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Optimum Nutrition is regarded as one of the top supplement companies in the game. Their infamous whey protein powder is a staple for many athletes in the bodybuilding community and beyond, but their reputation doesn’t stop there. Optimum Nutrition’s branched-chain amino acid supplement is geared toward those who want to prevent muscle breakdown and encourage muscle protein synthesis.

This Optimum Nutrition BCAA review will examine the sports nutrition supplement and its purported roles in muscle growth and recovery. We’ll break down the science behind the nutrition product’s formula and other factors that may influence your decision to add the BCAA powder to your supplement stack…or not.

RELATED: Best BCAA Supplements

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider. GGR also recommends choosing a product that has been third-party tested for quality.

We Know BCAAS

Our team of testers is made up of credentialed pros from all different backgrounds. We’re certified personal trainers, registered dietitian nutritionists, CrossFit-L1 coaches, and professional athletes, and we’ve put more than 20 BCAA supplements to the test. Our thorough vetting process has given us a broad perspective on the market, allowing us to feel confident sharing our personal experiences with Optimum Nutrition’s BCAA powder.

Plus, we tried Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder in several ways to get the full experience. We tried it on its own, mixed in different protein shakes, before and after workouts—you name it, we tried it. And you know we’re not in the business of sugar-coating our reviews. We give you our honest, objective review so you can make the most informed decision for your needs.

Optimum Nutrition BCAAs

Optimum Nutrition BCAA

GGR Score: 3.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Branched Chain Essential Amino Acids (BCAA) 
  • Unflavored powder
  • Designed for intra-workout 
  • Helps aid muscle recovery 
  • Store in a cool dry area

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Unflavored goes with any drink
  • Keto-friendly

Cons

  • Contains soy
  • Unflavored powder may taste bitter

Bottom Line

Optimum Nutrition BCAA is an unflavored powder that contains a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine. This formula is intended to support muscles during endurance training or recovery from intense resistance training.

A Quick Look at Optimum Nutrition BCAAs

Optimum Nutrition, or ON, was founded in 1986 and has set the gold standard in sports nutrition ever since. It’s one of the few supplement companies manufacturing products in every category, addressing the various needs of athletes training to be at their best. ON makes protein powders, pre-workouts, vitamins, and, of course, amino acid supplements.

ON’s Instantized BCAA 5000 is a BCAA powder designed to provide intra-workout support to spare muscle cells during endurance exercise and encourage efficient recovery afterward. Each serving provides 5 grams of branched-chain amino acids in a 2:1:1 ratio of the essential amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine. Current research indicates1 that this ratio is the most ideal BCAA ratio for weight loss and muscle building. 

Someone scooping Optimum Nutrition BCAAs into a shaker cup

RELATED: What Is the Best Ratio for BCAAs?

Since our bodies can’t make essential amino acids, we have to get them from our diet, and BCAA supplements are ready to fill in the gaps. Research2 has shown that L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine play a critical role in the muscle protein synthesis required for muscle building and recovery. ON BCAAs harness these powerful amino acids to maximize training while supporting muscle recovery.

Before You Buy

  • Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder provides 5 grams of BCAAs per serving.
  • The supplement is a 2:1:1 formula of L-leucine to L-isoleucine to L-valine.
  • Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder is one of the more affordable options on the market.
  • Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder is unflavored.

Are Optimum Nutrition BCAAs Worth It?

Optimum Nutrition’s BCAAs certainly pack a punch, especially considering their low cost per serving. ON BCAA Powder can help athletes of all levels reach their fitness goals, but we know the product is not a one-size-fits-all and may not be appropriate for everyone.

RELATED: Best BCAA for Women

Great for:

  • Athletes pursuing lean muscle growth
  • Athletes fighting post-workout soreness
  • Those shopping for a BCAA product on a budget

Not recommended for:

  • Women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or nursing
  • Individuals with difficulty controlling their blood sugars
  • Those with soy intolerance

Optimum Nutrition BCAA Specs

Price per serving$0.55
BCAA Dosage5g
BCAA Ratio2:1:1
L-Leucine Dosage2.5g
L-Isoleucine Dosage1.25g
L-Valine Dosage1.25g
FlavorsUnflavored

Experience Using Optimum Nutrition BCAA

GGR senior editor Erin Chancer used Optimum Nutrition BCAA like any other person who wants to improve their training levels. Her expectations involved improved intra-workout endurance and post-workout muscle recovery. The 2:1:1 ratio of essential amino acids did not disappoint, but she definitely had some thoughts about its flavor and quality testing.

Optimum Nutrition BCAA nutritional label

RELATED: Best Muscle Recovery Supplements

​​Optimum Nutrition earned a 3.3 out of a possible 5 points. The formulation and price scored well, but Erin gave ON BCAA a 2 for taste and a 1 for third-party testing, which knocked the average down a good bit.

Price Per Serving

While it may not be the best price on the market, at $0.55 per serving, ON BCAA Powder is one of the more affordable BCAA supplements available—hence Erin’s score of 4 out of 5 for price. Buyers can also set up a delivery subscription for additional cost savings and peace of mind that your stash will be restocked before running out.

