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Best BCAA Supplements: Top Branched Chain Amino Acids to Buy

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) boost strength, recovery, and fat burning.

By taking BCAA supplements before, during, or after a workout, you could help your body repair torn muscle tissue faster and more effectively.

BCAAs are safe, effective, and backed by science. It’s no secret how BCAAs work: amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and your body uses protein to rebuild muscle.

However, not all BCAA supplements are made equal. Some BCAA supplements contain doses that are too low. Other BCAA supplements don’t contain the right types of BCAAs.

Fortunately, we’re BCAA experts. We contacted manufacturers, analyzed lab reports, and conducted our own tests to find the best branched chain amino acid supplements.

Our Rankings

Every BCAA supplement claims to enhance recovery using the right amino acids. However, BCAA supplements contain different dosages, BCAA sources, and ratios.

According to our rankings, here are the best BCAA supplements available today:

  • Performance Labs BCAA
  • XWerks Motion
  • Cellucor Alpha Amino BCAA
  • Cellulcor BCAA Sport
  • Perfect Aminos
  • Genesis Gold
  • Transparent Labs.com BCAA Glutamine
  • Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder
  • MTN Ops BCAA
  • IdealFit IdealLean BCAAs
  • Beast Sports Aminolytes
  • Huge Supplements BCAA
  • Max Gains Promolex
  • Genius BCAA Powder
  • EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA
  • Naked BCAAs

Performance Labs BCAA

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Performance Labs BCAA is a versatile performance and muscle enhancement formula that uses BCAAs to elevate strength, boost endurance, block muscle breakdown, and optimize muscle growth, among other benefits.

The supplement uses an “ultramodern BCAA 2X” formula that supplies the best BCAAs in their most optimal ratios. You get a 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine. These BCAAs come in the form of Ajipure, a trademarked formula made with a special fermentation technology for better absorption.

For best results, take 2 to 4 capsules of Performance Labs BCAA 45 to 60 minutes before your workout. Then, take 2 to 4 more capsules after your workout. For intense training, you can even take an additional 2 to 4 capsules in the middle of your workout, preparing your body to repair muscle as soon as possible.

Price: $44

XWerks Motion

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XWerks Motion is a blend of carbs, BCAAs, and electrolytes. While other BCAA supplements only contain BCAAs, XWerks Motion blends these ingredients with other proven preworkout boosters, allowing you to maximize performance and endurance.

With 50 servings per bag, 25g of carbs, and 3g of BCAAs per serving, XWerks Motion gives your body the ingredients it needs to stay energized from the beginning to the end of your workout. Instead of just flooding your body with basic carbs, XWerks Motion contains cluster dextrin, also known as highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD), a special type of Japanese-engineered carb for maximum energy and endurance.

If you’re an elite athlete, or if you’re preparing for intense activity, then you need easy-to-access carbs, electrolytes, and BCAAs before your workout to maximize performance and endurance. XWerks Motion gives you these ingredients in a bioavailable form. Plus, it’s available in two tasty flavors, including raspberry lemonade and grape.

Price: $79

Cellucor Alpha Amino BCAA

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Cellucor’s Alpha Amino BCAA formula is one of the best-known names in the BCAA supplement space. Cellucor has been making bodybuilding supplements for nearly two decades. Today, Cellucor Alpha Amino continues to be one of the most popular BCAA supplements sold online and in stores.

Each serving of Cellucor Alpha Amino contains 10g of BCAAs for hydration and recovery. You can also enjoy unique flavors like Icy Blue Razz. Cellucor is known as America’s #1 preworkout brand, and Alpha Amino lives up to that reputation by giving you BCAAs and other amino acids at effective ratios.

While other BCAA supplements only contain BCAAs (including leucine, isoleucine, and valine), Alpha Amino contains 14 amino acids in total. In addition to providing BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio, you get other amino acids to boost performance, muscle formation, and protein synthesis after your workout.

At just $25 per bottle, Cellucor’s Alpha Amino BCAA is also one of the best-value BCAA supplements on our list.

Price: $24.99

Cellulcor BCAA Sport

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Cellucor’s BCAA Sport is the second Cellucor BCAA supplement on our list, after Alpha Amino. BCAA Sport is an alternative formula available designed for all-day hydration and recovery. It’s also NSF Certified, which makes it easier for athletes to take without worrying about banned ingredients.

Inside Cellucor BCAA Sport, you’ll find a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs and other amino acids. You get 4,000mg of a 2:1:1 BCAA blend along with 2,250mg of other amino acids and 2,000mg of glutamine. There are 30 servings per container.

