BCAA Supplements Ranking

Top 10 BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

Here is our most up-to-date 10 best Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Guide.

BCAA supplements aren’t all hype. If you are trying to build muscle, target-burn fat, improve performance, or speed up recovery – BCAA supplements may give you an edge (1)(2).

The “may” comes down to how well your BCAA is dosed and if you are working out properly.

On this page we have compiled for you the current best BCAA powders on the market. This ranking is based on user reviews, our experience, dosing, and brand reputation.

Below the ranking, you will find a suite of information covering all the ways BCAAs function to help you meet your goals.

Enjoy this page as we demystify branched chain amino acids and rate how we did at the bottom!

Rankings sneak peak:

  1. Transparent Labs BCAA + GlutamineBest BCAA by dosage and purity.
  2. Scivation Xtend BCAASecond best BCAA by flavors and cost.
  3. Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAAThird best by availability and value.

What are BCAAs?

BCAA is the initialism for branched chain amino acid. Out of the 22 proper amino acids, only 3 are classified as branched chain: leucine, isoleucine and valine.

While they are named based upon their ‘branched’ structure, BCAAs are taken as supplements apart from standard amino acids due to their unique effects on the body.

BCAA vs Amino Acids

Amino acids are the ever-so-stated ‘building blocks of your muscles’. Really though, amino acids are the building blocks of your entire body.

BCAAs differ from standard amino acids because they are more intricately involved with your skeletal muscle. Specifically, BCAAs both fuel muscle metabolism and act to increase skeletal muscle growth.

Pairing two and two together leads to the primary benefits of BCAAs such as: increased muscle growth, performance and fat metabolism.

What to look for in a BCAA powder

Buying the right BCAA takes a bit of analysis to work through deceptive advertising. The core characteristics of a good BCAA supplement worth taking include:

  • A clinically backed dosage: It takes 4 grams of BCAAs to improve performance and about 7 grams to improve recovery and muscle growth.
  • Plant-sourced: Vegan-friendly fermented BCAAs are the highest quality BCAAs available. Non-plant based BCAAs are sourced from ‘junk meat’ and other questionable sources.
  • No added artificial ingredients: Well-made BCAA supplements do not require artificial additives to taste good. If a BCAA contains them, then they’re likely covering something up.

Once you work past these 3 core ranking factors we can focus on fine tuning:

  • Taste: Is it something you enjoy drinking?
  • Value: Are you getting the benefits you expect from the price you may?
  • Specialty: Does this BCAA tailor specifically to your needs or is it generic?

Make it through these 6 ranking factors unscathed, and you’ve got yourself an arguable top-rated product. Below, our experts have used these rules and more to curate for you the best BCAA supplements currently on the market.


The 10 Best BCAA Supplements

Our 2019 Expert Recommended Favorites

#1 Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine – Best Quality, Dosage, Formula

Top rated bcaa supplement

Currently, Transparent Labs offers the Best BCAA supplement on the market – BCAA Glutamine.

What we liked:

What we disliked:

  • Not available in third-party stores
  • Doesn’t have a stick-pack option

BCAA Glutamine contains an industry leading 8 grams of BCAAs in the 2:1:1 ratio along with 5 grams of added glutamine. That brings the total Amino acid count to 13 grams per serving.

Since the ratio is 2:1:1, that means you will get 4 grams of leucine, 2 grams of valine and 2 grams isoleucine per serving. This is the optimal before or during workout BCAA dose for building muscle, burning fat, increasing endurance, reducing muscle soreness, all at the same time.

The formula is free of artificial and synthetic dyes as well as contains zero artificial sweeteners. In our book, it’s a winner compared to the droves of under-dosed BCAA supplements.


#2 Scivation Xtend BCAAs

Scivation Xtend Original

Xtend BCAAs have a long lineage of success and are a close competitor to #1.

What we liked:

What we disliked:

  • Confusing variations
  • Added flavors, colors, sweeteners

Scivation Xtend contains 7 grams of anabolic BCAAs in the proper 2:1:1 ratio as well as 2.5 grams glutamine and 1 gram of l-citrulline malate. In this specific ratio, both endurance, fat loss, and muscle growth is promoted.

