If you’re committed to achieving the best results from your workouts, knowing the best BCAA supplements is essential.
Resistance training produces rewards. But you want to gain even more lean muscle mass, improve performance and boost recovery in the most time-efficient manner possible. I know you’re in agreement.
Here’s the truth.
BCAAs can achieve all these goals. And that isn’t hype. Numerous studies have shown this to be fact.
This article will explain the science behind BCAA supplements. In addition, based on extensive research, it will outline the best BCAA supplements available today.
Table of Contents:
Best BCAA Supplements: Top 6 Brands for Sale
As I have illustrated, BCAAs are essential for the bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast. However, trying to ensure that these important amino acids are delivered through food is extrem16ely difficult.
Firstly, it means a serious commitment to a diet heavin in BCAA foods.
Secondly, leucine, the most important of the BCAAs, is lacking in many foods, especially those that are plant based. This can make it difficult if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The best way to ensure you receive enough BCAAs for visible results is to supplement. Through intense research, I have found the best BCAA supplements available today.
1. Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
BCAA Glutamine is only available on their official website
Designed mainly to assist with workout recovery and muscle repair, this supplement has two extra ingredients on top of BCAAs.
Transparent Labs BCAA supplement includes glutamine, which has been shown in studies to reduce muscles soreness, post exercise. 16
In addition, it includes coconut water powder, which can improve the immune system, act as an anti-inflammatory, and assist with rehydration. 17
This supplement is only available from the official Transparent Labs website.
- Available in five different powder flavors.
- Includes glutamine to boost muscle repair.
- Contains coconut water powder for immune system health.
- Has a 2:1:1 BCAA ratio.
- Only available on their official website
2. Xtend BCAA
A sugar and carbohydrate free BCAA powder, from respected nutrition supplement providers, Scivation. It’s free from calories and therefore may appeal to people looking to lose weight.
It also includes additional glutamine for muscle recovery. Furthermore, it contains citrulline malate—proven in studies to increase nitric oxide levels, therefore improving oxygen delivery and aerobic performance. 18
Rehydration is accounted for by the inclusion of its own electrolyte blend of sodium, potassium and trisodium citrate dihydrate. These may assist with preventing muscle cramps. 19
This supplement can be purchased from the official Scivation website, Amazon and Walmart.
- Zero calories.
- No sugar or carbohydrates.
- Electrolytes for rehydration.
- Includes citrulline malate to boost nitric oxide production.
- Contains glutamine for enhanced recovery.
- A ratio of 2:1:1 for BCAA content.
- Many people find the powder “gritty”.
3. Gold Standard BCAA
Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard BCAA is formulated to increase muscle mass through its essential amino acid ingredients while raising endurance levels.
It includes an extract of Rhodiola, an Arctic flowering plant. Studies have illustrated this ingredient can increase stamina and endurance, while acting to reduce stress and improve mood. 20 21
The proprietary Wellmune formulation contains 250 mg of beta glucan (baker’s yeast). As it’s high in B-vitamins and chromium, research indicates it can improve blood pressure, increase energy levels and reduce food cravings. 22 23 24
It contains 15 calories per serving and has been tested for banned substances—ideal if you are using it during competition.
This BCAA supplement can be purchased from the official Optimum Nutrition website, Amazon and the BCAA GNC Gold Standard page.
- Includes scientifically studied ingredients of Rhodiola and Baker’s yeast.
- Available in four flavors.
- Independently tested for banned substances.
- Respected manufacturer.
- Contains additional electrolytes.
- BCAA in the ratio of 2:1:1.
- Only 28 servings per tub.
4. BCAA Powder EVLution Nutrition
EVLution Nutrition’s BCAA complex brings things back to basics. This contains no other ingredients, apart from the all-important BCAAs.
However, the ratio is where they differ. This supplement has a less potent 2:1:1 proportion, meaning it did not appear as the best BCAA on this list.
This supplement is available in nine flavors, with each tub providing 30 individual servings.
It contains no sugar and zero calories. It does, however, contain gelatin, which makes it unsuitable for vegans. Although not number one, it’s still one of the best BCAA supplements.
You can obtain this supplement from the EVLution Nutrition website, Amazon and Walmart.
- No fillers—a pure BCAA supplement.
- Available in nine flavors.
- Can be purchased from numerous outlets.
- Respected nutrition supplement manufacturers.
- Contains zero calories and no sugar.
- 30 servings.
- Ratio of 2:1:1
- Doesn’t dissolve as easily as some other powders.
