Muscle Building BCAA or Whey Protein

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Muscle Buiding BCAA (branched chain amino acids) or whey protein supplements

A new study supports that whey protein offers better muscle building response compared to branch chain amino acids.

Summary of this article

What do we know about muscle building?

Ingestion of amino acids following resistance exercises helps with muscle building. “It is well-established that ingestion of essential amino acids (EAA) following resistance exercise stimulates an increased response of muscle protein synthesis MPS  (muscle protein synthesis) in humans”.

One amino acid, in particular, can help with muscle building. “The branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), leucine, has been shown to play a unique role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS)”

Branched chain amino acids work to build muscles more so than a placebo. “BCAA was shown to enhance muscle growth response slightly compared to a placebo. ”

“The decline in EAA (essential amino acids) that we observed with BCAA ingestion also provides a potential physiological explanation for the differential response of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to ingesting a BCAA source at rest and following resistance exercise. ”

“BCAA drinks stimulate the body’s muscle building systems but they lack some essential amino acids that are necessary to support a maximal muscle growth response.”

When the trained weight lifters took whey protein, muscle building response more than doubled.

Whey protein offers additional types of amino acids compared to branched chain amino acids (BCAA) alone. This is thought to be the reason for a greater muscle building response with whey protein compared to BCAA.

“A sufficient amount of the full complement of amino acids is necessary for maximum muscle building”

What is the take home message for muscle building?

If you are interested in muscle building you should not rely on branched chain amino acids (BCAA) supplements alone.

Consider whey protein or eating foods that are high in protein for maximal muscle building.

Reference Frontiers in Physiology,

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein. They are also sources of energy. Amino acids are structurally characterized by the fact that they contain nitrogen (N), whereas fats and carbohydrates do not.

Why is protein intake important?

As we age we lose muscle mass. We can build muscle by both strength training and eating protein rich foods.

Benefits of protein

Decrease hunger and help maintain muscle mass as you lose weight.

Do you need a protein supplement?

If you are eating a well-balanced diet probably not.

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a type of protein that separates from milk during cheese production. Milk contains two types of protein whey and casein.

Whey contains all the essential amino acids. Essential means that your body cannot produce them, we must get these amino acids from our diet. The amino acids that we must get from foods are termed “essential” amino acids.

Whey is easily digested.

What are Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids including leucine, isoleucine and valine.

Branch chained amino acids also known as BCAA, stimulate the muscle building response.

BCAAs are metabolized in the muscle, not the liver.

These supplements are part of a nutrition plan for many bodybuilders.

BCAAs supplements are commonly sold at health and nutrition stores.

As the article mentions BCAA alone should not be used if you are trying to increase muscle building.

Different types of whey protein supplements

Concentrate is the most popular

Hydrolyzed absorbs faster but also is associated with insulin spikes.

Isolate contains less lactose but also contains fewer amino acids compared to the concentrate.

Foods that are high in protein

Chicken (light meat)
Amount: 4 ounces
Protein (g) 35  Calories: 196
Turkey breast
Amount: 1 ounce, sliced

Protein (g): 6
 Calories: 25
Sirloin top steak,
Amount: 4 ounces, cooked
Protein (g): 34.4
 Calories: 229
Amount: 4 ounces, cooked
Protein (g): 25
 Calories: 234
Amount: 4 ounces
Protein (g): 26
  Calories: 120
Fat-Free Milk
Amount: 8 ounces

Protein (g): 8.4
 Calories: 86
Black beans

Amount: 1/2 cup

Protein (g): 7
  Calories: 80
Egg, hard boiled

Amount: 1 large
Protein (g): 6.2
 Calories: 74
Egg, white only

Amount: 1 large
Protein (g): 3.5  Calories: 17
Peanut butter
Amount: 2 tablespoons
Protein (g): 7.9
 Calories: 188
Amount: 1/2 cup
Protein (g): 11.1
  Calories: 127
Amount: 1/2 cup
Protein (g): 19.9
 Calories: 183
What are some of the ways you build muscle?

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About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 172 Articles

I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.


  1. Hey,
    What an informative post!

    There is a huge misconception around the use of BCAAs and proteins in the gyms, your piece here nailed it.

    Loved the list of the foods rich in protein at the end.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Nice weekend!

    ~ Andrew

  2. Hey Sharon,
    Awesome post!

    Loved the detailed foods list, it is time to watch the caloric intake I guess and add quality foods from your list.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Hi Dr. Sharon,

    My wife, who teaches yoga, is also something of a gym rat.

    She swears by the benefits of whey protein. Drinks it everyday, and sometimes makes me drink a shake of it – the little monster! 😉

  4. Hey! I to found this to be an interesting read! I am not really into muscle building but I did enjoy your tips especially the part where you shared about the foods that are high in protein.
    Great Job! Have a super weekend.
    chery :))

  5. Thanks for the list of protein foods. I’m using an app to track my nutrition and it’s always telling me I don’t eat enough protein. I don’t eat a lot of meat so this really helps me make better decisions.

  6. Appreciate you writing an article on The branched-chain amino acid. Thanks for the tips, and how whey proteins are rich in amino acids and how they will benefit a body builder. The list of foods you mentioned is much appreciated that way everyone knows how to maintain a constant supply of essential amino acids to their body.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Collagen Supplements -Hydrolyzed Collagen usually contains high amounts of glycine, lysine and proline compared to other forms of protein supplements such as whey protein and BCAA. One study showed that these types of amino acids can help build collagen.
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