With 11g of total formula per scoop and a price of just $22, Cellucor’s BCAA Sport continues to be one of the best options available for those looking for a basic, affordable, and effective branched chain amino acid formula.

Price: $21.98

Perfect Amino

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Perfect Amino is one of the few BCAA supplements on our list available as a tablet – not a powder. Priced at around $40 per bottle, Perfect Amino gives you eight essential amino acids to boost muscle growth and development.

The formula includes isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Made by Advanced Bionutritionals, the supplement is also available as a powder for those who want to take it as a shake.

Each serving of Perfect Amino (5 tablets of 1 scoop of powder) contains 5,000mg of the PerfectAmino proprietary blend. Instead of only giving you BCAAs in a specific ratio, Perfect Amino gives you eight essential amino acids to support muscle growth, endurance, and recovery in multiple ways.

Price: $39.95

Genesis Gold

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Genesis Gold is a natural hormone and hypothalamus support supplement priced at $150, making it the most expensive BCAA supplement on our list.

To justify that premium price tag, Genesis Gold contains 12g of formula per scoop consisting entirely of the Genesis Gold Proprietary Blend. You get the “Sacred Seven” amino acids (which, oddly, includes all 20 amino acids) along with plant extracts, herbal extracts, and even mushroom extracts and probiotics, among other unique ingredients.

Genesis Gold is an absorbable blend of powdered, wild-harvested, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free herbs, ancient grains, sea vegetarian, and green superfoods. By taking these ingredients mixed with amino acids, you can purportedly keep your hormones in harmony, balance your body’s chemistry, and improve your sleep, among other effects.

Price: $150

Transparent Labs.com BCAA Glutamine

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Transparent Labs’ BCAA Glutamine is a growth and recovery supplement with one of the higher doses of BCAAs on our list. Each serving of BCAA Glutamine contains 8g of fermented vegan BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio, which is the dose and ratio we like to see.

What makes Transparent Lab’s BCAA Glutamine unique, however, is the use of L-glutamine and coconut water for added effectiveness. Each serving contains 5g of L-glutamine and 1g of coconut water, for example, to boost hydration and recovery. BCAA Glutamine is also available in more flavor options than normal, including green apple, orange, strawberry lemonade, blue raspberry, and tropical punch.

By taking BCAA Glutamine daily, you can purportedly stimulate protein synthesis, improve glucose metabolism, increase glucose uptake into muscle, improve immunity, reduce fatigue, and increase post-workout muscle growth, among other benefits.

Price: $39

Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

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Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder from MyProtein is an effective and straightforward BCAA supplement containing leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio. These three BCAAs aid in muscle recovery and promote muscle protein synthesis – just like we see with every other top-ranked BCAA supplement on our list.

Each serving of Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder contains 8g of branched chain amino acids. MyProtein recommends taking one scoop 2 to 4 times per day for best results.

One advantage of Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Power is that you can choose flavored or unflavored options. If you want to mix the formula with a preworkout or shake, for example, then you can do that. If you want to take it on its own with water, then you can do that too with flavors like blue raspberry, gummy fish, cold brew coffee, and snow cone.

Price: $24.99

MTN Ops BCAA

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MTN Ops BCAA is a rapid muscle recovery supplement priced available in unique flavors like citrus bliss, strawberry dragonfruit, green apple, and tropical punch.

Featuring leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio, MTN Ops BCAA does everything a BCAA supplement should do. By taking the supplement before or after a workout, it can aid in muscle and protein synthesis and help muscle recovery and repair – all while tasting amazing.

Each scoop of MTN Ops BCAA contains 11g of formula. You get 30 servings per tub. At around $35 per bottle (or $25 with a discount code), MTN Ops BCAA offers better value than many competing BCAA supplements listed here.

Price: $34.95

IdealFit IdealLean BCAAs

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Anyone can take a BCAA supplement for muscle growth, weight loss, and other effects. Women don’t need to take a special BCAA supplement like IdealFit’s IdealLean BCAAs for Women. However, the supplement is available for those who want a unique blend at a reasonable price.

Priced at $23 per bottle, IdealFit’s IdealLean BCAAs contain 7g of high-quality amino acids in a 2:1:1 ratio. The formula is designed to help women build lean muscle and recover fast.

What makes IdealLean BCAAs different from competing BCAA supplements, however, is the use of coconut water, green tea extract, and a thermogenesis against (ThermoDiamine) to boost fat loss. There’s also a strong dose (1,000mg each) of L-citrulline and L-glutamine. Overall, IdealFit’s IdealLean BCAAs can help anyone enjoy the benefits of BCAAs with a high-powered formula.

