EAAs or Whey Protein - what does my body need?
- EAA vs. Whey Protein
- What are EAAs?
- Differences between EAAs and Whey Protein
- Similarities between EAAs and Whey Protein
- What are your goals?
Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) vs. Whey Protein
The more athletes deal with the topic of training and muscle building and achieve their first successes, the more they also inform themselves about the nutrition and supplements that are suitable for their sport or their goals. Whether Whey Protein Isolate and Hydrolysate or EAAs and BCAAs, vegan protein or protein powder with casein - the selection is large. Just as diverse are the information and questions that exist about individual products. Just like the question "BCAAs or Whey ProteinWhey Protein is also polarizing.
In our guide, we explain what EAAs are, what Whey Protein and EAAs have in common, what the differences are and why both amino acid suppliers are important for your body.
What are EAAs?
EAA stands for "Essential Amino Acids." Amino acids are small protein building blocks. They are essential because the body needs them but cannotproduce them itself. In the field of weight training, athletes are particularly interested in valine, leucine and isoleucine, which play an important role in muscle building.
EAA supplements thus contain only essential amino acids that the body cannot produce itself.
Many people are not too familiar with the term "amino acids", but focus only on the intake of protein for muscle building. But what exactly is protein? Proteins, or proteins, are made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are a total of 20 different amino acids, eight of which are essential - meaning they cannot be produced by the body itself. To ensure a supply of them, they must be supplied through food.
These are the eight essential amino acids:
The EAAs can be taken for example from Whey or other complete proteins. However, if you take individual EAAs, they do not need to be further metabolized. This means that they can be transported very quickly and develop their effect in the muscles. A Whey alternative that has a similar effect is Whey Protein Hydrolysate. For the hydrolysate, the proteins are splitinto peptides - this also allows it to act relatively quickly on the body.
EAA is not to be confused with BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acid). BCAAs contain only three of eight essential amino acids, while EAAs contain all the amino acids that are important for muscle cells.
What is the difference between Whey Protein and EAAs?
Proteins and amino acids are not the same thing. An amino acid is the smallest building block of a protein. While full-strength Whey Protein contains essential and non-essential protein building blocks, supplements with EAAs contain all essential amino acids. This means a protein shake or supplement with Whey contains more protein than an EAA supplement, but slightly fewer essential amino acids, depending on the composition.
What do EAAs and Whey have in common?
Both Whey protein and supplements with EAAs contain all essential amino acids. Those who integrate Whey and/or EAAs into their diet can be sure that they are consuming the amino acids isoleucine, valine and leucine, which are important for protein synthesis.
EAAs or Whey? It depends on your goals!
A question that is often asked in the context of strength training is whether you should supplement EAAs instead of Whey for muscle building recovery. However, there is no right or wrong answer to this question; rather, it depends on the individual's situation. Whole proteins like Whey also have their advantages and disadvantages just as much as EAAs.
You want a leaner body
If you primarily want to reduce fat reserves in your body, you should look into the issue of calorie intake. The problem with calorie reduction: It can have the consequence that fat-free body mass is also reduced. This means thatmuscle cells also decrease, not just body fat.[¹]
EAAs are low in calories and at the same time prevent muscle breakdown, so fat is lost more effectively.[²] One difference between the two amino acid sources is in the number of calories: Whey contains about 120 calories per serving(30 grams), EAAs with 14 grams per serving only 50 calories. You can also support the supply of the muscles with Whey protein, but then you consume more calories, which requires more time for digestion and absorption into the muscle cells.[³]
Your goal is to build muscle
If you want to build muscle, you need a surplus of calories in your diet and a supply of enough suitable amino acids - they are important for muscle protein synthesis as well as recovery during muscle building.[⁴] [⁵] EAAs are the fastest way to get amino acids to muscle cells because Whey protein, unlike EAAs, must first be metabolized.
Individual amino acids are present separately in EAAs, are not bound to each other and reach the muscles virtually without delay. However, they have fewer calories, so this must be compensated for elsewhere in the diet. Whey protein results in a slower release compared to EAAs, but also contains more calories, which are critical to the goal of building muscle. Caloric needs are easier to meet with Whey Protein.
So with the frequently cited question of "EAAs vs. Whey Protein" in relation to muscle building, there is no clear answer, both amino acid sources contribute to muscle protein synthesis.
You want to do something for your health
Under certain circumstances, the protein supply is not ensured for some people, e.g. for athletes who follow a vegan diet. Yet it is precisely the supply of essential amino acids that is important for the human body.
Whey protein as well as an EAA supplement can ensure the supply, but Whey is out of the question for people who eat a purely plant-based diet or are lactose intolerant. Here, an EAA product (or in the case of lactose intolerance Whey Isolate protein powder) can be supplemented.
Conclusion: Whey Protein or EAAs - you decide for yourself
Even though we often read about a competition between Whey Protein vs. EAAs, we can state that Whey and EAAs have both differences and many similarities. Both amino acid sources have their benefits with different advantages and disadvantages. Whether Whey protein powder or an EAA supplement is the right choice depends on the athlete and their personal goals. Studies have also shown that just a combination of taking single EAAs and Whey protein can have a positive effect on muscle cell protein synthesis.[⁶]
Ultimately, it is also a question of taste: a Whey Protein Shake is creamy like a milkshake, while an EAA drink tastes more refreshingly light like a soft drink. The important thing is that you look for excellent quality in both products, so that, for example, Whey protein powder also ensures an adequate amount of pure protein.