The limited ingredients in this BCAA powder help keep costs low. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA, on the other hand, contains added ingredients like Rhodiola rosea extract, vitamin C, and electrolytes that add purported benefits and costs. If you just want a basic BCAA supplement, however, this is a good price.

Formulation

Optimum Nutrition hit the nail on the head with this formulation. ON BCAA is a 2:1:1 formula of L-leucine to L-isoleucine to L-valine. The formula provides 5 grams of BCAAs per serving, with 2.5 grams of L-leucine, 1.25 grams of L-isoleucine, and 1.25 grams of L-valine.

ON BCAA Powder also contains soy lecithin—something to consider if you are intolerant to soy products. However, that does it for ingredients in ON BCAA Powder. BCAAs are the priority in this product, so you’re not paying for any extra fluff.

RELATED: BCAA Benefits

Taste and Solubility 

GGR senior editor Erin Chancer gave us a full rundown of her thoughts on ON BCAA’s taste:

“Taste is awful. I’ve tried unflavored BCAAs on their own before when testing and they typically just taste like water with a slight aftertaste. The ON BCAAs tasted like chemicals and I had to spit it out. There’s also an unpleasant lingering aftertaste,” she said.

An open tub of Optimum Nutrition BCAA next to a shaker bottle

She even tried to switch it up and change its preparation. “I was brave and tried to mix the BCAAs with protein powder to see if that made a difference, but it just diluted the stank slightly,” she said. “However, it dissolves fine in a shaker bottle. Granted, I could be going about this all wrong when trying to use this product for its intended purpose, or maybe I’m spoiled by all the BCAAs that taste like candy. I tried it in a few ways but found it to be very unpleasant.”

As mentioned before, Erin gave ON BCAA a 2 out of 5 for taste—it definitely leaves you wanting more compared to other aspects of the supplement. If taste and solubility are a big deal for you, this could be a dealbreaker.

Side Effects

BCAA supplements are generally considered safe for the average healthy adult, but like any dietary supplement, they don’t come without potential side effects. Excessive intake of BCAAs may cause gastrointestinal distress in the form of nausea, diarrhea, and bloating.

Additionally, some research points to concerns3 about diets high in BCAAs and increased insulin resistance. Those with diabetes or difficulties in managing blood glucose levels should discuss it with their doctor before starting a BCAA supplement like ON BCAA Powder.

Third-Party Testing 

Erin gave Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder a 1 out of 5 for third-party testing. The company’s website emphasizes high-quality raw ingredients and testing at multiple points within the manufacturing process. However, there is no mention of third-party testing, which would have eliminated any concern for internal bias.

Optimum Nutrition BCAA vs Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs BCAA

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

GGR Score: 4.25 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Available in 5 flavors, BCAA Glutamine supports post-workout recovery and a reduction of muscle breakdwon
  • No artificial colors, sweeteners, or coloring
  • Sweetened with Stevia
  • Each serving has 5 active ingredients designed to promote protein synthesis, reduce muscle fatigue, improve post-workout muscle growth, and enhance performance
  • Ingredients include vitamin C, fermented vegan BCAA 2:1:1 (L-leucine, L-valine, and L-isoleucine), and glutamine

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Transparent ingredient list
  • 5 flavor options
  • Uses fermented vegan BCAAs
  • Gluten-free and non-GMO
  • No artificial sweeteners, coloring, or preservatives
  • 60-day money-back assurance

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Contains Stevia, which can cause digestive issues
  • Taste is not appreciated by all

Bottom Line

If Stevia does not cause you any stomach issues, Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is a well-formulated supplement worth considering.

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is another great product in the world of BCAA supplements. It provides 8 grams of BCAAs per serving, along with 2 grams of carbohydrates and a hefty dose of vitamin C. Our testers tried the Strawberry Lemonade flavor and didn’t like it all that much. GGR senior editor Nicole Davis said it’s bitter and has an unpleasant aftertaste. Our testers did say that the solubility is good, though.

Another way in which Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine differs from Optimum Nutrition BCAA is that Transparent Labs BCAAs are third-party tested for purity and banned substances. Read more about Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine in our full Transparent Labs BCAAs review.

Optimum Nutrition BCAATransparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Price per serving$0.55$1.33
BCAA Dosage5g8g
BCAA Ratio2:1:12:1:1
L-Leucine Dosage2.5g4g
L-Isoleucine Dosage1.25g2g
L-Valine Dosage1.25g2g
FlavorsUnflavoredSour Green Apple, Tropical Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, Blue Raspberry

Customer Experience 

Optimum Nutrition offers a return policy, but it only allows returns within 30 days of purchase, and the product must be purchased from the company’s website or Consumer Affairs. Additionally, at least 75% of the product must remain unused.

To make a return, you’re instructed to call Optimum Nutrition and provide your purchase number, as your return must be approved before it can be processed. Once your request has been deemed eligible for return, you’ll mail the product back and receive a refund on your original form of payment.