Price: $22.99

Beast Sports Aminolytes

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Aminolytes from Beast Sports is an amino acid formula available in watermelon or pineapple flavors. Priced at $35 for 30 servings, the formula offers similar value to other top-ranked BCAA supplements on our list.

By taking Aminolytes daily, you can purportedly replenish electrolytes, aid in muscle recovery, and boost post-workout protein synthesis.

Each serving of Aminolytes contains 10g of total amino acids, including 5g of essential amino acids and 5 of BCAAs. Oddly, Aminolytes is one of the few amino acid supplements on our list that does not specifically disclose its ratio of BCAAs. Although we assume the Boca Raton, Florida-based company uses the same 2:1:1 ratio as other BCAA supplements, the label doesn’t say one way or the other.

Price: $34.99

Huge Supplements BCAA

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Huge BCAA from Huge Supplements is a top-rated BCAA supplement that, appropriately, contains one of the largest serving sizes on our list. Each serving of Huge BCAA contains 15g of amino acids, including 8,000mg of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio.

The supplement also contains L-glutamine and coconut water powder for additional muscle protein synthesis, hydration, and recovery. With a wide range of quality ingredients and one of the largest serving sizes on our list, Huge BCAA lives up to its name. Plus, it’s available in two unique flavors, including kiwi blueberry and bomb popsicle.

If you want a strong dose of branched chain amino acids mixed with other proven recovery and hydration agents, then Huge Supplements’ Huge BCAA may be the right choice for you.

Price: $39.99

Max Gains Promolex

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Promolex from Max Gains is a popular BCAA supplement available as a capsule. Max Gains recommends using Promolex to support lean muscle building – similar to how you use most other BCAAs on our list.

Priced at around $32 per bottle, Promolex has a serving size of 5 capsules: you take 5 capsules daily with water (ideally, before bedtime) to give your body the amino acids it needs to boost recovery.

Each serving of Promolex contains 1,500mg of L-glutamine along with a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine (850mg of leucine, 425mg of isoleucine, and 425mg of valine). Although it has one of the smallest BCAA dosages on our list, Promolex is more convenient to take than some of the powdered supplements available here.

Price: $31.95

Best BCAA Supplements on Amazon

Some of the best BCAA supplements are available through Amazon. We applied the same ranking factors to Amazon’s most popular BCAA supplements. Here’s what we found.

Genius BCAA Powder

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The Genius Brand has launched its own BCAA supplement called Genius BCAA. Designed to boost muscle and cerebral strength, Genius BCAA is an all-in-one formula priced at around $35 and backed by hundreds of positive reviews online.

It’s true: BCAAs have bene proven to support physical and mental energy. Although most people know BCAAs for their effects on physical energy and recovery, studies show they also support cognitive energy. Your brain also needs proteins for optimal function.

Each 13.8g scoop of Genius BCAA contains 3g of L-glutamine, 2.5g of leucine, 1.25g of isoleucine, and 1.25g of valine, a 2:1:1 ratio for optimal muscle development. The supplement also contains ingredients like citrulline malate, L-tyrosine, and taurine, along with proven cognitive boosters like citicoline, Rhodiola rosea, and caffeine (100mg per serving). If you want a nootropic mixed with an amino acid formula, then Genius BCAA is one of the best (and only) options available.

Price: $34.99

EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA

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Beyond BCAA from EHP Labs is a blend of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs) designed to promote muscle endurance and recovery.

Available in unique flavors like peach candy ring, mandarin twist, and grape candy lollipop, EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA can also purportedly support the nervous system – something we don’t see advertised with other amino acid supplements listed here.

EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA offers 10g of essential amino acids (including 8g of BCAAs) per serving. Plus, with additional ingredients like a 1,500mg nootropic blend (with tyrosine and Huperzine A) and 50mg of Senactiv (a recovery booster), EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA does much more than your average BCAA supplement.

Price: $52.95

Naked BCAAs

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Naked BCAAs is an uncomplicated BCAA supplement that uses vegan, unflavored, branched chain amino acids in a 100% pure 2:1:1 ratio. Like other top-rated BCAA supplements on our list, Naked BCAAs instantized the formula to maximize absorption.

With 5g of formula per serving (per scoop), Naked BCAAs has a comparable dose and serving size to other top-rated options on our list. There’s 2,500mg of leucine and 1,250mg each of isoleucine and valine.

