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If your goal is to build muscle, hopefully you have all of the basics covered: you’re training consistently, eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and controlling your stress, right? If you are, and you’re looking for a way to take things up a notch, you may have considered supplements like creatine, protein powder, or BCAAs to boost your results.

Amino acid supplements have grown in popularity over the recent years, often utilized by athletes and fitness enthusiasts due to their supposed performance-enhancement and recovery-promoting properties. 

While some people swear by BCAA supplements, the research on their benefits is inconclusive. If you’re interested in giving them a go for yourself, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best BCAA supplements for goals, budget, and taste.

Slinging Expertise Since 2014

Our goal here at GGR is to help you find the best fitness equipment and supplements for your own health and fitness journey. We’ve been reviewing products since 2014, and our team of certified personal trainers, weightlifting coaches, and nutrition coaches not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, too. In this article about the best BCAA supplements, we’ve teamed up with nutritionist, registered dietitian, and supplements expert Bob Iafelice to provide even more expert insight for your decision. 

10 Best BCAA Supplements 

Best BCAA Supplement Overall: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Good for: Someone looking to integrate a quality BCAA supplement into their routine

Transparent Lab
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

If you’re planning on adding BCAAs to your nutritional regime, Transparent Labs’ BCAA Glutamine powder may be for you. Available in five flavors, this powder is formulated with leucine, isoleucine, valine, glutamine, and coconut water extract designed to stimulate protein synthesis, and support reduced muscle fatigue and increased muscle growth.True to the brand name, the ingredient list on this product offers full transparency so you know exactly what you are putting into your body. Transparent Labs recommends taking one scoop mixed with 10-12 ounces of cold water 30-45 minutes before, during, or after your workout twice a day. Consumers report that the product mixes well enough but does dissolve better in tepid water.Free from artificial coloring, sweeteners, and preservatives, Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is sweetened with Stevia. Stevia can cause digestive issues and the taste may be too sweet for some. The overall taste of this product is reportedly mediocre but it gets the job done and is tolerated by the vast majority of users.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Contains a large dose of BCAAs, particularly leucine
  • Available in 5 flavors
  • No artificial sweeteners, coloring, or preservatives 

Cons:

  • Higher end of price per serving at $1.33
  • If you just want BCAAs, this isn’t a good choice

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is our pick for best BCAA powder for a few reasons. For one, it contains an 8-gram serving of BCAAs per scoop, which provides a lot of bang for your buck.

“This potent and naturally sweetened product delivers a relatively large 4-gram dose of the all-important leucine per scoop, which is more than enough than the research-backed 2.5-gram dose to trigger muscle protein synthesis,” says Iafelice. *

A hefty 5-gram dose of the non-essential amino acid glutamine is an added bonus. “While I often recommend glutamine to support immune and gut health, some evidence suggests that glutamine may help expedite muscle recovery after exercise,” Iafelice continues. *

An image of Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine in a shaker

You’ll also get 1.5 grams of Vitamin C per serving, as well as 1 gram of coconut water powder, which is a source of electrolytes. Several flavor options are available, too—just mix with water and enjoy.

I tried the Strawberry Lemonade flavor and I’ll be honest, the taste was not my favorite. It seems like I’m in the minority though, based on customer reviews. The powder dissolves well, which is appreciated in my book.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$1.33
8 g (L-Leucine: 4 g, L-Isoleucine: 2 g, L-Valine: 2 g)
1 scoop
Sour Green Apple, Tropical Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, Blue Raspberry, Orange

Best Budget BCAAs: Xtend Original BCAA Powder

Good for: People who want a BCAA supplement at an affordable price 

Best Budget BCAAs: Xtend Original BCAA Powder
XTEND Original BCAA Powder
XTEND Original BCAA Powder