If 75% of the product must remain unused to be eligible for return, that only allows 15 tries of the 60-serving container. Because of this and the multiple steps required to make a return, GGR senior editor Erin Chancer rated customer service a 3 out of 5.

Ordering Optimum Nutrition BCAA

Ordering ON BCAA is pretty straightforward. You can purchase the product as a one-time purchase or set up a delivery subscription for additional cost savings on every order. However, this comes with a recurring charge on your payment method. 

RELATED: When to Take BCAAs

Customer Reviews

Many customer reviews echo our thoughts regarding ON BCAA’s taste, but the consensus seems optimistic overall. After browsing reviews from reputable sites where the product can be purchased, we gave ON BCAA a 4.4 out of 5 for customer perception. 

Check out some of the reviews from verified customers:

“I got unflavored thinking it would be good to add to my breakfast shakes. Well unflavored tastes absolutely horrible and makes it to where I can barely get the shake down. Next time I’m going to get flavored and just put it in my water to sip throughout the day.”

-Matt, customer review from Amazon

“This product is fantastic, but there is only one flaw. Even though Optimum Nutrition labels it as ‘unflavored,’ this BCAA powder supplement has a very chalky pasty taste that does not go well with just water. I have had to take it with fruit juices in order to not have a weird taste in my mouth. Other than that, this product works great. I take my one heaping teaspoon after a long day of work and it gets me awake. It’s like caffeine without the caffeine. Works well with OP 100% whey. I would highly recommend to friends.”

-Klaudia, customer review from Amazon

“This is my first time using a product like this, I mostly stick to protein powder, but this product definitely helps give me energy during a workout and helps my muscles and joints recover quickly! My only issue is the taste, would be great to have some flavor options!”

-Joseph, customer review from Optimum Nutrition website

“This gives me a ton of energy and my recovery is quick! The taste is a bit strong but the effect is worth it!!”

-Otis, customer review from Optimum Nutrition website

Final Verdict of Our Optimum Nutrition BCAA Review

If BCAA powder supplements aren’t your jam, or you can’t get past the taste of ON’s BCAA powder, consider trying capsule BCAAs. Optimum Nutrition BCAA 1000 caps also offer a 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine to L-isoleucine to L-valine but in smaller portions with less preparation hassle. Plus, taste isn’t much of a factor with ON’s BCAA 1000 capsules.

Still, if you want to up your game with the best BCAA supplement, we can’t disregard Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder. Its overall score of 3.3 reflects a favorable formula and price point averaged with a poor score for taste and third-party testing. Depending on your priorities, it might fit your dietary supplement needs.

  • BCAAs can help support muscle protein synthesis, improving endurance and recovery
  • ON BCAA provides 5 grams of BCAAs per serving in a 2:1:1 ratio
  • ON BCAA powder has a reputation for an unfavorable taste

Full Rating

Optimum Nutrition BCAA

Optimum Nutrition's Instantized BCAA 5000 is a BCAA powder designed to provide intra-workout support to spare muscle cells during endurance exercise and encourage efficient recovery afterward. Each serving provides 5 grams of branched-chain amino acids in a 2:1:1 ratio of the essential amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine.

Product Brand: Optimum Nutrition

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 36.99

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
3.3

Optimum Nutrition BCAA Rating

Price per serving – 4
Formulation – 5
Taste – 2
Solubility – 4
Side effects – 3
Third-party testing – 1
Customer service – 3
Customer reviews – 4.4
Buy Now

Optimum Nutrition BCAA: FAQs

How good is Optimum Nutrition BCAA?

Based on our scoring breakdown, Optimum Nutrition BCAA is an average BCAA supplement. Its formula is superb, providing a 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine to L-isoleucine to L-valine, however other aspects of the product, such as taste and quality testing, leave room for improvement.

What are the side effects of Optimum Nutrition BCAA?

BCAA supplements may cause unwanted side effects when consumed in excess. These may include bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, those living with diabetes or challenges in controlling their blood sugar levels should discuss with their doctor before starting ON BCAA.

Is it OK to take BCAA every day?

BCAAs are generally considered safe for the average healthy adult, but current research only examines daily BCAA use for up to two years. However, those who are under 18 years of age, pregnant, trying to conceive, and breastfeeding should not consume BCAA supplements. Additionally, you should not take BCAAs if you are managing an underlying medical condition without discussing it with your doctor first.

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

References

  1. Gervasi, M., Sisti, D., Amatori, S. et al. Effects of a commercially available branched-chain amino acid-alanine-carbohydrate-based sports supplement on perceived exertion and performance in high intensity endurance cycling tests. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 17, 6 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-0337-0
  2. Santos CS, Nascimento FEL. Isolated branched-chain amino acid intake and muscle protein synthesis in humans: a biochemical review. Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2019;17(3):eRB4898. Published 2019 Sep 5. doi:10.31744/einstein_journal/2019RB4898
  3. Cuomo P, Capparelli R, Iannelli A, Iannelli D. Role of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Metabolism in Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Cardiovascular Disease and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(8):4325. Published 2022 Apr 13. doi:10.3390/ijms23084325

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