Pre-workout vs BCAA?

Medically reviewed by Dr Dimitar Marinov
Pre-workout vs BCAA?

Is it better to use pre-workouts or BCAAs before exercise? These two products are pretty similar, but ultimately, you’ve got to understand their role in fitness to make the most of them in your workout routine. 

Let’s explore everything you need to know about using BCAA or pre-workout. Let’s go!

What is a BCAA supplement?

BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) get their name from their chemical structures because they kind of resemble tree branches and are called essential amino acids because our bodies cannot produce them by themselves; they need to be consumed through the food we eat or supplements. What are the names of these three essential amino acids? Leucine, isoleucine and valine. 

What is a pre-workout supplement?

Pre-workout supplements are a type of nutrition supplement packed with ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and, wait for it, BCAAs. This combination of ingredients was developed to help you improve your physical performance and promote muscle growth and muscle recovery.

Is it better to take pre-workout or BCAA supplements?

When choosing between pre-workout and BCAA supplements, we’d say your best option would be to go for a pre-workout that contains BCAAs. Yes, that’s an option! Some pre-workouts include BCAAs in their formula, so you can get the best of both worlds. However, if you prefer to take one or the other, you’ll have to focus on their functions when choosing.

BCAAs function

The most significant difference between BCAA and pre-workout is that BCAAs are meant to be used by anyone wanting to promote muscle recovery and reduce muscle fatigue.

Preworkout function

A pre-workout helps increase your energy and focus throughout your workouts. The bottom line is that these two supplements have very different functions.

Reviewing the ingredients in pre-workout

A great pre-workout product is usually packed with the best-quality ingredients that will give you the energy boost you need to smash any workout. Many pre-workout supplements could contain:

  • Beta-alanine helps prevent acid buildup in muscle tissue and allows your muscles to work harder and longer
  • Caffeine helps you to increase energy levels and focus
  • Creatine is a chemical compound that is naturally produced in your body, and it plays a role in increasing ATP production (AKA muscle fuel) and promotes muscular strength
  • Nitric oxide is another compound that the body naturally produces, and helps to improve blood flow by relaxing blood vessels
  • BCAAs are included in some pre-workouts as they help increase muscle growth and reduce muscle soreness

What are the benefits of taking pre-workout?

Taking a pre-workout supplement can impact your athletic performance tremendously, but that’s not the only thing you can expect to improve. Here are the main benefits of taking pre-workout: 

  • Increased energy 
  • Increased focus 
  • Improved muscle building 

What are the drawbacks of taking pre-workout?

When you follow the manufacturer’s dosage recommendations, pre-workout can have little to no drawbacks. But everyone is different, so there’s a small chance you might experience potential side effects. Here are some things you could experience with taking pre-workout supplements.

  • May cause headaches
  • May cause jitteriness
  • May cause water retention
  • May upset your digestive system 

Reviewing the ingredients in BCAA supplements

BCAAs have a pretty straightforward formula, and the main ingredients you’ll find in the supplements are:

  • L-leucine is important for muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth
  • Isoleucine is the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells that helps balance sugar levels, boosts energy, and improves endurance
  • Valine helps boost muscle growth and regeneration

What are the benefits of taking BCAA supplements?

BCAAs come with a host of different benefits for you to ensure and take advantage of to smash your workout routine. When taken consistently BCAAs:

  • May help increase lean muscle mass
  • May help stimulate muscle protein synthesis
  • May improve muscle repair 
  • May improve muscle recovery
  • May prevent delayed onset muscle soreness
  • May reduce and prevent muscle breakdown
  • May reduce muscle fatigue 
  • May help people with liver disease 

What are the drawbacks of taking BCAA supplements?

Taking oral BCAA supplements has not often been associated with any particular drawbacks, and when you’re following the recommended dosage, it’s more likely you won’t experience any side effects at all. However, everyone is different, and your body might react differently to how someone else would. So, with that in mind, here are a few potential side effects:

  • May cause headaches
  • May cause nausea
  • May cause pain
  • May interfere with blood glucose levels during and post-surgery

Can BCAAs and Pre-workouts be taken together?

Yes, you can combine pre-workout supplements as long as you follow the recommended dose; in fact, there are a lot of them available. So, before you choose to take both supplements, always go and check the pre-workout label to see if it already contains BCAAs.

What is the best time to take BCAAs or Pre-workout?

To maximise your athletic performance and maximise the benefits of BCAAs and pre-workout supplements, the best time to take them is up to 15 minutes before you exercise.

Final thoughts

BCAAs and Pre-workout are great supplements to add to your routine if you want to make the most out of your training and workouts – it all depends on your goals. Otherwise, it’s perfectly safe to stack these two supplements or take a pre-workout containing BCAAs to get the best results.

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