Xtend combines a proprietary blend of electrolytes with 7 grams of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. Formulated to improve recovery, enhance muscle growth, and improve performance, Xtend also incorporates glutamine and citrulline malate into the formula.Available in eight unique flavors, Xtend BCAAs has zero carbohydrates, zero calories, and zero grams of sugar per serving. It does, however, contain artificial sweeteners, which many consumers like as it hides the typically bitter taste associated with BCAAs. That said, not everyone adds artificial sweeteners to their diet and it can cause gastrointestinal distress. The taste tends to fall on the sweet side so if you prefer a more subtle taste, it is recommended to add extra water to each serving.This BCAA powder is designed for both women and men alike. It contains L-leucine for muscle protein synthesis, L-glutamine to restore glutamine levels and citrulline malate with nitric oxide to promote better blood flow. Together, these ingredients make for a high-quality supplement. Since Xtend is tested and certified to be banned-substance-free by Informed Choice, it’s widely used by athletes in a variety of sports.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Most affordable on our list at $0.63 per serving
  • Lots of flavors available
  • NSF and Informed Choice Certified for banned substances 

Cons:

  • If you just want BCAAs, this isn’t a good choice 
  • Overarching consensus is that most flavors are very sweet
  • Label recommends two scoops per day on training days

Xtend Original BCAA Powder packs a powerful punch at an affordable price. This low-cost BCAA product still provides a substantial 3.5-gram dose of muscle-stimulating leucine, as well as glutamine for immune, gut, and connective tissue health. *

“I’m especially impressed with the addition of electrolytes for maintaining proper hydration,” Iafelice says. *

What’s more, Xtend BCAA Powder contains citrulline malate, which has been shown to help delay muscle fatigue and increase oxygen delivery to muscles. * But, if you’re only looking for BCAAs in your supplement, this is something to be aware of. 

Xtend BCAA powder is available in a whopping 12 flavors. I personally haven’t tried this product yet, but GGR Head of Content Kate Meier loves the Watermelon Explosion flavor. “I don’t like super sweet things, but if I mix this with enough water—12 to 16 ounces—it’s perfect,” she says.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors


$0.63
7 g (L-Leucine: 3.5 g, L-Isoleucine: 1.75 g, L-Valine: 1.75 g)
1 scoop
Watermelon Explosion, Blue Raspberry Ice, Freedom Ice, Glacial Grape, Italian Blood Orange, Knockout Fruit Punch, Lemon Lime Squeeze, Mango Madness, Smash Apple, Strawberry Kiwi Splash, Strawberry Mango, Tropic Thunder

Best BCAA Supplement For Recovery: Vital Performance Recover

Good for: Someone who’s mostly interested in BCAA supplements to promote recovery *

Best BCAA Supplement For Recovery: Vital Performance Recover
Vital Performance Recover
Vital Performance Recover

Proper recovery is one of the most overlooked aspects of training. A large part of recovery is nutrition and, thanks to Vital Performance Recover, you can find the essential nutrients you need in one supplement. Vital Performance Recover combines collagen peptides with BCAAs and electrolytes for a post-workout drink formulated to hydrate, support decreased muscle soreness, increased recovery and muscle growth. Each serving contains 5 grams of BCAA as well as 18 grams of protein to improve muscle protein synthesis.Vital Performance Recover is third-party tested and certified by NSF. As such, you can rest assured that you are consuming safe and quality ingredients as outlined on the label. If you’re looking for an immunity boost, you are in luck as Vital Performance Recover offers a blend of antioxidants and minerals to support the immune system.Available in three flavors and boasting good mixability, there are reviews of all three tasting poorly. But, this supplement does contain monk fruit extract, which adds sweetness and covers a lot of the bitterness often associated with BCAAs.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • 5 grams of BCAAs
  • Contains a blend of nutrients to support workout recovery *
  • NSF Certified for Sport

Cons:

  • One serving is 2 scoops
  • Expensive at $1.71 per serving 
  • Only 21 servings per container

Vital Performance Recover blends a combination of muscle-recovery nutrients into a post-exercise drink. This unique product contains a 5-gram dose of BCAAs, plus about 1 gram of glutamine, and 20 grams of collagen peptides—all of which have been shown to support reduced muscle damage, ease temporary inflammation after training, and delayed-onset muscle soreness. *

Available in three unique flavors—Guava Lime, Watermelon Blueberry, Lemon Grape—this product is also NSF Certified for Sport, meaning it’s been third-party tested for banned substances and safe for athletes. 