What really separates Naked BCAAs from the competition is the value. There are 100 servings per container, and each container is priced at around $35. Although the price seems comparable to other leading BCAA supplements on our list, Naked BCAAs has one of the best price-to-value and cost-per-serving size ratios on our list of BCAA supplements. It’s one Amazon’s best-selling BCAA supplements for a reason.

Price: $34.99

NSP Nutrition Advanced Aminos 1000

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Advanced Amino Acids 1000 by Vince Gironda’s NSP Nutrition is made with essential and branch chain aminos from egg whites. This BCAA supplement by NSP Nutrition comes with a potent amino acid profile that aims to increase muscle size and strength, recover faster from training, and easily stay anabolic. With the ability to also manage hunger and appetite, Advanced Aminos 1000 can help slow down muscle loss (sarcopenia) and help maintain a positive nitrogen balance.

Priced at only $24.99 per bottle, with as low as $22.39 per bottle when buying in bulk, the NSP Nutrition Advanced Aminos 1000 is very affordable given its celebrity formulator and growing customer base. The product is backed by a 30-day money back guarantee and is definitely worthy of consideration if none of the above BCAA supplements spoke loud enough to you.

How We Ranked

At first glance, any of the top-ranked BCAA supplements look similar. They all contain similar doses of identical ingredients. After all, there are only 20 amino acids.

Once you look beneath the surface, however, you can quickly spot differences between good and bad BCAA supplements. We separated the best and worst BCAA supplements using the following metrics:

BCAA Dosage: Most BCAA supplements contain a dosage of around 5g to 15g per serving, with most BCAA supplements falling somewhere in the middle. We avoided supplements with lower-than-average dosages.

BCAA Ratios: The best BCAA supplements contain ratios of 2:1:1 of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Cheaper BCAA supplements may use ratios of 10:1:1. The 2:1:1 ratio is important for maximum muscle development, endurance, and protein synthesis.

Mixability, Flavor, & Texture: Some BCAA supplements are difficult to mix. Others taste nasty. Some companies have invested heavily into flavor and texture research. Others have ignored it entirely. We considered mixability, flavor, and texture in our rankings. A good BCAA supplement should be easy to drink before, during, or after your workout.

Types of BCAAs: All good BCAA supplements contain all three BCAAs, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. If a BCAA supplement does not have all three BCAAs, then it’s not a true BCAA supplement.

Manufacturer Reputation: Some of the BCAA supplement companies above have been making supplements for decades. Others are brand new. We weren’t biased against younger companies. However, we did prefer companies that had a proven reputation for creating high-quality products.

Honest Advertised Benefits: BCAA supplements will support your muscle building and weight loss goals when used in conjunction with a diet and exercise program. They won’t cause you to gain 10lbs of muscle in a week, nor will they cause you to get six pack abs overnight. We preferred BCAA supplements with honest advertised benefits.

Price & Value: BCAA supplements tend to be cheaper than other bodybuilding supplements. BCAAs are easy to manufacture. However, we still considered price and value in our rankings. We weren’t biased towards specific price points. If you want to spend $100 on a BCAA supplement, then you should get $100 in value. If you want to spend $20 on a BCAA supplement, then you shouldn’t need to compromise on quality to save money.

Complementary Ingredients: Some BCAA supplements only contain BCAAs – and that’s okay. However, other BCAA supplements contain coconut water, essential amino acids, and other amino acids to support muscle growth. Many BCAA supplements contain glutamine, for example, for its effects on muscle growth and recovery. Two BCAA supplements, including EHP Labs BCAA and Genius BCAA, even contained nootropic ingredients to boost cognitive energy.

What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a special type of amino acid. There are only three types of BCAAs, including:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Of the 20 amino acids your body needs, 9 are considered essential amino acids, which means your body cannot produce these amino acids on its own. Of those 9 amino acids, 3 are considered BCAAs.

They’re called branched chain amino acids because they have a branched chain of a single carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms.

How Do BCAAs Work?

BCAAs play an important role in muscle growth. Your body needs BCAAs to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue. Leucine is especially important, although valine and isoleucine also play critical roles.

BCAAs also do far more than just accelerate muscle development. They also increase fat burning, boost energy, and provide other benefits.

Whether trying to build muscle, lose weight, or achieve other benefits, BCAAs can help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

When to Take BCAAs

Some people think of BCAAs as a preworkout. Others take them as a post-workout or intra-workout supplement. Some take them on off days. The truth is: you can use BCAAs at any time depending on your desired benefits.

Preworkout: You can take BCAAs as a preworkout to boost energy and reduce muscle protein breakdown (catabolism) during your workout.

