BCAA and Glutamine are two supplements that many consumers use for a number of reasons. However, they are most commonly used for boosting performance and recovery in athletes. So, why is supplementation required, and what is the difference between the two substances?
What Is BCAA?
BCAA refers to branch chain amino acids. These are not made by the body so they need to be taken as a supplement or via food. Supplements normally contain three amino acids; valine, isoleucine and leucine.
They are used to help muscle growth and to prevent muscle wastage. BCAA’s are essential amino acids so to avoid a deficiency, you need to consume them through your diet.
What Is Glutamine?
Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in the body. Unlike BCAA’s, glutamine can be produced in the body and while its typically a non-essential amino acid, it becomes essential when the body is under strain, such as illness or injury.
Glutamine has many uses, including aiding the healing process, boosting the immune system, and helping with exercise recovery. In athletes, glutamine can help with sore muscles, endurance and muscle growth. This is due to the fact that glutamine can be quickly converted into glucose, providing energy to cells and preserving muscle tissue.
BCAA VS Glutamine: Which One Is Better?
However, glutamine can increase the rate of muscle growth due to its involvement in human growth hormone regulation and production. Glutamine helps to increase human growth hormone to activate protein synthesis and increase muscle volume.
In terms of improving muscle recovery in-between workouts, studies have shown that BCAA’s can aid recovery and the immune system (1). BCAA’s are mainly synthesized in the muscles and a 2006 study suggested that they may promote muscle repair after workouts while decreasing exercise induced muscle damage (2).
However, glutamine is more well-known for boosting immunity and muscle recovery. Glutamine levels plummet when the body is put under stress, such as intense exercise. Therefore, glutamine supplementation is required to increase levels back to normal so that the functioning of organs can function correctly.
Studies have revealed that taking glutamine reduces muscle soreness2 while another study determined that supplementation can aid the immune system during heavy load training (3).
Can BCAA’s And Glutamine Be Used At The Same Time?
Both BCAA’s and glutamine (or L-glutamine as it is otherwise known) can be taken together or stacked. There are many supplement brands that offer both substances together. However, even if you are new to supplementation, you can stack BCAA’s and glutamine together.
How To Use BCAA’s And Glutamine In Your Regime
To use BCAA’s and glutamine in your daily routine, consider taking them pre-and post-workout, as well as before bed. If you’re a beginner, start with 2-3 grams per dose of glutamine and work your way up slowly to 5 grams. If you’re not new to supplementation, consider taking 7 to 10 grams per dose (three times daily). For BCAA’s take 5-10grams in the morning, pre-workout and post-workout.
Remember to consume supplements as part of a high protein, low calorie diet if you want to build and maintain muscle. Foods like wheat bread, wholemeal pasta alongside turkey, eggs, chicken and lean beef will help you to boost muscle mass.
1. Anthony JC, Yoshizawa F, Anthony TG, Vary TC, Jefferson LS, Kimball SR (2000) Leucine stimulates translation initiation in skeletal muscle of postabsorptive rats via a rapamycin-sensitive pathway. J Nutr.(10):2413-2419.
2. Groff J, Gropper S, Hunt S. (1995) Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Second Edition. St. Paul, MN:West Publishing Company.