiently entered circulation and were incorporated into protein, rather than being catabolized. On the other hand, urea production was significantly increased when whey protein was ingested in a study using a similar protocol as this one. FYI, urea is produced when the liver breaks down protein or amino acids.
In other words, there was more waste when protein was consumed versus essential amino acids, suggesting the when using EAAs nothing goes to waste, and only put towards muscle repair and growth.
Research from 2009 sought to investigate the comparison between whey protein and hydrolyzed whey in regards to which was better for amino acid uptake. FYI, hydrolyzed whey is essentially whey protein that has had its protein bonds pre-digested by enzymes, which means it's essentially just loose amino acids you’re consuming.
Following the trial, researchers concluded, “Ingestion of a protein hydrolysate, as opposed to its intact protein, accelerates protein digestion and absorption from the gut, augments postprandial amino acid availability, and tends to increase the incorporation rate of dietary amino acids into skeletal muscle protein.”
Yet again, we see that liberated or “free form” essential amino acids are superior to whole protein powders for entering the bloodstream and improving muscle protein synthesis.
Reasons to Choose EAA over Whey
More efficient muscle building
Faster amino acid uptake
No concern of GI upset from lactose
Delivers only what you need
Less waste products (urea production)
EAAs for Better Muscle Growth
When it comes to supporting and enhancing your muscle building potential, don’t fall for the common broscience that you must have a protein powder on hand to build slabs of lean, dense muscle. You can experience the same (or better) protein synthesis and muscle growth using a premium quality comprehensive essential amino acid supplement (like EAA Max) to fill in any gaps you might be missing from your diet.
Take a break from the endless, bland protein shakes and kick back with a tall glass of refreshing EAA Max for optimal muscle growth, repair and recovery!
Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. Section 23.1, Proteins Are Degraded to Amino Acids. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22600/
Borsheim E, Tipton KD, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002;283(4):E648-57. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00466.2001. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/283/4/E648.long
Rasmussen BB, Tipton KD, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2000;88(2):386-392. http://jap.physiology.org/content/88/2/386.long
Koopman R, Crombach N, Gijsen AP, et al. Ingestion of a protein hydrolysate is accompanied by an accelerated in vivo digestion and absorption rate when compared with its intact protein. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(1):106-115. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27474. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/1/106.long