Post-Workout: Taking BCAAs after a workout can optimize muscle protein synthesis, which is the formation of new muscle tissue. This is particularly important after an intense workout. Generally, this is the best and most important time to take BCAAs.

Intra-Workout: Some people take a BCAA supplement during a workout. You might mix BCAAs with a preworkout powder, for example, to keep you energized during your workout. Taking BCAA supplements during a workout or towards the end of your workout can help prepare your body for muscle protein synthesis after the workout.

All Other Times: You can take BCAAs between meals, during off days, or at any other time. As long as you follow an active lifestyle, your body needs amino acids for protein synthesis. You can take BCAAs on training days or non-training days to optimize your workout.

Types of BCAAs

As mentioned above, there are three types of BCAAs, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids, and 3 of 20 amino acids overall.

Here’s a brief overview of each type of BCAA and how it works.

Leucine: Leucine is known as the most important branched chain amino acid. It plays a particularly important role for boosting energy levels. Leucine appears to work by interacting with blood sugar. By keeping blood sugar stable and avoiding spikes and crashes, leucine keeps energy stable. Leucine can also help with muscle formation and protein synthesis. In fact, some studies show leucine leads to a 25% or higher boost in protein synthesis.

Isoleucine: Isoleucine is a branched chain amino acid with several important functions. Your body cannot create isoleucine on its own (just like it can’t create any of the 9 essential amino acids). Isoleucine also plays a role in fat burning: your body metabolizes isoleucine through carbs or fat, which could accelerate fat burning and help you lose weight.

Valine: Valine is the third type of branched chain amino acid. Like leucine and isoleucine, valine brings extra glucose to your muscles for added energy. However, it also has effects we don’t see with leucine and isoleucine. It boosts your immunity and brain function, for example, while also helping with muscle growth and recovery.

Benefits of BCAA Supplements

People know what protein powders do. They know how preworkouts work. However, there are many misconceptions when it comes to BCAAs.

The main benefits of BCAA supplements include:

Benefit #1) Build Muscle: The first and most obvious benefit of a BCAA supplement is that it builds muscle. BCAAs are the literal building blocks of protein. After BCAAs enter your body, your body uses them to create new proteins. After a workout, your body needs these proteins to repair muscle tissues you have damaged. That’s how you get stronger and build muscle. A well-rounded diet contains all of the essential amino acids you need to build muscle. However, a BCAA supplement can give you more amino acids to ensure you’re building the protein you need after every workout.

Benefit #2) Boost Endurance: Want to workout longer, harder, and faster? A good BCAA supplement could help. BCAAs have been shown to reduce fatigue from exercise. If you find yourself getting tired at the end of a workout (like a normal person), then taking an intra-workout BCAA supplement could help. Studies have shown that BCAA supplements could boost physical and mental endurance during activity.

Benefit #3) Burn Fat: Most think of BCAA supplements for muscle building. However, BCAA supplements can also help with fat burning. BCAAs, particularly leucine, have been linked to powerful weight loss results. By taking the BCAA leucine daily with glutamine, you may be able to reduce excess fat significantly.

Benefit #4) Reduce Muscle Soreness: After a workout, it’s natural to experience muscle soreness. Also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), muscle soreness is natural. However, BCAAs can decrease muscle soreness after intense workouts. Studies show that participants can significantly reduce muscle soreness by taking a BCAA supplement.

There’s also some research suggesting that BCAAs boost immunity, help with intra-workout muscle soreness, and balance blood sugar, among other benefits.

BCAA Clinical Trials: What Does Science Say?

Science is very support of BCAA supplements. Science tells us that BCAA supplements are proven to work as advertised to help with muscle growth, fat burning, endurance, and muscle soreness, among other benefits.

People primarily take BCAA supplements for lean muscle mass. In this 2012 study, for example, researchers found that BCAA supplements reduced exercise-induced muscle damage in resistance-trained males. Researchers gave BCAA supplements or a placebo to men in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled setting. Researchers found that BCAA supplements taken before and after a workout significantly reduced soreness. BCAAs significantly reduced exercise-induced muscle damage, making it easier for your body to repair itself and grow more lean muscle tissue.

Similarly, this 2006 study showed that BCAAs activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease the rate of protein degradation in human muscle. Researchers also found that BCAAs had anabolic effects in human muscle after exercise. For all of these reasons, researchers concluded that BCAAs play a crucial role in muscle and protein synthesis.

