BCAA Vs Pre Workout: Which One Should You Use?

  • Evidence based
  • Fact checked
BCAA Vs Pre Workout

BCAAs and pre-workout supplements are two of the most common supplements that people use to power their workouts. 

Pre-workouts are used for those looking to increase energy, endurance, and focus. BCAAs, on the other hand, are used for those looking to reduce muscle fatigue, improve muscle recovery, and enhance muscle repair.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these supplements and see how they differ. Understanding the difference between BCAAs and pre-workouts can help you make an informed decision on which one is best for your fitness goals.

I. BCAA Vs Pre workout: Which is Better?

BCAAs and pre-workout supplements serve different purposes. BCAAs are used to reduce muscle fatigue, improve muscle recovery, and enhance muscle repair. On the other hand, pre-workouts are used to increase energy, endurance, and focus. 

BCAA Vs Pre Workout

Therefore, the answer to which one is better depends on your individual fitness goals.

Basic Differences

Understanding the essential differences between BCAA and pre-workouts is crucial for individuals seeking to choose the right supplement based on their fitness goals and preferences. 

Here is a table that provides a succinct comparison of BCAAs and pre-workouts, highlighting their composition, essentiality, metabolism, primary functions, timing, and applications:

CategoriesBCAAsPre workouts
CompositionConsists of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.Combination of various ingredients including: caffeine, amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and more.
MetabolismMetabolized directly in the musclesComponents are metabolized in different parts of the body
Primary FunctionsIncrease muscle protein synthesis Promote muscle growthPrevent muscle breakdown and damage Improve muscle recovery Enhance exercise performanceProvide an energy boost Promote muscular endurance Increase blood flowEnhance focus and motivation Reduce exercise-induced fatigue
TimingCan be taken throughout the day, including pre, intra, and post-workout.Typically consumed 30 minutes before a workout to enhance performance during exercise.
UseTo preserve muscle mass and support recovery during workouts.Optimizing workout sessions by enhancing energy, endurance, and focus.

II. What are BCAAs?

Now let’s get back to understanding BCAAs and pre workouts separately. What exactly are BCAAs in the first place?

BCAAs are a set of three essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce on its own. The 3 amino acids are:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine. 

Since the body cannot produce the BCAAs on its own, they must be obtained through diet or supplementation. 

BCAAs are naturally found in protein-rich foods[1]Nutrition Journal: Dietary intakes of branched-chain amino acids and plasma lipid profiles among filipino women in Korea: the Filipino Women’s Diet and Health Study such as meat, dairy, eggs, and certain plant-based sources like beans and lentils. However, to achieve higher concentrations and faster absorption, many opt for BCAA supplements.

When consumed as supplements, these BCAAs are metabolized in the muscles and can be used as an additional source of energy during exercise. 

They also play a crucial role in increasing muscle protein synthesis, promoting muscle growth, preventing muscle breakdown and muscle damage, improving muscle recovery, and enhancing exercise performance.

List of Benefits of BCAAs

Here is a brief list of the primary benefits of BCAAs:

Stimulate muscle protein synthesis: BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of building new muscle tissue. Leucine[2]PubMed: The role of leucine in the regulation of protein metabolism, one of the three essential amino acids in BCAAs, is particularly effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

Promote muscle growth: Muscle protein synthesis ultimately promotes faster and healthier muscle growth, and this is the primary process by which BCAAs lead to muscle growth. They also provide an additional energy source during exercise, which indirectly promotes higher muscle mass and better composition.

Prevent muscle breakdown and muscle damage: According to studies[3]PubMed: Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise, BCAA supplementation can prevent and reduce muscle catabolism(muscle breakdown) and muscle damage. It does so primarily by reducing muscle fatigue and putting the body in an anabolic state whereby it constantly repairs itself.

Enhance exercise performance: BCAAs can enhance exercise performance by providing an additional source of energy during exercise and reducing muscle fatigue.

III. What is Pre-workout?

Pre-workout supplements are a combination of multiple potent ingredients that are designed to increase energy, endurance, and focus during exercise. Most of the popular pre-workouts typically contain caffeine, amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and other ingredients that can improve exercise performance.

1. How a Pre-workout Works

A pre-workout supplement is designed to enhance exercise performance by utilizing a strategic blend of ingredients. Typically taken before a workout, it acts as a catalyst for improved energy, focus, and endurance during training sessions. 

They contain a cocktail of ingredients like caffeine, amino acids, and creatine that can provide the energy boost and muscle pump required for a workout session.

