Pre-Workouts vs BCAAs – Which is Better Before Your Workout?

Pre-workout vs BCAA is a question that people who are just getting into the fitness scene very often ask because they are both great supplements that will boost your performance and get you to your goal much faster.

However, the real question is which one will get you better results for the time and money you spend?

To answer this question we’ll first have to explain what each of these supplements is and what the benefits of using them are, so let’s start the explaining with the pre-workouts.

whey protein pre-workout shakes

What are Pre-Workouts?

Generally, pre-workouts are supplements that intend to boost your energy levels before a training session and they achieve that by a combination of vitamin B, carbohydrates and antioxidants.

The thing is that almost every brand out there has a different formula when they produce their pre-workout supplements.

Some of them include caffeine, some are actually carb free and calorie free but the important thing every quality pre-workout supplement has are BCAAs which brings us to the next part.

What are BCAAs?

BCAA is short for Branched Chain Amino Acids and they are the ingredient our body uses when building muscle.

They are also used as muscle fuel, recovery and muscle growth. The BCAAs mostly consist of Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine which are quite essential for your muscles.

Like we mentioned before they stimulate muscle growth but they are also useful in preventing muscle breakdowns during your workout.

Now that you have a better understanding of what these two are let’s see what their pros and cons are.

fitness women holding pre-workout and gym bag

Pre-Workouts Pros and Cons

We’ll start the list with the pros and cons of using a pre-workout supplement:

Pros

  • Higher focus
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increased strength
  • Increased fat burning
  • Weight loss

Cons

  • Possibility of increased blood pressure
  • Possibility of feeling nausea
  • Possibility of adrenal fatigue
  • Possibility to fail a drug test

BCAAs Pros and Cons

Moving on to the pros and cons of using BCAA:

Pros

  • Reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Protect muscles from exercise-induced damage
  • Promote muscle synthesis
  • Good for exercise endurance
  • Help with muscle repairs when it happens
  • Beneficial for insulin sensitivity
  • Wide range of clinical applications in medical care

Cons

  • Not suitable for pregnancy
  • Not suitable for breastfeeding women
  • May cause fatigue issues
  • May cause problems with coordination
  • May have a negative effect on blood sugar metabolism

What is the Difference?

The pre-workout supplements are more focused on making you achieve your peak performance during your training session and BCAAs are more focused on providing your body with the fuel it needs to build, grow and maintain muscle.

However, just to go a little deeper, the fundamental difference between these two is the use of stimulants like caffeine in pre-workout formulas which basically increase your focus, energy and motivation.

Quality pre-workout supplements also include vitamins and other natural composites that better your mood and endurance.

And let’s not forget the so-called “power molecules” like betaine and beta-alanine that increase your strength and muscle growth.

There’s usually a dilemma whether to take BCAA post or pre workout but since we’re focusing on the pre-workout now, the next question we’ll answer is:

preparing pre workout nutrition in kitchen

Can BCAA be Used as a Pre-Workout Supplement?

In short, YES!

BCAAs can be taken more than once during the day and most people opt to take it as a pre-workout supplement.

What you need to consider once you’ve decided to take BCAAs is when to take it and how much to take.

It’s supposed to be taken about 30 minutes before you start your training session in order to give it time to digest properly.

As for the dosage, research recommends that you take between 0.03-0.05/kg of body weight which is roughly 2-4 grams per hour during your training session and recovery process.

While BCAAs are great in helping your muscles grow and recover, they don’t do too much about boosting your actual focus and energy levels during your workout and that’s exactly why pre-workout supplements entered the scene.

They are both great. It basically depends on what you’re looking for in a workout and this will essentially bring you to the choice you have to make.

BCAA or pre-workout supplement?

Why not both? So…

Can You Mix Pre-Workouts and BCAA?

The short answer is YES again.

Pre-workouts and BCAA will work perfectly combined with each other because each of them will fulfill their different purpose.

Pre-workouts will help with heightening your focus and boosting your energy levels while BCAAs will help your endurance, muscle growth and muscle recovery.

Ultimately it all depends on what your goals are.

If you feel like you’re not giving it your best and feel like you can do more during your CrossFit training session you should check out the list of pre-workouts best fitted for that type of training.

On the other hand, if you want to greatly increase your focus during your workouts than checking out the list of best pre-workouts for focus is what you need to look at.

And in case you are leaning toward the healthy and organic side and want to avoid all the synthetic supplements, we have a list prepared for you too, which you can check out by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

We don’t necessarily need to pit pre-workout vs BCAA against each other because they work together quite well.

Most high-quality brands of pre-workouts include BCAAs in their formula. Though they might be a bit pricier it’s by far the best choice if you’re not on a budget because you get the best of both worlds.

However, if money is an issue you can always decide which one to go for depending on your primary goal.

If its muscle growth and recovery then go for the BCAA supplement but if you’re feeling like you’re not up to your true potential during your training sessions and increased performance is what you’re looking for you’ll need to pick pre-workouts as a supplement.

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