Some take BCAA supplements to help support blood sugar and overall energy. Studies have shown that BCAA supplements could improve glucose metabolism, changing the way your body manages its blood sugar levels. This is important for energy and cravings. If you notice energy fluctuating throughout the day, then it might be related to blood sugar. In this 2003 study, researchers found that BCAAs helped control blood sugar swings by stimulating insulin-independent glucose uptake in skeletal muscle cells. By controlling blood sugar and boosting glucose uptake, BCAA supplements can help you maintain energy while also helping your muscles push harder and faster during a workout.

Surprisingly, some studies have linked BCAA supplements to immunity. A good BCAA supplement could boost your immunity. In this 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, for example, researchers found that BCAAs were essential for lymphocytes to synthesize protein, RNA, and DNA in response to an infection. In other words, BCAAs help your immune system make the compounds it needs to fight off infections, illnesses, and diseases.

BCAA supplements are proven to reduce fatigue, helping you exercise longer and harder than you normally would. In this 2007 study, for example, researchers showed that amino acids don’t just support muscular and physical energy: they can also support “central fatigue” by targeting your body and brain. Researchers found that BCAAs led to better release of dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin during exercise, making it easier for people to workout for longer periods.

Some of the most exciting areas of BCAA supplementation research, however, focus on weight loss. In this 2007 study, researchers found that BCAA supplements improved the body’s ability to regulate glucose and burn fat for energy. Researchers gave BCAA supplements to seven sedentary males with metabolic syndrome, then found improved fat burning when taking a BCAA compared to a placebo.

In this 2018 study published in Nutrients, researchers specifically analyzed the effects of BCAA supplements (instead of dietary BCAAs). 20 males took either a BCAA supplement or a placebo before a difficult exercise workout. Researchers found that both groups had similar workout performance, although researchers found that the BCAA group had significantly less muscle soreness after a workout. Muscle soreness after a workout is good because you know your muscles are working. However, a good BCAA supplement can mitigate this effect, making it easier for you to recover.

Many people inadvertently lose muscle when working out. When you exercise, you damage your muscles. Your muscles break down. Ideally, your body repairs those muscles, making you stronger. However, if you don’t take supplements, or if you have a poor diet, then you might experience muscle wasting. BCAAs account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins and 40% of the total amino acids required by your body. By getting your recommended daily intake of BCAAs, you could reduce muscle wasting significantly.

Because BCAAs help with muscle wasting, they’re popular supplements among the elderly or those with certain diseases. Some doctors recommend taking BCAAs to improve quality of life. In this 2007 study, for example, researchers found that BCAAs helped with muscle atrophy in cancer patients. If you have a disease like cancer, or if you’re an older adult, then your muscles may naturally atrophy, which means they fall away. BCAAs may mitigate or reverse this effect, helping you preserve muscle mass.

Surprisingly, some studies suggest that BCAAs help with liver disease. In this study, for example, researchers reviewed 16 trials on BCAAs and concluded that BCAA supplements had a beneficial effect on the symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy, a common type of liver disease. However, BCAA supplements had no effect on mortality. In a similar study, researchers found that BCAA supplements appeared to protect against liver cancer. Although most people take BCAAs for muscle growth and endurance, studies also suggest BCAAs could help support the liver.

However, not all studies have agreed that BCAA supplements are effective. In that same 2018 study above, for example, researchers found that a strong dose of protein also counteracted muscle soreness – even when not taking a BCAA supplement. Similarly, this 2017 study found that many of the claims made by BCAA supplement companies were unwarranted.

Overall, branched chain amino acids are straightforward and effective supplements. By giving your body the building blocks of protein, you can support muscle growth, lean muscle mass, and even weight loss, among other proven benefits.

BCAA Supplement Dosage

BCAA supplement dosages vary depending on your use. If taking a BCAA supplement as a preworkout, you use a different dose than you would if taking it as a post-workout.

General BCAA supplement dosage guidelines include:

  • Preworkout: If taking a BCAA supplement as a preworkout, aim for a dose around 6g to 10g.
  • Post-workout: If taking a BCAA supplement as a post-workout, aim for 10g to 15g.
  • General Usage: If taking a BCAA supplement for general usage (say, during off days or between meals), aim for a dosage of around 5g to 10g.

Most BCAA supplements have a dose of around 5g to 8g per serving (per scoop). Follow the recommended dosage instructions on your BCAA supplement to optimize muscle growth and development.

BCAA Supplement Side Effects

If you are a healthy adult who is taking a normal dose of BCAAs, then you should not experience any side effects.

However, people who take high doses of BCAA supplements may experience minor side effects like:

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Stomach discomfort

FAQs About BCAA Supplements

We get plenty of questions about branched chain amino acids and how they work. Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions:

Q: What are the best foods for BCAAs?