Combine this intra workout supplement with any workout day to last longer than before. Compared to our top choice, Xtend is easily the second best BCAA powder.

What separates BCAA Glutamine from Xtend is that BCAA Glutamine has an extra gram of BCAAs as well as twice the glutamine. Not to mention zero artificial sweeteners or dyes.

Get Scivation Xtend on Amazon

Note: It is unclear if Xtend uses vegan-friendly fermented BCAAs or lower quality BCAAs derived from processed beef hydrolysates.


#3 Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAA

PRO BCAA

Optimum Nutrition’s PRO BCAA mirrors TL’s BCAA + Glutamine, only PRO BCAA is cut short with less servings and artificial flavors.

What we liked:

What we disliked:

  • Only 20 servings per tub
  • Artificial colors, etc
  • Might be discontinued

For one of the largest supplement manufacturers on the planet, Optimum Nutrition really got it right with PRO BCAA. The dosage is spot on, availability is impressive, and the fine touches of l-glutamine and grape extract go the extra mile.

The only cons to PRO BCAA is the lack of a full 30 servings and the usage of artificial ingredients. Besides that, we’ll enjoy it while its out.

Get Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAA


#4 Kaged Muscle In-Kaged BCAA

In-Kaged BCAA

Kris Gethin’s In-Kaged is another fantastic tasting BCAA supplement that also backs itself up a synthetic dye free formula.

What we liked:

  • Blends well with pre-kaged pre workout
  • Fermented vegan-friendly BCAAs
  • Specialized BCAA for intra workout

What we disliked:

  • Sub clinical BCAA dose
  • Low total servings count

This intra-workout focused BCAA supplement has 5 grams of branched chain amino acids per serving with 11 grams of ingredients overall. When we took In-Kaged, we felt it; both in the gym and afterwards while we recovered. Expect to have increased endurance while you lift as well as a noticeable anabolic switch which may make you hungrier between lifts.

The only con to In-Kaged is that there is only 5 grams of BCAAs. So if you’re not taking a BCAA loaded pre workout with it, you’re missing out on part of the bigger picture.

Get Kaged Muscle In-Kaged

#5 Jym Supplement Science: Post Jym Recovery BCAA

Jym Supplements BCAA

The reputable Jim Stoppani does things a little different, and this is quite clear in Post Jym Active Matrix.

What we liked:

  • Most authentic post-workout BCAA
  • 6 Additional ingredients to promote recovery
  • 30 full servings per container

What we disliked:

  • Only 6 grams BCAAs
  • Several other ingredients under-dosed as well

If you are taking the full Jym Supplements stack, then the Post Gym Active Matrix is the literal icing on your muscle cake. It tops everything off, at the time you need it most.

But if you’re not committed to taking all the other powders, then this will have you coming up short as a straight BCAA. For that reason, we couldn’t rank this noble brand higher.

Get Post Jym Active Matrix

 


#6 Evlution Nutrition Recover Mode – Post Workout BCAA

Recovery BCAA powder

Evlution Nutrition recently released Recover Mode as their all-encompassing recovery supplement.

What we liked:

  • Assortment of recovery ingredients
  • Unique flavors

What we disliked:

  • Actual BCAAs are under-dosed
  • Confusing product line

We’re already familiar with this brand from the other Evlution BCAA products that we compared here. Due to their wide range, we’re surprised that they would release yet another BCAA supplement that only contains 5 grams of BCAAs. Though, what saves this product is all of the additional ingredients making up for the low BCAA content.

Recover Mode also includes: 2,250 mg Creatine Monohydrate, 750 mg Creatine HCL, 3,000 mg L-glutamine, 1,600 mg Beta-alanine, 1,500 mg Betaine, 1,000 mg L-carnitine, 1,000 mg Taurine, and 1,000 mg Calci-K.

While many of these ingredients are dosed below manufacturer and clinical recommendations, hopefully together they produce good results.

Get Evlution Nutrition Recover Mode

#7 Beast Sports Nutrition – Aminolytes

Aminolytes amino acid powder

Beast Aminolytes hails as one of the original BCAA supplements from when we first began this ranking 7 years ago. Since then, it has slipped a few ranks.