“I like the convenience of having all the key recovery nutrients in a one-stop-shop that also provides immune-supporting antioxidants and minerals, as well as hydrating electrolytes,” says Iafelice. *

I haven’t tried Vital Performance Recover yet, but when I do, I’ll update this review.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$1.71
8 g
2 scoops
Guava Lime, Watermelon Blueberry, Lemon Grape

Best BCAA Supplement for Muscle-Building: Huge BCAA

Good for: People who are looking to pack on the muscle

Huge BCAA
Huge BCAA
Huge BCAA

Few BCAA supplement powders receive praise for their taste. Breaking the mold of bitter-tasting BCAA supplements, Huge BCAA has four flavors that mix well and taste good, too. In fact, the one complaint from several consumers is that there should be a greater variety in flavors. Drink this before, during, or after your workout to enhance your performance and recovery. This supplement can also be stacked with your favorite pre or post-workout drink as well.Huge BCAA not only tastes good but is jam-packed with high-quality BCAAs. Each scoop contains close to 15 grams of amino acids, including 8 grams of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. This powder has a variety of other beneficial ingredients including L-glutamine and coconut water for hydration and optimal recovery.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • 8 grams of BCAAs 
  • Also contains the six other essential amino acids
  • Four flavor options available

Cons:

  • Expensive at $1.60 per serving  
  • Sweetened with sucralose
  • Label advises two servings per day

When it comes to muscle-building expressly, Huge BCAA leads the way. Unlike most other BCAA products, Huge BCAA not only supplies the three essential BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine), but the other six essential amino acids (EAAs) as well. *

“Only a complete protein composed of all nine essential amino acids will maximize muscle protein synthesis and subsequent muscle gains,” explains Iafelice. *

An image of Huge BCAAs in a shaker

With all the essentials that include a significant 8-gram dose of BCAAs, Huge BCAA certainly fits the bill as a potent muscle-builder. Four flavors are available, but we should note that it is sweetened with sucralose if that’s a dealbreaker for you. *

I tried the Kiwi Blueberry flavor, but didn’t find it overly sweet, plus I like that its unique flavor profile—I definitely got the kiwi taste. The powder also dissolves well and doesn’t feel gritty in your mouth.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$1.60
8 g (L-Leucine: 4 g, L-Isoleucine: 2 g, L-Valine: 2 g)
1 scoop
Kiwi Blueberry, Bomb Popsicle, Watermelon Lemonade, Sour Grape

Best BCAA Supplement for Hydration: Cellucor Alpha Aminos

Good for: Adding extra ingredients into your diet that promote hydration 

Cellucor Alpha Aminos
Cellucor Alpha Aminos
Cellucor Alpha Aminos

Cellucor is one of the most well-respected manufacturers of supplements on the market. They are known for quality ingredients and taste. Cellucor Alpha Amino EAA and BCAA powder lives up to the company’s stellar reputation offering a sports drink that enhances muscle growth, promotes recovery, and provides added electrolytes for hydration. Each serving contains 14 essential amino acids and 5 grams of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio.Available in three flavors, this powder mixes well and tastes good. Less than a handful of reviews criticize the taste and the vast majority of consumers enjoyed both the taste and solubility. In addition to the potent dosage of BCAAs and EAAs, Cellucor’s Alpha Amino EAA and BCAA powder has added electrolytes, coconut water powder, and betaine for hydration, which also supports recovery.This powder does not contain any sugar, calories, or carbohydrates, which is good for those watching their caloric intake. However, it does contain sucralose, which increases the risk of gastrointestinal issues. If you are someone who avoids sucralose, this powder may not be for you.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Affordable at $0.93 per serving  
  • Hydrating blend of electrolytes, coconut water powder, and betaine 
  • Contains an additional Amino Acid Complex