5. MusclePharm BCAA
MusclePharm’s supplement offers an alternative take on BCAAs. Instead of the commonly found 2:1:1 ratio, this supplement has 3:1:2.
This equates to three parts leucine to one isoleucine and two valine. A ratio such as this would indicate it’s aimed more at performance and maintaining muscle, rather than building mass.
However, there are no studies to indicate increasing valine to this level would have any more beneficial effect than in a 2:1:1 ratio.
There are four different flavors to choose from, plus one “unflavored”, which is useful if you would prefer to add to your own favorite drink. It also includes the artificial sweetener, sucrose.
Both the official MusclePharm website and Amazon retail this supplement.
- Has higher valine content than most supplements.
- Available in an unflavored version.
- 30 servings per container.
- Independently tested for banned substances.
- Lacking in evidence that higher valine content improves performance.
6. Dymatize BCAA Complex 2200
This Dymatize supplement is the only one in this list that isn’t a powder. Hence, these may appeal to those who neither like the taste or texture of supplement drinks. Probably the best BCAA capsules available.
Gluten free, this supplement provides BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio.
Each tablet provides 10 calories. It also contains vitamins B2 and B6 which break down carbohydrates for energy and promote hemoglobin production. 25 26
Furthermore, it contains calcium to improve bone density and ensure efficient heart and muscle function. 27 28
As one tablet cannot hold the same quantity of ingredients as a powder, this supplement needs to be taken four times per day.
Dymatize BCAA is available from the official website and Amazon.
- Tablet form may appeal to people who do not like powders.
- Includes additional B-vitamins and calcium.
- 2:1:1 BCAA ratio.
- Must be taken four times per day.
What Are BCAAs and What Do They Do?
Firstly, I want to speak briefly about amino acids—it’s important to fully understand the BCAA definition.
The body is full of amino acids. These compounds are required to build proteins, gain muscle, power neurological activity and produce hormones. 1
Many of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body—it can produce them itself. However, there are some the body requires that cannot be synthesized.
These are termed “essential amino acids.” The only way for them to enter the body is through ingestion, usually from food.
In total, there are nine of these important amino acids:
Here’s the key.
It’s the final three that we are concerned about here. Leucine, valine and isoleucine—the essential amino acids that make up the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). This is what the best BCAA supplements contain. 2
These BCAAs constitute around 35 percent of all the amino acids found in muscle protein, making them of great importance to the bodybuilder. Without them, your resistance training is going to prove fruitless. 3
Each of these BCAAs has its own particular effect.
This BCAA has two important functions that are crucial if you’re looking to build muscle mass.
Firstly, studies have indicated it inhibits the power of another amino, tryptophan. This can stimulate feelings of hunger. By preventing its action, excess foods are not consumed, deterring unwanted fat. This leads to more defined muscles. 4 5
Secondly, during training, valine helps to supply muscles with additional glucose for energy. The excess ensures muscles are not used as energy stores, which helps to retain mass.
As an extra benefit, valine, together with the other two BCAAs, helps to boost the immune system. Therefore reducing the number of “off-days” from the gym. 6
The most important BCAA for the serious bodybuilder.
As I’m sure you are aware, protein is essential for building muscle—just like a car requires gasoline to run. However, just filling your gas tank doesn’t make your car power down the road. You have to switch it on.
That’s exactly what leucine does.
It triggers the body into building muscle with proteins. The more of this amino acid you have, the faster and larger your muscles will build. If you were ever to take just one single BCAA, it should be leucine. 7
Leucine can boost levels of growth hormone, known to increase muscle mass. In addition, it can assist in weight loss by reducing cravings for starchy and sugary foods. 8 9 10
The best BCAA supplements will have leucine in a higher concentration than the other two BCAAs.
This amino is perfect for bodybuilders who are looking to recover faster after intense and prolonged workout sessions.
Not only does it promote muscle repair post-workout, but it also increases endurance. Research has shown that isoleucine promotes the synthesis of hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen in the blood. 11 12
The more oxygen transported to the muscles, the longer resistance training can be endured before fatigue sets in. 13
Many of these individual characteristics cross over between the three amino acids—to a greater or lesser extent. Combining them together provides the best results from one supplement.
What Are the Benefits of BCAA’s?
It’s often a misnomer that BCAAs are for the sole use of the bodybuilder.
Let me tell you, this is incorrect.
BCAAs are, indeed, one of the most important supplements a bodybuilder can take.
However, they are also ideal for athletes, sportspersons and the general home-fitness enthusiast.
The benefits you receive from the best BCAA supplements depend on the work you put in. While they can help to build sizeable muscle mass, they still need to be combined with resistance exercise.