A: You can get BCAAs from the foods you eat. Some of the best foods for BCAAs include:

  • Chicken (6.6g of BCAAs per 170g serving, including 2.9g of leucine, 1.8g of isoleucine, and 1.9g of valine)
  • Canned tuna (5.6g of BCAA per can, including 2.5g of leucine, 1.5g of isoleucine, and 1.6g of valine)
  • Eggs (1.3g of BCAAs per egg, including 0.54g of leucine, 0.3g of isoleucine, and 0.4g of valine)
  • Wild-caught salmon (5.9g of BCAAs per 170g serving, including 2.7g of leucine, 1.5g of isoleucine, and 1.7g of valine)
  • Cottage cheese (4.7g of BCAAs per half-cup serving, including 1.7g of leucine, 1g of isoleucine, and 1g of valine)

Other major food sources of BCAAs include quinoa, cheese, tofu, milk, lentils, and beef.

Q: Can women take BCAAs?

A: BCAAs are suitable for anyone. There are no gender-specific benefits with BCAAs. They enhance recovery, fat loss, and muscle growth for all genders. It’s perfectly safe for women to take BCAAs without side effects.

Q: What’s the difference between BCAAs and protein powders?

A: BCAA supplements contain branched chain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Protein powders contain one or more types of protein. Your body processes BCAAs and protein in different ways. Although both help with muscle soreness and recovery, they target different stages of the muscle protein synthesis process, affecting muscle in different ways.

Q: What are BCAAs?

A: Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are special types of amino acids that cannot be made by your body. They’re called branched chain amino acids because they have one carbon branch, distinguishing them from the 17 other amino acids (and 6 other essential amino acids).

Q: How do BCAAs work?

A: BCAAs work by forming the building blocks of protein in your body, helping with muscle protein synthesis.

Q: Why are BCAAs important?

A: Your body can produce (i.e. synthesize) most branched chain amino acids on its own. However, 9 amino acids are considered essential amino acids, which means you must get them from your diet (they cannot be synthesized). Of those 9 essential amino acids, 3 are considered branched chain amino acids.

Q: How do I get BCAAs?

A: You can get all 20 amino acids, including the 3 BCAAs, from a healthy and balanced diet. Alternatively, many people, particularly active individuals, take BCAAs.

Q: What do BCAAs do?

A: BCAAs are the building blocks of protein. BCAAs also form a significant part of the amino acid pool within your body. Approximately 40% of all essential amino acids within your body are BCAAs. Approximately 15% of your muscle cells consist of BCAAs.

Q: What are the side effects of BCAAs?

A: When taken in normal dosages by healthy adults, you should not expect to experience any side effects from BCAAs. However, if you exceed the recommended dose of BCAAs, then you may experience indigestion, nausea, and headaches, among other minor side effects.

Q: What are the dangers of BCAAs?

A: There are no significant dangers of BCAAs when taken in normal dosages as recommended on your BCAA supplement. However, taking high doses of BCAAs could lead to fatigue, nausea, headaches, and digestive issues.

Q: Should you take BCAAs every day?

A: Studies show that it’s safe for healthy adults to take 5g to 20g of BCAAs per day without experiencing significant side effects. Although some cycle on or off BCAAs, others take BCAAs daily without issue.

Q: How long should I wait after taking BCAAs before eating?

A: Most BCAA supplements recommend waiting 45 to 60 minutes before eating. Let your body absorb the BCAAs after your workout, then take a meal 45 to 60 minutes later.

Q: Do BCAAs affect sleep?

A: Some studies have shown that BCAAs help improve sleep. Most studies, however, show that BCAAs have no significant impact on sleep (although one BCAA supplement on our list does contain caffeine that could disrupt your sleep).

Q: Do BCAAs actually do anything?

A: BCAAs have been proven to reduce muscle soreness and boost protein synthesis in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled settings, suggesting they work as advertised to support your muscle building and strength building goals. BCAAs are backed by extensive research proving they work.

Q: Are BCAAs bad for my kidneys?

A: BCAAs were shown to interfere with kidney function in one study. However, most studies show that BCAAs are safe to take.

Q: Do BCAAs lead to weight gain?

A: BCAAs do not lead to weight gain. In fact, most studies show that BCAA supplements lead to weight loss.

Q: How long does it take to see results from BCAAs?

A: You can feel the results of BCAAs almost immediately: most experience significantly less post-workout muscle soreness after taking BCAAs, for example.