Cons:

  • Only three flavor options available 
  • Sweetened with sucralose 
  • If you only want BCAAs, this isn’t the right product for you

Cellucor Alpha Aminos put a premium on hydration. This powder complements an effective 5-gram dose of BCAAs with important hydrating electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, and magnesium) and electrolyte-containing coconut water powder. For good measure, Cellucor Alpha Amino also contains an amino acid derivative called betaine, also known as trimethylglycine (TMG) and found in foods such as beets, spinach, wheat germ, and wheat bran.

An image of Cellucor Alpha Aminos in a shaker

“Betaine has been shown to increase the water retention of cells, thereby helping to prevent dehydration,” says Iafelice. *

I tried Watermelon Alpha Aminos and instantly thought of a watermelon jolly rancher. The powder doesn’t smell like other BCAA supplements can, and it dissolves well.

Related: Cellucor C4 coupon code

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$0.93
5 g (L-Leucine: 3 g, L-Isoleucine: 1 g, L-Valine: 1 g)
1 scoop
Watermelon, Icy Blue Razz, Fruit Punch

Best Pre-Workout BCAAs: Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy

Good for: Someone who wants to combine their BCAAs into their pre-workout drink 

Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy
Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy
Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy

With well over 2000 5-star reviews, Evlution Nutrition’s BCAA Energy powder is applauded by consumers for its variety of flavors, great taste, solubility, and overall effectiveness. Available in 13 flavors, this supplement provides 5 grams of pure BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio per serving to promote muscle growth and improve recovery. Beta-alanine and L-alanine are present in the list of ingredients to boost endurance levels by supporting glucose production for greater endurance.With 110 milligrams of caffeine derived from coffee bean and green tea extract, Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy powder can be used before your workout for an extra dose of energy. Added taurine helps keep you hydrated as it promotes hydration at the cellular level.Taking this supplement post-workout is just as beneficial as the BCAAs work to support protein synthesis and recovery between workouts. As an added bonus, Evlution Nutrition’s BCAA Energy supports a healthy immune system through its combination of vitamin C, B vitamins, and key amino acids.Unfortunately, Evlution Nutrition’s BCAA Energy powder does have artificial flavoring and the controversial artificial sweetener, sucralose.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Contains a caffeine blend for a pick-me-up *
  • Large array of flavors 
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • 2 scoops per serving  
  • Sweetened with sucralose 
  • If you train in the evening, this may not be the best choice

When you need that extra boost of energy to kickstart your workouts, Evlution Nutrition BCAA Lean Energy delivers the goods. In addition to 5 grams of BCAAs (including an adequate 2.5-gram dose of leucine) for post-workout recovery, BCAA Lean Energy furnishes energy molecules that include caffeine from coffee bean and green tea extract (equal to about a cup of coffee), beta-alanine, and maca powder. *

“Maca is a Peruvian plant used for centuries to support energy (and mood), while beta-alanine can combat muscle fatigue,” says Iafelice. “Many of my clients use this product for an anytime pick-me-up.” *

I haven’t tried BCAA Energy yet, but when I do, I’ll update this review.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors


$0.80
5 g (L-Leucine: 3 g, L-Isoleucine: 1 g, L-Valine: 1 g)
2 scoops
Furious Grape, Blue Raz, Cherry Limeade, Fruit Punch, Green Apple, Lemon Lime, Orange Blast, Peach Mango, Pink Lemonade, Pink Starblast, Acai Berry, Vanilla Iced Coffee, Watermelon

