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Creatine vs BCAA
What’s the Difference?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 20, 2021

BCAA vs. creatine. It has been a matter of confusion for many noobs trying their first steps into bodybuilding.

While vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein supplements are familiar in both name and function, these two remain a bit of a mystery.

I’ve combed extensively through science-based research on BCAA and creatine so that I could be there for my clients and dispel any doubts they may have about these supplements.

So, what are they, and what do they do?

BCAA vs Creatine: What’s the Difference?

A pill and a scoop of powdered supplement

BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are three of the nine essential amino acids, which are thus called because the body can’t synthesize them and must obtain them from the diet.

BCAAs include:

  • Eucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Equally important, these amino acids are proteinogenic, meaning they are heavily involved in protein synthesis, which is why they are an important supplement for anyone interested in increasing muscular mass.

On the other hand, creatine is a non-protein derivative metabolized from amino acids glycine and arginine with a little help from methionine.

It is found almost exclusively in skeletal muscles (95%), where it boosts cellular energy.

If you were building a house, creatine would be one construction worker that makes everyone laugh, builds up morale, and gets the job done. BCAAs would be the bricks and mortar that give the house its final shape.

What Does BCAA Do?

A supplement scattered on a table

Each BCAA plays a crucial role in muscle protein synthesis, but l-leucine is the amino acid that triggers the process.

It is why the ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine is 2:1:1 in all BCAA supplements.

Branched-chain amino acids prevent protein loss and, therefore muscle breakdown, and serve as an additional energy source during exercise.

Ensuring they’re always in the right place at the right time, these three essential amino acids comprise about one-third of skeletal muscle protein, which can easily convert into a fuel source.

BCAAs have numerous other roles in cell signaling, oxidation of fatty acids, the proliferation of lymphocytes, etc.

BCAA Benefits

A spoon of a powdered supplement spilled on a table

Each BCAA has numerous benefits, but put together, this supplement can:

  • Promote muscle growth, muscle protein synthesis, and muscle recovery after exercise
  • Prevent the breakdown and fatigue of muscles, especially during long exercises
  • Alleviate muscle soreness
  • Help your body build lean muscle mass while losing fat
  • Reduce muscle damage and promote muscle repair

Drinking supplements containing BCAAs will help you keep your body in an anabolic state. Just remember, to do the job to the best of their abilities, BCAAs require help from other essential amino acids, and complete protein sources like whey seem the best choice.

Whey protein has proven particularly effective in promoting muscle protein synthesis.[1]

BCAA Side Effects

Workout supplements containing BCAAs are generally considered safe. Some people may experience headaches, nausea, or diarrhea.

What Does Creatine Do?

Pouring a powdered creatine on a container

Creatine is a non-essential nutrient synthesized in the liver and kidneys, but you can also supplement it from red meat and seafood.

Its phosphorylated form, phosphocreatine or creatine phosphate, serves as an energy depot, ready to jump whenever it’s necessary to assist in creating adenosine triphosphate or ATP.

ATP is the ultimate energy molecule used in spades during muscle contraction.

For muscles, creatine is the power behind the throne.

Creatine Benefits

Green and white pills on a pink platform

I can talk at length about the good guy creatine and how indispensable it is for our body, but for the sake of brevity, here are but a few reasons why we should be grateful to this enthusiastic little helper, which:

  • Increases muscle strength and exercise performance
  • Improves muscle health
  • Builds lean muscle
  • Improves cognitive function and memory while reducing mental fatigue

To reap all the benefits from the above, we recommend you try one of the top creatine brands.

Creatine Side Effects

Studies show creatine doesn’t have side effects. Weight gain due to water retention and bloating can occur, but with no ill effects.

Of the many creatine supplements, the most popular one is creatine monohydrate, which has been tested left and right and is considered safe and gives the most benefits.[2]

“Regular monitoring is compulsory to avoid any abnormal reactions during oral creatine supplementation.” - J R Poortmans, Researcher, Free University of Brussels

If you're dealing with bloating, you can try buffered creatine (kre-alkalyn) or opt for one of the best creatine alternatives.

Should I Use BCAA Or Creatine?

A big container of a powdered supplement and a girl pouring it to a small container

It all depends on your fitness goals.

If you are into weight training for specific sports and want to stimulate further muscle growth and fat loss, take BCAA.

Your body will thank you. You can use these amino acids as supplements for any aerobic exercise. Take BCAA if you’re on a low-protein diet to supplement your lack of proteins.

If you wish to gain strength, bulk up, and increase muscle mass or an endurance athlete accustomed to longer workout sessions, take creatine.

Can I Combine Them?

Yes, you can. BCAA and creatine aren’t mutually exclusive.

Taking BCAAs and creatine is like treating yourself with a burger and a coke. One gives protein, the other energy. This combination will increase your endurance and give you extra power.

“BCAA and creatine can be taken together. But, they work differently. Consuming them together gives you both protein sources for new muscle synthesis and energy for your workout,” +

FAQs

When Should I Take BCAA And When Creatine?

Take BCAA before and during exercise to promote anabolic metabolism, i.e., protein synthesis.

Take creatine before a workout. This timing is especially effective if you’re doing HIIT.

Can I Take BCAAs And Creatine Every Day?

If you want to see results, you should consume BCAAs and creatine every day.

What Is The Recommended Daily Dosage For BCAA And Creatine?

The daily dose generally considered safe for healthy adults is 4g to 20g of BCAA and 5g of creatine.

For more information about proper creatine dosage, read our blog.

BCAA Vs. Creatine: Which One Should I Choose?

This battle of the supplements is not a competition. You can do your training sessions without BCAA and creatine supplementation.

However, if your workouts are demanding, BCAAs can help you stay on track and promote muscle synthesis, while creatine will help you build strength and give your body the energy kick you will most definitely need.

Do you use any of these fitness supplements? If so, which ones do you consider the best on the market? Let us know your thoughts.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24257722/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/

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