Q: Do I need BCAAs if I also take protein?

A: BCAA supplements and protein supplements work in different ways. BCAA supplements only contain 3 of the 9 essential amino acids, while some protein powders contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Q: Can I take BCAAs while working out?

A: Most experts recommend taking BCAAs before a workout or during a workout to maximize endurance and reduce fatigue.

Q: Can I take BCAAs on an empty stomach?

A: Studies suggest it’s better to take BCAAs on an empty stomach to maximize absorption and uptake.

Q: Do BCAAs help with hydration?

A: BCAAs will not help or hinder hydration on their own, although some BCAA supplements contain hydrating ingredients (like electrolytes or coconut water) to maximize hydration during your workout.

Q: Do BCAAs burn belly fat?

A: Studies suggest that BCAAs can help you lose weight and burn belly fat when combined with an active diet and exercise program.

Q: Are BCAAs worth it?

A: If you take high levels of good-quality protein, then you may not need a BCAA supplement. However, many people like BCAAs for reducing post-workout soreness and optimizing lean muscle mass.

Q: What’s the difference between BCAAs and creatine?

A: BCAAs and creatine are two of the most popular pre and post-workout supplement ingredients. However, they work in different ways. Creatine is found in muscle cells and supplies the energy needed for intense exercise, while BCAAs help support protein synthesis within your body.

Q: Is it okay to take BCAAs before bed?

A: You can take BCAAs at any time of day or night. As long as you’re actively working out, your body always needs to rebuild muscle tissue and support protein synthesis. As long as your BCAA supplement does not contain added caffeine (only one supplement on our list does), you should be able to take BCAA before bed without issue.

Final Word

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) can boost muscle and protein synthesis to reduce soreness after a workout.

The best BCAA supplements use a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. By taking 5g to 10g of BCAAs per day (or 20g for intense athletic activity), you could boost lean muscle mass, support weight loss, and increase endurance and energy, among other effects. Whether looking for protein powders, pre workout supplements, legal steroids, creatine, HGH boosters or testosterone support, BCAAs continue to be one of the most popular products sought out for healthy individuals looking for a catalyst when it comes to muscle growth and building.

For one last recap of the best BCAA supplements to buy with the highest quality branched-chain amino acids, here is what to know before buying:

Performance Labs BCAA
  • best BCAA supplement to buy with pure branched-chain amino acids for boosting performance and muscle growth
XWerks Motion
  • most potent BCAA supplement with a blend of Cluster Dextrin (Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin) and electrolytes
Cellucor Alpha Amino BCAA
  • top-rated BCAA supplement with essential amino acids from one of the most trusted brands on the market in 2021
Cellulcor BCAA Sport
  • premium quality BCAA powder sports drink for hydration & recovery from one of the most trusted brands on the market
Perfect Amino
  • cutting-edge essential amino acid supplement with strong BCAA dose formulated by doctors, comes in pills and powder
Genesis Gold
  • highly absorbable powdered BCAA-rich blend with wildly-harvested ingredients free of fillers and synthetics
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
  • best BCAA repair and recovery supplement available with potent active ingredients backed by clinical research
Essential BCAA 2:1:1 Powder
  • Essential amino acid supplement in a convenient powder with a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine
MTN Ops BCAA
  • highly respected branch chain amino acid formula to aid in lean muscle growth and recovery
IdealFit IdealLean BCAAs
  • BCAA supplement specifically formulated to maximize women’s weight loss efforts and kickstart lean muscle growth
Beast Sports Aminolytes
  • big name BCAA brand with a quick-dissolving advanced amino matrix formula to increase muscle endurance
Huge Supplements BCAA
  • extremely potent BCAA supplement with 15 grams of amino acids, including a massive 8000mg of BCAA’s (2:1:1)
Max Gains Promolex
  • Glutamine and BCAAs for supporting lean muscle, protein synthesis and skeletal muscle growth
Genius BCAA Powder
  • best BCAA powder supplement to buy on Amazon (with Nootropic Amino Acids as effective muscle recovery drink)
EHP Labs Beyond BCAA + EAA
  • multi-flavor BCAA + EAA supplement with a scientifically validated, patented recovery booster in SENACTIV too
Naked BCAAs
  • Amazon’s Choice for pure and premium vegan BCAA for pre-workout energy and post-workout recovery
NSP Nutrition Aminos 1000
  • reputable BCAA supplement brand by celebrity fitness trainer Vince Gironda with zero carbs made from egg whites

To find the best BCAA supplement for your unique needs, pick any of the top-ranked BCAA supplements on our list above.

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