Best Vegan BCAA Supplement: Naked BCAAs

Good for: Vegan or plant-based exercisers who need a BCAA supplement

Naked Nutrition BCAAs
Naked Nutrition BCAAs
Naked Nutrition BCAAs

Naked Nutrition BCAAs are pharmaceutical-grade amino acids free of any artificial ingredients. The product contains a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a powder that dissolves quickly. Formulated to support lean muscle mass, reduce muscle soreness fatigue, this supplement is reportedly quite effective.Each container has 100 servings which breaks down to $0.35 per serving. The price is remarkable and the quality just as impressive. That said, because it does not contain any artificial flavoring or additives, the taste is very bitter and the product has a smell. Consumers found that mixing it with other drinks often altered the taste and not in a good way. But, the Naked Nutrition BCAAs are likely one of the purest forms of amino acids you will find on the market.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Super affordable at $0.35 per serving  
  • Easily mixed into an intra- or post-workout drink 
  • No artificial additives 

Cons:

  • No flavor options available  
  • Smells bad
  • Small scooper

If you’re looking for a simple, high-quality BCAA product, Naked BCAAs should be on your list. 

“Naked BCAAs are a very clean vegan product free of chemical additives and made from various non-GMO carbohydrate sources,” says Iafelice. *

An image of Naked BCAAs

Each serving of Naked BCAAs provides the sufficient 2.5-gram dose of leucine necessary to drive muscle protein synthesis and contribute to muscle gains and muscle recovery. It comes unflavored, so it will easily mix into a post-workout drink, and at only 35 cents per serving, you can’t beat the price. *

I tried these BCAAs and yes, the powder does smell, which is just inherent to BCAAs themselves. Although it’s marked as unflavored I did find it slightly bitter—again, inherent to BCAAs—but I think it would mix in fine with a flavored drink. 

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$0.35
5 g (L-Leucine: 3 g, L-Isoleucine: 1 g, L-Valine: 1 g)
1 scoop
Unflavored

Best BCAA Pills: Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules

Good for: Those who prefer swallowing a capsule over chugging a drink

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules
Pure Encapsulation BCAA Capsules
Pure Encapsulation BCAA Capsules

If you’re looking to include BCAAs into your nutritional regime but are not interested in mixing drinks or worrying about taste, Pure Encapsulation BCAA Capsules are a solid alternative. Offering 1,200 milligrams of free-form BCAAs per capsule, these are a convenient way to take in BCAAs. It is recommended to take two to four capsules per day to reap the intended benefits of improved recovery, supported lean muscle mass, and better performance.These capsules are made from high-quality vegetarian ingredients. In general, capsules are not as potent as the powder form but they are a convenient way to take BCAAs at the research-backed 2:1:1 ratio. Available in both 90- and 250-capsule bottles, they are affordable as well.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Affordable 
  • Better for people on-the-go

Cons:

  • Only 1.2 grams of BCAAs per serving   
  • Will need to take eight capsules for a 5-gram dose of BCAAs
  • Capsules are large

If you prefer BCAA capsules over powders, Pure Encapsulations BCAA is unrivaled. Pure Encapsulations is a well-respected brand with reputable products. 

“In general, compared to tablets, capsules are more easily and rapidly absorbed and contain fewer additives,” explains Iafelice. “While multiple capsules are still needed to supply enough BCAAs for muscle protein synthesis and recovery, Pure’s BCAAs furnish a comparatively large amount of amino acids per capsule, lessening the number of capsules required.” *

Although the serving size is two capsules, that will only provide 1.2 grams of BCAAs. To get the standard 5-gram dose, you’d have to take approximately eight capsules—that’s a lot to swallow, literally and figuratively.  

I haven’t tried these BCAA capsules yet, but when I do, I’ll update this review.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$0.60
1.2 g (L-Leucine: .6 g, L-Isoleucine: .3 g, L-Valine: .3 g)
2 capsules
None

Best Unflavored BCAA Supplement: Kaged Muscle BCAA

Good for: Exercisers who want a powder that easily mixes into other drinks

Kaged Muscle BCAA
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite
Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite

Kaged Pre-Kaged Elite is an all-in-one pre-workout formulated with nine patented ingredients, including both creatine monohydrate and creatine nitrate. Other important ingredients include L-citrulline, beta-alanine, and caffeine.It's formulated to promote more energy and focus, as well as increases in strength. Take the 1-scoop serving (or half a scoop if you're new, to assess your tolerance) mixed with water 20 to 30 minutes before your workout for maximum results. 