If you don’t lift weights, but instead compete in cycling, for example, they will help to retain lean muscle, assist with weight loss and improve aerobic capacity.
BCAAs respond to the work you put in, and give you the rewards you seek.
Here are the main BCAAs benefits.
- Stimulates and boosts muscle protein synthesis. 14
- Improves oxygen delivery to muscles.
- Increases endurance and stamina.
- Reduces recovery time, post exercise.
- Assists in fat loss.
- Helps to retain muscle.
- Promotes energy from glucose as opposed to burning muscle.
- Builds large muscle in combination with resistance exercise.
- Boosts human growth hormone (HGH) levels.
- Supports a healthy immune system.
- Eliminates or reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
- Prevents muscle wastage. 15
BCAA Dosage and Best Ratio
The ideal BCAA dosage depends on your requirements and what you are trying to achieve.
As a rule of thumb, the maximum dosage per day should be around 12 grams of BCAAs for women and 20 grams for men. Both of these limits are for people wanting to gain muscle mass through resistance training.
If however, you are looking to use BCAAs to help with weight loss or find the best BCAA for cutting—six grams per day is the ideal amount. That applies to both men and women.
BCAAs are one of the most natural, effective and scientifically proven ways to boost muscle growth, increase endurance, improve recovery and drop unwanted weight.
All the above supplements have their own particular benefits. But, which brand of BCAA is best?
The stand out product has to be transparent labs BCAA.
Do BCAAs Help You Lose Weight?
Yes. BCAAs can assist weight loss in two main ways.
Firstly, proteins stimulate the production of cholecystokinin—the hormone which “switches off” hunger.
Secondly, amino acids act to retain muscle mass while on a calorie controlled diet—you lose fat, not muscle. 30
What’s the Best Amino Acid in BCAA?
Theoretically, there is no “best” amino acid, as it depends on the results you are trying to achieve. However,if you are looking to gain muscle mass, leucine is the most important.
This is because this BCAA is responsible for “switching-on” the process of muscle protein synthesis which, in turn, promotes muscle growth.
What’s BCAA Good for?
BCAAs are essential for virtually every aspect of bodybuilding. They boost muscle growth, enhance performance, promote weight loss, improve recovery time and reduce fatigue.
Does BCAA Give You Energy?
Yes. The body uses energy from its stores of glycogen. Once depleted, you can utilize energy from BCAAs in the muscles. 31
Furthermore, BCAAs can block tryptophan, an amino acid which can create feelings of fatigue. 32
How Much BCAA Should a Man Take per Day?
If undergoing resistance training, 15 grams per day is ideal for gaining significant muscle mass. Six grams will suffice if looking to lose weight.
How Much BCAA Should a Woman Take per Day?
If looking to gain muscle,
10 grams per day taken alongside resistance training will yield impressive results. The best BCAA for weight loss dosage is around four to six grams per day.
When Should You Take BCAA’s?
BCAA levels are at their highest around 30 minutes after consumption. So look to take them about this time before your workout.
When to take BCAAs on non-gym days? Usually in the morning, as this can help recovery and boost muscle growth.
What is Better BCAA Capsules or BCAA Powder?
BCAA powder is definitely better than capsules because some people have a hard time swallowing capsules or might have allergy to gelatin which capsules are made of.
Is BCAA Better Before or After Workout?
Muscle building takes place post-workout, so there is some debate as to whether consuming BCAAs before a gym session has any more beneficial effects than taken after.
What is certain, is that BCAAs taken before workouts reduce fatigue and exercise-related soreness. 33
How Many Times Should You Take BCAA a Day?
Try to take BCAAs before your workout to reduce DOMS. However, if you wish to spread your daily dosage throughout the day, this may be more convenient and will not adversely affect muscle growth.
What BCAA Ratio Is Best?
As leucine is the most powerful of all the BCAAs, this should always have the largest content. The most potent ratio has been agreed as 4:1:1—four parts leucine together with one part each of valine and isoleucine.
Is BCAA a Protein?
Not exactly. Proteins contain amino acids, which may include the BCAAs of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. However, don’t automatically assume that the protein powder you are taking includes these, or in sufficient amounts to be effective.
Can BCAA Cause Hair Loss?
No. Because of the anabolic effect of BCAAs, this belief has gathered some momentum, based on the similar effects of testosterone.
However, BCAAs have been shown to improve the absorption of potassium, which in turn actually stimulates hair growth. 34
Torch fat, skyrocket muscle growth, improve testosterone, strength, and repair: