Protein is nothing but a fuel that your body requires to initiate the recovery process after an exhaustive training session. With the presence of dozens of post-workout nutrition options, it’s hard to figure out the best option.
A common question that seems to arise in everyone’s mind, whats better supplement for optimum growth, Whey or EAA?
Amino acids are building blocks of protein, and they are required for the muscle protein synthesis and regulation of critical hormones. All the protein supplements are not created equal which makes it critical to choose the right kind of supplements to reach the desired goal.
Whey protein and EAA (essential amino acids) are both effective in their own way, To answer every question, let’s first go through the basics of Whey protein and EAA (Essential amino acids) then we will get on point to point comparison.
Basics of Whey protein and EAA?
If you are already aware of the basics of protein and amino then feel free to skip this part and jump directly to the comparison portion.
Many people aren’t even familiar with the term “amino acids”, they just concentrate on protein consumption for muscle and strength development. Proteins are made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids and there are 20 different amino acids.
Amino acids are further classified into 3 categories.
- Non-essential amino acids: Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the human body and you don’t really worry about consumption of these aminos through food.
- Essential amino acids: 9 out of 20 aminos are Essential Amino Acids that your body can not manufacture on its own. You need to feed your body these aminos through food and other sources.
- Conditional amino acids: These are the aminos that can be produced within the body but something your body might not be able to fulfill the demands. Under specific circumstances, you might require to supplement these aminos to meet the body’s demands.
What is whey protein
Whey has always been bodybuilder’s top choice for building lean muscle mass. Most of the whey protein supplements contain a complete profile of amino acids that are easy to digest and have been proven for muscle building and strength gains.
What is EAA?
EAAs supplements only contain essential aminos that your body can’t produce on its own. While some people are confused about BCAA and EAA, BCAA contains 3 of 9 essential amino acids that are known to support muscle health and EAAs contains all the required aminos for muscle health. Clearly, EAA is the winner when compared to BCAA.
Read more: Detailed comparison of BCAA vs EAA.
Whey vs EAA
Before we get into detailed comparison lets have a short understanding of Whey vs EAA; whey has been the top choice of bodybuilders for a very long time but EAA’s are comparatively new to the market. Both the protein supplements contain complete protein sources that will assist in muscle gains but when it comes to the quality EAA is a little more sophisticated than whey protein. Whey has been proven to support improved muscle protein synthesis but EAAs are found more effective for lean muscle gains. EAAs also prevents bloating and absorbed faster than whey.
Another difference between whey protein and EAA supplements is their amino profiles. While whey contains all 20 amino acids, the other contains only the Essential Aminos.
As you can see in the picture below, Whey protein contains All the EAA and Non-essential amino acids that make it a complete food source for optimum growth. But it’s not an end of the story, EAA has its own sets of benefits and we are going to talk about them.
Whey protein is surely one of the best whole protein supplement that delivers all the aminos profile at once.
Problem is, before buying a Whey protein most of the people look at the protein and BCAA content per scoop right? A long variety of amino in whey provides the manufacturers with an excuse to play with the ratio of different aminos. Some of the cheap manufacturers include more non-essential aminos (since they usually cost less) within their supplement to bring down the costing.
On the other hand, EAA consists of only essential aminos that can not be altered. Although the quantity of protein (per scoop) is less in EAAs but they are definitely higher quality.
Whey is derived from milk and that’s the reason most of the whey supplements are vegetarian.
On the other hand, EAA can be extracted from different sources and combined to deliver an effective punch to your workout. If you are a vegetarian then you need to be conscious about the source of EAA.
3# Lean muscle gain
Although whey protein comes in a wide range of variety, there is Raw whey, whey concentrate, Isolated whey, Hydrolyzed whey, Zero carb whey. To get the low carb whey, you need to pay more money.
EAA supplements contain only essential aminos that are required by the body to do the essential work.
If you are looking for low calorie and low carb option then investing in EAA can be a better choice.
4# Protein synthesis
Whey protein is a clear winner here. Researchers have found whey protein stimulates far better muscle protein synthesis then EAA. But that too depends on the quality of the whey you are using.
Katsanos and team did research on a group of elderlies to find the difference in protein synthesis of Whey protein, Essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids.
Result of study: Whey protein supplementation proved to be a better choice, although the difference in protein synthesis was not very big. The group that was supplemented with non-essential aminos had a minimum rate of protein synthesis.
5# Fasted state
Some people like to train empty stomach and some are early birds who wake up really early and go straight to the gym, these guys don’t get their pre-workout meal 60-minutes prior to workout.
EAA can surely be a better choice as an intra workout supplement, it will help in fueling your workout and will also prevent muscle protein breakdown.
Whey protein can be consumed once you break the fast with a post-workout meal.
6# Inflammation and digestive issues
If whey protein is leaving you bloated and giving you digestive issues because your body’s intolerance to milk products then EAA should be your best alternative.
Thinking of BCAA instead of EAA? Your EAA supplement already contains BCAA and they contain 6 additional essential aminos that are supports optimum protein synthesis.
7# Absorption rate
Whey protein is quickly absorbed by body, no doubt, but EAAs are faster.
That’s the reason its best decision to have a scoop of EAA right after a workout and then get your whey protein with your post-workout meal.
If the price is an issue for you then you should probably stick to your whey supplement. EAA supplements are a bit costlier.
10# Want to get jacked
If the Digestive issue is not a problem, if the Insulin spike is not a problem, if you are looking to get big then Whey protein is one of the best solutions. A scoop of whey with a pre-workout meal and a scoop of whey post-workout should be an optimum choice.
Only whey won’t help you get big, it’s just 120-150 calories per serving, more attention to your macros should be your top priority.
I usually ask my client to take 3 scoops of whey (morning, pre-workout and post-workout) and a scoop of casein before bed for optimum muscle growth.
11# Insulin spike
Concerned about insulin spike? EAA will be a better choice. This is how the insulin chart looks. I am referring to the same study by Christos S Katsanos and team.
Can EAA replace whey protein?
Before I answer this question, you need to ask yourself, What is the need to replace whey protein with EAA?
If you are looking for the lowest calorie solution then you can think about replacing EAA with whey.
I personally love to add EAA in my intra-workout to keep my muscle fibers fueled for intense lifts but also add two scoops of whey to boost the recovery process.
Can BCAA replace Whey?
I would never recommend that! BCAAs comprise of only 3 essential amino acids which are not enough for skeletal muscle protein synthesis. BCAA’s should only be used when your body has a sufficient amount of remaining essential aminos.
Muscle protein requires all the amino profiles for muscle building and the incomplete amino profiles will surely hinder the growth.
Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always.