Pros:

  • No flavor so it mixes well into other drinks 
  • Affordable at $0.42 per serving 
  • 72 servings in each container

Cons:

  • Some reviews say it has a bad taste
  • Smells off-putting 
  • No flavors available for those who want options

Kaged BCAA 2:1:1 is an unflavored powder, meaning you can mix it into an intra- or post-workout drink of choice. This vegan product has a 5-gram dose of BCAAs per serving, and is also Informed Choice certified so it’s safe for athletes to take. 

“When I mix together various nutritional powders, different flavors can often clash,” says Iafelice. “For myself and my clients, Kaged BCAA offers a convenient way to combine post-workout BCAAs with a delicious green powder drink and not compromise taste.” *

I haven’t tried Kaged Muscle’s BCAAs yet, but when I do, I’ll update this review.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$0.42
5 g (L-Leucine: 2.5 g, L-Isoleucine: 1.25 g, L-Valine: 1.25 g)
1 scoop
Unflavored

Best Tasting BCAAs: Alani Nu BCAA

Good for: Those who place a premium on taste

Best Tasting BCAAs: Alani Nu BCAA
Alani Nu BCAAs
Alani Nu BCAAs

Alani Nu BCAAs are available in five unique and tasty flavors: Hawaiian Shaved Ice, Rocket Pop, Sour Gummy, Sour Peach Rings, Strawberry Kiwi. Each serving contains the most researched BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. Designed to support muscle recovery and lean muscle mass, this powder can be taken before, during, or after your workout. As an added bonus, Alani Nu included L-glutamine will help you stay hydrated.At approximately $1.39 per serving, this product is one of the more expensive BCAA supplements. While the taste is appreciated by many consumers, there are added artificial sweeteners including sucralose which can cause digestive issues.* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Pros:

  • Flavors are top-notch 
  • 5-g dose of BCAAs
  • Banned substance-tested

Cons:

  • Higher end of price at $1.33 per serving 
  • Doesn’t dissolve completely

Often the anticipation of drinking a great-tasting recovery drink can get you through a tough workout. With a variety of cult-favorite flavors such as Sour Peach Rings and Hawaiian Shaved ice, Alani Nu BCAA is hard to beat when it comes to taste. *

This recovery BCAA formula supplies the requisite 2.5 grams of muscle-triggering leucine per serving as well as immune-enhancing glutamine and hydrating electrolytes. *

Nostalgic flavors like Sour Peach Rings and Hawaiian Shaved Ice are unique and overwhelmingly enjoyed by customers. I’m a fan of Alani Nu flavors, so while I haven’t tasted their BCAAs specifically, I feel confident in their offerings. When I do taste them, I’ll update this review.

Price per serving
BCAAs
Dosage
Flavors
$1.33
5 g (L-Leucine: 2.5 g, L-Isoleucine: 1.25 g, L-Valine: 1.25 g)
1 scoop
Hawaiian Shaved Ice, Rocket Pop, Sour Gummy, Sour Peach Rings, Strawberry Kiwi

Other BCAAs we Researched and Tested

There are lots of BCAA supplements on the market, and of course not all of them made our list. Here are a few that we also researched.

  • BPI Sports Best BCAA: This product contains CLA, which has been researched for its properties in supporting fat loss. Because the research is still discordant, we left this product off. *
  • Optimum Nutrition BCAA 1000: This capsule form of BCAAs was on our shortlist, but it only contains 1 g of BCAAs per serving, so Pure Encapsulations capsules beat it out.

