Many products contain a variety of amino acids along with various forms of creatine in the same mixture. But should you be mixing them?
Our expert advisors are at hand to keep you in the loop…
- How to use BCAAs
- How to use creatine
- Can you mix BCAAs and creatine?
- Pre-workout using BCAAs and creatine
How to use BCAAs
BCAAs are all the rage among muscle builders and high-intensity fitness fanatics, but many people don’t know what that acronym stands for.
BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, are a health supplement that are widely used for pre- or mid-workout, particularly ideal for building lean muscle – in other words, putting on muscle mass while cutting body fat. You can find BCAAs as a standalone supplement or as part of a blend.
The supplement features three of the nine essential amino acids, including l-leucine, l-isoleucine and l-valine. Their main job is to promote the synthesis of protein while supplying energy to your muscles and preserving lean mass. This is one of the most popular uses of BCAAs as they allow you to effectively lose weight from fat when you are on a low calorie nutrition regime, rather than your body breaking down those hard earned muscles when its in need of energy.
BCAAs also are proven to reduce the amount of serotonin your body produces, which means that while you are exercising you will not be plagued by fatigue the same, meaning you can work harder for longer.
BCAAs are also advantageous as your body ages. From your mid-thirties, your body doesn’t build muscle the same as it once did, and BCAAs can help with that. The amino acid leucine, in particular, has been proven to increase muscle protein synthesis by 145 percent.
BCAA supplementation may be used up to four times a day when you have an intense programme and can be used before, during and after your workout.
How to use creatine
Creatine is marketed to a similar audience, for bodybuilders and athletes that take part in sports and activities that involve short bursts of intensity.
It is composed of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. Basically, it is a way of giving you energy reserves. Your muscle tissue stores creatine as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine synthesizes during high-intensity exercises, such as lifting weights, to provide your muscles with extra energy. Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis. It speeds up the natural process of how your bodies produce Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). ATP is used up and quickly depletes during high-intensity exercise.
By supplementing creatine you can increase the ability to store more, meaning that more ATP can be produced during exercise. This is where creatine comes in as a facilitator of extra energy. It is used up pretty quickly and is best suited to requirements of short bursts of energy, such as weight lifting and sprints.
There are several different kinds of creatine, but they pretty much all serve the same purpose – with variations in the rate at which they are absorbed. Monohydrate is the common cornerstone of many weightlifters. For monohydrate, a loading phase of 20g a day is recommended for one week, and then five grams on a daily basis for six weeks, followed by a month of no creatine.
Can you mix creatine and BCAA?
Already you are probably getting the picture of the similarities between BCAAs and creatine, but can you mix them together?
The answer is yes. Various studies have found that there are no concerning adverse effects to your health as a result of mixing the two supplements, and many pro athletes and personal trainers recommend putting them together. In fact, many supplements – especially pre-workout supplements, which we’ll get to next – combine BCAAs and creatine.
By taking each as individual supplements, as opposed to part of a pre-measured blend, you can take control of the ratio (with medical advice) and avoid any other added supplements that usually come in blends such as caffeine and added carbs.
Pre-workout with BCAA and creatine
The generally sought benefit of combining the two is the duo of power and endurance and the fact their attributes compliment one another: creatine for strength and reserves to push harder, and BCAAs for muscle energy. Creatine is best taken pre-workout (some say 30 mins before you exercise), while BCAAs can also be used for your intra- workout boost.
Take home message
You can combine the two or take separately depending on your goals. BCAAs are highly recommended as a pre-workout supplement, but they are highly advantageous as a boost to your muscle fuel during your workout. They’re affordable compared to other supplements and contain no additives.
Creatine, on the other hand, is taken in cycles over a longer term; the aim is to saturate your muscles with the stuff to get in the extra reps and go the extra distance. It is, therefore, best as a pre-workout supplement. It’s not all about mass building either, as both may be utilised to build lean gains, helping you to stack on the muscle mass while trimming the body fat.