The key difference between BCAA and amino acids is that the BCAA is branched chain amino acid that has aliphatic side chains with a branch whereas the amino acids are organic compounds containing amine groups, carboxylic groups, and a specific side chain.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The side group (R) of the amino acid determines the properties of the amino acid. Therefore, this side group is specific for amino acids. In other words, different amino acids have different side groups. However, BCAAs have an additional uniqueness; a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms.
What is BCAA?
BCAA is branched chain amino acid that has an aliphatic side group with branches. Therefore, this creates a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms. Among proteogenic amino acids (Proteinogenic amino acids are amino acids that are incorporated biosynthetically into proteins during translation), there are three BCAAs; leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are very important amino acids among the essential amino acids. An example of a non-proteinogenic BCAA is 2-aminoisobutyric acid. The plastids in plant cells are the main point at which these compounds create. These compounds have many metabolic and physiologic roles.
Role of BCAA in metabolism;
- Protein synthesis
- Protein turnover
- Metabolism of glucose
- Helps in the signalling pathways
Role in physiology;
- Helps the immune system
- Important in brain functioning
In addition, these compounds are important in the fitness industry. Ex: we take them as standalone powder or tablet, as an ingredient in pre-workout formulas, etc. It is a highly recommended supplement for building muscle mass, to reduce body fat, etc.
When we do exercises to reduce the calories in our body, our body tends to use muscle proteins as the energy source. Then, the rate of protein synthesis in our body should exceed the rate of protein breakdown because otherwise we may lose our tissues and muscles. BCAA can increase or maintain this protein synthesis rate.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. These are organic molecules containing amine groups (-NH2), carboxylic groups (-COOH) and a specific side chain (-R). These molecules can bind with each other to form protein molecules.
The bond between two amino acids is a peptide bond. The chemical elements that build up the amino acid molecule are carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O) and nitrogen (N). The roles of these molecules inside our body include being residues of proteins, neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.
What is the Difference Between BCAA and Amino Acids?
BCAA is branched chain amino acid which has an aliphatic side group with branches. It has many metabolic and physiologic roles such as promote protein synthesis and turnover, signalling pathways, and metabolism of glucose along with some physiological roles such as helping the immune system and brain function. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The roles of these molecules inside our body include the production of proteins, neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.
Summary – BCAA vs Amino Acids
BCAA is a form of amino acid. The difference between BCAA and amino acids is that the BCAA is branched chain amino acid which has aliphatic side chains with a branch whereas the amino acids are organic compounds containing amine groups, carboxylic groups, and a specific side chain.
1. “BCAAs | Benefits? Side Effects? When To Take? Dosage?” Myprotein UK, 29 June 2018. Available here
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