Here is a list of the most common ingredients found in pre-workouts and their impact on exercise performance:

Caffeine: One of the most popular stimulant compounds, caffeine provides an immediate energy boost by stimulating the central nervous system and increasing mental focus. 

Beta-alanine: Another common ingredient in pre-workouts, beta-alanine helps reduce muscle fatigue[4]Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The effect of beta-alanine supplementation on neuromuscular fatigue in elderly (55–92 Years): a double-blind randomized study and delay the onset of muscle soreness. 

Creatine: An organic compound, creatine aids in increasing energy production in the muscles, promoting strength and power during workouts. 

Nitric oxide boosters: Compounds like arginine are nitric oxide boosters that promote the process of vasodilation. In plain speak, they enhance blood flow, allowing for better nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles. 

2. List of Benefits of Pre-workout

Pre workouts differ from BCAAs in the benefits they offer. Here is a brief list of the primary benefits of pre-workouts:

  • Pre-workouts provide an energy boost by increasing energy levels and improving focus.
  • These performance-boosting supplements can promote muscular endurance by enhancing endurance and reducing muscle fatigue.
  • Pre-workouts can increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels, which can improve nutrient delivery to the muscles.
  • These also improve focus and motivation by increasing energy levels and enhancing mental clarity.
  • By enhancing endurance and reducing muscle fatigue pre workouts can reduce exercise induced fatigue.

Explore More: Does Pre Workout Make You Sweat More?

IV. BCAAs vs pre-workout: Which One Should You Take?

When it comes to choosing between BCAAs and pre-workout supplements, there are several factors to consider. Both supplements have their own unique benefits and can be used to enhance your workout routine.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing between BCAAs and pre-workout.

1. Fitness goals

If your goal is to increase muscle growth and recovery, BCAAs may be the better choice. If you’re looking to increase energy and focus during your workouts, pre-workout may be the better option.

2. Exercise routine

If you’re doing high-intensity workouts that require a lot of explosive energy and endurance, pre-workout may be the better choice. If you’re doing more low-intensity workouts, BCAAs may be more beneficial.

Muscle growth and recoveryIncreased energy and focus during workouts
More beneficial for low-intensity workoutsBetter for high-intensity, explosive workouts
Weightlifting, steady-state cardioHigh-intensity interval training (HIIT), plyometrics, heavy weightlifting

V. Can BCAAs Be Used As A Pre-workout Supplement?

BCAAs and pre-workout supplements are two of the most popular supplements used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. While both supplements have their own unique benefits, some people wonder if they can be combined to create a more powerful effect. 

Here’s what you need to know about combining BCAAs and pre-workout supplements.

1. How to combine BCAAs and Pre-workout

To harness the benefits of this powerful duo, it’s important to get the combination right. Timing is Key.

Consume BCAAs around 30 minutes before exercise to activate their effects. Follow it up with your pre-workout supplement to experience a surge in energy, endurance, and focus during your workout.

This strategic combination can optimize your performance, giving you the edge you need to reach your fitness goals.

2. Benefits of combining BCAAs and Pre-workout

When combining BCAAs and pre-workout supplements, you’re blending the best of both worlds. Together, they create a powerhouse combination that can significantly elevate your workout performance.

Here are the potential benefits you can expect when you combine BCAA and pre-workout supplements:

  1. Increased energy: Pre-workout supplements contain caffeine and other ingredients that can increase energy levels. When combined with BCAAs, which can also provide an additional source of energy during exercise, you can experience a significant boost in energy.
  2. Improved endurance: Pre-workout supplements can improve endurance by enhancing blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue. BCAAs can also reduce muscle fatigue and improve recovery, which can help you exercise for longer periods.
  3. Enhanced muscle growth: BCAAs are known for their ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of building new muscle tissue. When combined with pre-workout supplements, which can also promote muscle growth, you can experience enhanced muscle growth.
  4. Speedier Recovery: BCAAs, with their muscle repair and recovery benefits, work in harmony with the pre-workout’s focus on reducing exercise-induced fatigue, allowing for a quicker post-workout recovery.


BCAAs and pre-workout supplements are both effective in improving exercise performance but in considerably different ways. When choosing between the two, keep your fitness goals and exercise routine in mind.

As with any supplement, it’s important to follow dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional before adding them to your routine. With the right combination and proper use, both pre-workout and BCAAs can greatly enhance your workout experience.

Similar Posts