How We Picked and Tested the Best BCAA Supplements

Choosing the best BCAA products in this exploding category was no easy feat, but we narrowed down our list using the following criteria:

  • Formulation: How many grams of BCAAs are in each serving? What’s the ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine? 
  • Form: Is it a powder supplement or capsules?
  • Serving size: How many scoops (or capsules) would you need to hit the recommended 5-gram per day allotment? Are there at least 30 servings in the container?
  • Taste/Flavors: If flavored, how does it taste? In unflavored, does it truly have no taste?
  • Solubility: If it’s a powder, does the product dissolve completely in liquids?
  • Cost: What’s the cost of the entire container, and the price per serving?
  • Third-party testing: Has the product been tested by Informed Sport, NSF, or Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) for banned substances?

What Are BCAAs?

We’re glad you asked. Let’s start at the beginning. 

Amino acids are the foundation of protein. Of the hundreds of amino acids your body makes, there are 20 that you need to function optimally. Nine of these cannot be made by your body and therefore must come from the foods you eat—these nine are called essential amino acids (EAAs).

BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are a group of three EEAs—leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine and valine play an important role in protein synthesis, while isoleucine plays a role in immunity, glucose transportation, and more. Research has demonstrated that the ideal ratio of these BCAAs is 2:1:1—two parts leucine, one part isoleucine, and one part valine. All of the BCAA supplements on this list follow that ratio. *

Many BCAA supplements will also include other ingredients like l-glutamine, beta-alanine, taurine, citrulline malate, and caffeine, all of which can potentially support performance or recovery as well. *

Benefits of BCAAs

BCAAs are known to have a few potential benefits, including supporting muscle growth, performance enhancement, and post-exercise recovery. *

Muscle-Building

It is well-documented that BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis in muscle tissue when ingested following resistance training. However, BCAAs lack the full range of essential amino acids necessary to sustain maximal muscle protein synthesis. *

“A complete, high-quality protein food such as whey that furnishes all of the essential amino acid building blocks to drive muscle gains is the preferred choice for a post-workout beverage,” says Iafelice. *

The verdict: BCAAs have limited usefulness as a post-exercise supplement to support muscle growth (particularly when compared to whey protein).

Performance Enhancement

Among the essential amino acids, BCAAs have the unique ability to serve as an energy source during endurance exercise once carbohydrate stores (glycogen) become depleted. Research has shown that BCAAs can also act to support decreases in brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that causes central nervous system fatigue during sustained, moderate-intensity exercise. *

“These fatigue-resistance properties of BCAAs are supported by recent studies showing that BCAA supplementation increases exercise capacity and endurance performance in prolonged physical activity carried to exhaustion,” says Iafelice. “However, since other studies showed negative results, the ergogenic effects of BCAAs remain open to question.” *

The verdict: BCAAs can be used to improve exercise performance, but only in prolonged endurance events that cause glycogen depletion. Moreover, carbohydrates can alternatively be used to achieve the same benefits. *

Post-Exercise Recovery

“This is where BCAAs shine!” Iafelice says. “Systematic reviews of clinical trials provide convincing evidence that BCAAs lower markers of muscle damage and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) following resistance training or exhaustive endurance exercise.” *

Muscle breakdown caused by intense workouts can lead to declines in muscle function such as power output and endurance performance. Supplementation with 10 grams of BCAAs before and after an intense strength training session has been shown to mitigate a decrease in power-producing ability experienced by weight-trained males compared to a placebo group. *

The verdict: BCAAs can be effective for speeding the recovery of injured muscles (low-to-moderate damage) after high and frequent training loads. *

Do BCAAs Really Work?

According to Iafelice, the answer to this question depends on your goals. As discussed, the potential benefits of BCAAs include muscle-building, performance enhancement, and post-exercise recovery, but the only true home run benefit can be in post-exercise recovery. 

And as with other supplements like creatine or greens powders, they should be used as just that—a supplement to eating adequate amounts of protein in a well-balanced diet, training at an appropriate frequency and intensity, and ensuring you recover fully as well. *

Potential Side Effects of BCAAs

According to Iafeliece, BCAAs are considered safe for most people when taken in recommended dosages. 

“While some studies have linked high blood levels of BCAAs with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases, levels of BCAAs in the blood do not necessarily correlate with dietary BCAA intake,” Iafelice says. 