What we liked:

  • Delicious flavors
  • Once unique concept
  • Aminos + Electrolytes

What we disliked:

  • Under-dosed
  • Outpaced by the market

Beast Sports Nutrition combines 5 grams of branched chain amino acids with 5 grams of non essential amino acids to form a 10 gram amino acid mix. In addition to those AAs, Beast Aminolytes also provides an electrolyte blend to give you better water retention and energy.

The 5 gram BCAA matrix in Aminolytes is a 5:1:4 ratio. This means that per each scoop you are getting 2.5 grams of leucine, 0.5 grams valine, and 2 grams of isoleucine. This is an interesting approach, and we’d like to see the research behind this dosage. Besides that, and the inclusion of Acesulfame Potassium as a preservative, we love Beast Aminolytes!

Get Beast Aminolytes

#8 Genius BCAA Powder

Genius BCAA on Amazon

If you use other Genius supplements, then you may have your eye on their BCAA powder.

What we like:

  • Readily available on Amazon
  • Added ingredients
  • Cool branding

What we dislike:

  • Formula doesn’t reinvent the wheel
  • Really should be dosed higher

Genius BCAA isn’t as affordable as other amazon supplement brands, however it does smartly utilize vegan-friendly fermented BCAAs just like in Transparent Labs. The only downside, is that they only use 5,000 mg per serving.

In addition to these BCAAs, Genius also includes: L-glutamine, Taurine, L-Citrulline malate, Citi choline, Rhodiola, and caffeine.

While they are dosed mega-low, it may improve performance.

Get Genius BCAA Powder

Note: we do not know a whole lot about the Genius supplement company. It appears that the majority of their business originates from Amazon where they occupy sponsored product locations. With that being said, the authenticity of their reviews is undetermined.


#9 Performix ISO 9:2:2 Encapsulated BCAAs

Performix BCAA Powder

Performix’s ISO BCAA is advertised as high tech, but we couldn’t validate its need to be so fancy.

What we liked:

  • An attempt at innovation
  • Added electrolyte blend

What we disliked:

  • Under-dosed BCAAs
  • No actual need for encapsulation

Performix ISO 9:2:2 is extremely similar to other multi-ingredient BCAA products, containing a laundry list of low-dose additions and caffeine.

However, of important note is that Performix uses a 9:2:2 ratio BCAA (leucine, iso-leucine, and valine respectively).

This contradicts research suggesting that the 2:1:1 ratio is the superior form of BCAA. As well, its unclear as to the sourcing of these amino acids.

The only reason ISO 9:2:2 makes the list is because they’ve included PEAK O2 which is a great oxygen capacity increasing mushroom blend.

Get Performix ISO 9:2:2

#10 Musclepharm Essentials BCAA

Musclepharm Essentials 3:2:1 BCAA

Musclepharm brings a fresh new BCAA forward from their Essentials Series named simply “BCAA”.

What we liked:

  • 6 Grams BCAA
  • Not complicated

What we disliked:

  • Could be dosed stronger
  • Artificial flavors

If you want a simple BCAA that’s going to taste good and isn’t loaded with un-needed extras, this may fit the bill.

Musclepharm’s Essential BCAA provides 6 grams of BCAAs in the 3:2:1 ratio, at 30 servings per container. That’s it.

Get Musclepharm Essential BCAA

What are the benefits to taking BCAA powders?

Now that you’ve found the perfect BCAA supplement that delivers the right dosage, how do you take it? What can we expect BCAAs to do? Here are the top 3 reasons to take BCAA supplements and how you can do it right.

  1. How BCAAs Build Muscle
  2. How BCAAs Burn Fat
  3. How BCAAs Increase Performance

Benefit #1 – BCAAs can help you build muscle

Let’s face it, you’ll do nearly anything to build more muscle quickly. So how can BCAAs help?

Well, you’re still going to need to eat a ton of food and lift heavy… But here is what BCAAs can bring to the table…

Increases muscle growth in athletes:

BCAA supplements increase protein synthesis largely by improving protein balance, which is an anabolic trigger (3).

  • In soldiers aggressively cycling, amino acid drinks were found to increase protein synthesis by 33% (4).

That’s a pretty big boost for simply including a drink in your workout routine.

