Pre vs BCAAs: Which is right for you?
Pre vs BCAAs: Which is right for you?

Pre vs BCAAs: Which is right for you?

One of the questions we get asked most frequently at Gnarly is who should use Gnarly BCAAs and Gnarly Pre, and whether both products are necessary. They can be used before training and when to use one and not the other can be understandably confusing.

To shed some light on this topic, I’ve given a little background on each product and also some recommendations for where it might (or might not) make sense to integrate each product into your training regime. Finally, I specifically address how you might integrate one or both of the products into your performance nutrition strategy.

What are Gnarly BCAAs and is it the right product for me?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are essential, meaning they cannot be synthesized (produced or created) by the body and must come from our diet. Of these essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine are known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Unlike other essential amino acids, which are broken down in the liver, BCAAs are transported directly to skeletal muscle where they play a critical role in muscle recovery and synthesis. Leucine, isoleucine and valine, the three BCAAs, work together to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and reduce the rate of muscle catabolism, or breakdown – exactly what we’re looking for to maximize recovery. Taking BCAAs before and during exercise decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which has a direct impact on the ability to perform in subsequent training efforts.

How and when should I take Gnarly BCAAs?

Although protein contains BCAAs, different sources of protein contain varying amounts and complete proteins have to be fully digested in order to access free-form amino acids; this process takes time and is not efficient. Because free-form amino acids don’t require digestion and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as is, they are a much lighter, quicker and more efficient way to increase BCAA concentration in the body directly before and during exercise. We recommend taking BCAAs 20-30 minutes prior to training and then following up with a high quality protein that contains ample amounts of BCAAs as well as the other essential amino acids required for muscle protein synthesis.

What is Gnarly Pre and is it right for me?

Gnarly Pre is more of a pre-workout in the classic sense in that it contains a significant amount of caffeine from green tea leaf (180mg in Pre) as well as Beta Alanine to help buffer muscle acidity. Both of these ingredients have been shown to increase endurance (good for cardio workouts as well as power endurance).


Specifically, Beta Alanine enhances muscular endurance by buffering the acid produced through anaerobic respiration (the energy system used most during high intensity efforts). One thing to note about Beta Alanine is that it causes a harmless side effect called paresthesia, or a tingling or prickling sensation in the hands, feet and sometimes face.


Gnarly Pre also contains BCAAs to decrease muscle breakdown as well as citrulline malate to help with vasodilation, energy production and clearance of metabolic waste products. The general feedback we’ve gotten from the Pre is that folks can “feel” it working, but they don’t get the jitters common to other pre-workouts.

How and when should I take Gnarly Pre?

Gnarly Pre is best taken 15-20 minutes prior to training. We have had a few customers inquire about taking 2 scoops of Gnarly Pre. If this is something you’re interested in, we recommend slowly increasing your dose to 1.5 scoops and then 2 scoops to make sure the increased beta alanine and accompanying parasthesia is tolerable.

putting it all together

We have a lot of athletes using both of these products and some using one. For most athletes, I generally recommend using stand alone BCAAs prior to training for most workouts and only using Gnarly Pre when you need an extra boost of energy, have a super intense training day planned or are planning on going for a personal best and need an extra push.


If your tolerance for caffeine is high then Gnarly Pre may be a daily staple for you and in that case there is no reason to add in Gnarly BCAAs, because they are already in Gnarly Pre.


I hope that helps. Keep the questions coming! Also – we LOVE to hear what your goals are and how Gnarly products are helping you on your path to achieving them.

curious to try these products yourself?

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