BCAAs vs Pre Workout: Which One Do You Need?

In this article, we’re going to look at BCAAs vs pre workout supplements, and how you should utilize these supplements to boost your performance in the gym.

There are a lot of supplements out there that supposedly help you get more from your workouts. BCAAs and pre workouts are probably the two most talked about. Yet there’s still a lot of confusion in terms of how they work, whether they’re necessary, whether they’re safe, and more.

We’re going to answer all that for you. Keep reading to learn more, and get the definitive answer on all things regarding BCAAs vs pre workout.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are branched-chain amino acids - specifically valine, leucine, and isoleucine, which are three of the nine essential amino acids.

“Essential” amino acids are amino acids that aren’t produced naturally within the body. Thus, we need to get them from external food sources.

These essential amino acids are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Of these nine compounds, valine, leucine and isoleucine are closely linked in their molecular structure, which is believed to help the body metabolize them better, delivering benefits faster. These benefits include increased muscle synthesis, decreased muscle soreness and fatigue, and increased energy production.

What is a Pre Workout Supplement?

A pre-workout supplement is a supplement used to increase energy levels and overall performance before you start a workout.

Typically, a pre-workout supplement comes as a powder that you mix with water or juice. It will often contain ingredients like caffeine, creatine, amino acids, and nootropic vitamins.

The ingredient list in pre workouts can vary greatly, though. Some focus largely on stimulants, to give you a rush of energy and a pump at the start of your workout. Others, like Stim Free Naked Energy, focus less on stimulants and more on vitamins and minerals that naturally support focus, energy production, and muscle function.

BCAAs vs Pre Workout: What's the Difference?

Unlike BCAAs, which is a scientific term for a specific set of compounds, pre-workout is a broad term that can include supplements with many different types of ingredients.

They get confused and compared with each other because they’re often taken for similar reasons. In addition, pre-workout supplements may actually contain BCAAs, along with other ingredients.

Why Do People Take BCAAs?

BCAAs are an all-round supplement, which offer a range of benefits at multiple stages of your workout.

They can help enhance strength, energy production and endurance, which helps you push harder during a workout. BCAAs may also aid recovery, post-workout muscle growth, and decrease soreness.

Why Do People Take a Pre Workout Supplement?

Pre workout supplements are generally more focused on boosting performance during your workout, specifically through improved energy and mental focus.

That’s why many pre workouts contain caffeine. A jolt of caffeine prior to your workout can shake off fatigue and give you a boost of energy, along with supporting mental drive.

The goal is to be able to get more done in your workout - such as more reps, higher intensity, longer duration. Often this is more of a short-term boost than with BCAAs, and one you’re more likely to be able to feel straight away.

Are BCAAs Safe?

BCAAs are usually very safe. Most people can take BCAAs regularly with very few side effects, if any.

Research has shown several potential negative effects that may be a result of overconsumption of BCAAs, such as decreased serotonin, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, you have to take a significant amount over the recommended dose for BCAAs for these health consequences to become a concern.

There may also be risks for people with certain health conditions, so if you have a pre-existing condition, check with your doctor before taking BCAAs.

Is it Necessary to Take a BCAA Supplement?

BCAA supplements are definitely not necessary to take. While research indicates they provide benefits for workout capacity and recovery, many people perform just fine without BCAAs.

If you’re not sure, feel free to try out working out BCAAs and see if you feel a significant difference. If not, they might not be necessary for you and you may be getting an adequate amount from your diet.

Though essential amino acids, of which BCAAs are included, can’t be produced naturally and have to be taken from external sources, a balanced diet will often provide all nine essential amino acids in some form.

Is it OK to Take a Pre Workout Every Day?

It depends on the mix of ingredients in your pre workout as to whether it’s safe to take it every day.

Pre workouts with natural ingredients are generally safe for daily use. The issue is if the pre workout contains a large amount of stimulants or artificial ingredients.

These pre workouts, whether they have significantly high levels of caffeine, or contain unsafe ingredients like artificial stimulants, can have negative health consequences if taken regularly.

It’s best to look for a clean, natural pre workout supplement in the first place, whether you plan to take it every day or not.

BCAAs vs Pre Workout: How to Decide Which One to Take

In choosing between BCAAs and pre workout, weigh the benefits of each and decide what you personally need.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. It depends on whether you want a short-term boost during your workout, or if you’re more concerned with improving long-term muscle growth, and providing the fuel for the muscles to recover in time for your next workout.

Think about your own situation. 

Do you need help with your energy levels, or with focusing during your workout? If so, a pre workout supplement may help. On the other hand, if you’re finding yourself struggling to recover and feeling particularly sore in between workouts, you might want to take BCAAs.

Can I Mix BCAAs and Pre Workout?

There's no reason that you can’t take BCAAs and a pre workout supplement. They can work well together, giving you a short-term energy boost from the pre workout, and a longer-term increase in muscle synthesis and recovery from the BCAAs.

Just be sure to check the ingredient list in your pre workout, as many pre workout supplements contain BCAAs already. That makes another BCAA supplement redundant, and depending on the dosage, you may get close to excess consumption, which can lead to negative side effects.

Generally speaking, though, BCAAs and pre workouts are a good combination. You could take a pre workout first, then BCAAs during your workout to hydrate and provide post-workout recovery fuel, or simply take both at the same time.

Neither are absolutely necessary, but if you want to take your training a step further, BCAAs and pre workout supplements can help you get there.


Also Read: BCAA vs Creatine: Which One Should You Pick?