They are also safe to take daily and do not need to be cycled on or off for any period of time, Iafelice adds. Of course, if you experience any unexplained side effects, discontinue use immediately and talk to your doctor. 

When Should I Take BCAAs, and at What Dosage?

There is mixed research available on when the most effective time to consume BCAA supplements is. But, because BCAAs have potential performance-enhancing and post-workout recovery effects, taking them intra-workout, or right after, seems to be the most promising. *

A minimum and maximum dose of BCAAs hasn’t really been established, but research seems to indicate that the ideal ratio is 40 milligrams of leucine, 20 milligrams of isoleucine, and 20 milligrams of valine per kilogram of bodyweight. So for a person who weighs 150 pounds, that’s about 2.7 grams of leucine, and 1.4 grams of both isoleucine and valine. This means that the 5-gram dose of BCAAs contained in most of the products on our list is right in line with the seemingly effective dosage. 

How to Choose the Best BCAAs

Before you commit to a BCAA supplement, consider these factors.

Ingredients

Does the supplement only have BCAAs, or are there other ingredients, like glutamine or electrolytes, as well?

Pill or Powder?

Are you OK with mixing BCAA powder into a drink, or would you rather swallow a few pills every day? Pills tend to be easier to take on the go, but you’ll probably have to swallow quite a few to get the same dose of BCAAs as you would get in a powder.

Taste

This is an important one, because if you can’t stomach the flavor, you won’t take the workout supplement consistently—and that’s key to see any potential results. Do research on the flavor options available and see if you can try a few samples before committing to a full-sized container.

Value

Consider not only the price and serving size, but also the amount of BCAAs per serving to decide what’s the best value for you and your needs.

Customer Feedback

Reviews from actual customers should weigh into your purchasing decision. Check out Amazon or the manufacturer websites for insights into the experience with each BCAA supplement as well as the company. 

Banned-Substance Testing

Look for Informed Sport, NSF, or BSCG logos on the products to see if they’ve been batch-tested for banned substances. This is especially important if you’re an athlete. 

Final Verdict on Best BCAA Supplements 

Although the research on BCAAs is not definitive, there are some potentially positive benefits around athletic performance and recovery. If you’re training hard and eating well and have the money to spend, trying out a BCAA supplement could support your results and other goals, like weight loss. *

FAQs About Best BCAAs

Which brand is best for BCAAs?

The right BCAA supplement for you will depend on plenty of factors, including your budget and other personal preferences. That being said, we recommend: 
Best BCAA Supplement Overall: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine 
Best Budget BCAAs: Xtend Original BCAA Powder
Best BCAA Supplement for Recovery: Vital Performance Recover 
Best BCAA Supplement for Muscle-Building: Huge BCAAs
Best BCAA Supplement for Hydration: Cellucor Alpha Aminos 
Best Pre-Workout BCAAs: Evlution Nutrition BCAA Lean Energy 
Best Vegan BCAA Supplement: Naked BCAAs
Best BCAA Pills: Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules
Best Unflavored BCAA Supplement: Kaged Muscle BCAA
Best Tasting BCAAs: Alani Nu BCAA

Are BCAAs worth taking?

Again this depends on plenty of factors. They’re certainly not necessary to see results, especially if you’re focused on strength training and proper nutrition. However, if you have these dialed in and have the extra money to spend, it could be an option to explore. *

Do BCAAs really make a difference?

It depends on what your goals are. If you’re focused specifically on muscle-building, there’s not much research to support BCAAs’ definitive effects. If you’re looking for better performance in the gym or quicker recovery, BCAAs may have more to offer. It’s worth reiterating though that the quality of your training and nutrition will make much more of a difference on your results than consuming a BCAA supplement will. *

Why are BCAAs useless?

To each their own! There’s mixed research on the benefits of BCAAs, with the most promising effects around increased performance in the gym and better recovery. That being said, they are not necessary to see results by any means, and many people would be better off focusing on their training and nutrition. *

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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