BCAA supplements not only trigger an anabolic muscle response, but also reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism).

  • A Swedish study gave 6.8 grams BCAAs to individuals performing leg press whom had never trained before. What they found, was that supplementation reduced muscle breakdown while improving muscle growth (5).

Increases muscle growth in the sedentary:

The ultimate evidence of a supplement being anabolic, is if it can help you build more muscle without even lifting.

  • Well, for the elderly, large doses of leucine did just that (7)(8).

This occurs because Leucine is believed to both directly and indirectly effect protein synthesis (9).

Directly through protein balance, and indirectly through myostatin inhibition.

Myostatin inhibitors increases muscle growth outside of the standard protein synthesis pathway by basically blocking natural muscle-growth restrictions (10).

Buzz kill: Elderly participants were likely not eating a high protein diet, allowing leucine supplementation to greatly improve their anabolic balance by basically treating a deficiency.

BCAA Dosage for muscle growth

The effective dosage we saw again and again was 7+ grams of BCAAs in the 2:1:1 ratio.

We also believe that active supplementation will be more effective than passive for muscle growth.

  1. Active BCAA supplementation: Take 7+ grams BCAA alongside your pre workout before exercise.
  2. Passive BCAA supplementation: take 3-4 grams with each meal of the day, totaling 9-12 daily grams.

Time and time again, studies noted that supplementing with less than 6 grams of BCAAs had to effect, so, don’t take less.


Benefit #2 – BCAAs can help you burn fat

Branched chain amino acid supplements (BCAAs) are often recommended alongside fat burning programs for their weight balancing effects (11).

Noticeable benefits for dieters include:

  • Increasing endurance for more exercise time.
  • Reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) so you can keep coming back.
  • Increase in fat burn during caloric deficit without fatigue (12).
  • Decrease in dietary fat becoming bodily fat (13).

Not to mention the massive benefits associated with BCAAs ability to promote muscle growth, which can offer a great muscle tone look as you progress. A muscle tone that low caloric diets cannot offer on their own (since protein intake is often also compromised)!

Note: This requires a quality rated-best BCAA powder that hits correct dosages. Skimping the serving size will not produce ideal results.

BCAA Supplement Doses for Fat Loss

6-8 grams of BCAAs before exercise is the sweet spot.

This will increase your endurance, reduce muscle wasting, and make sure you are targeting fat effectively.

If you are looking to supplement outside this window to improve your protein balance – then opt for a whey protein isolate to take with your meals.


Benefit #3 – BCAAs can help increase performance

BCAAs are taken just as often by individuals seeking to increase their performance as they are for lean muscle growth and fat loss.

Just look at the research:

  • In a very detailed leucine enriched protein study performed by the Air Force, Leucine enriched protein (comparable to BCAA + protein) was found to be mildly effective at increasing strength and lean muscle in comparison to air members not supplementing (14).
  • Japanese researchers found that BCAA supplementation before strenuous exercise increased endurance. Of interest however is that the greatest effect occurred after prolonged BCAA usage, leading them to believe the body must adapt over a period of time to fully utilize BCAAs for increasing endurance (15).
  • Juvenile athletes taking BCAAs and glutamine experienced better recovery after intense rowing, as well as greater performance (16).

BCAAs can help improve endurance both on their own and long side pre workout supplements. Overall, BCAA powders are a powerful tool.

BCAA Dosage for Endurance and Performance

Like for muscle growth and weight loss, the dosage recommendation stays the same.

7+ grams of BCAAs in the 2:1:1 ratio appear to be the sweet spot, when taken roughly 30 to 60 minutes before exercise.

Anything less will not produce the same results as seen in positive clinical trials.


Foods naturally high in branched chain amino acids

There are plently of foods that contain BCAAs if you’re looking to increase your total daily intake. This will not produce the same performance enhancing effects of BCAAs right before exercise, but can improve overall protein balance.

  • Dairy Milk
  • Whey Protein
  • Beef, Chicken, Fish
  • Chlorela and Spirulina
  • Pork
  • Collagen Protien
  • Chick Peas
  • Lentils
  • Whole Wheat
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Brown Rice
  • Soy Protein

BCAA Supplements that didn’t rank

We will start with the ladies. First off, all of the BCAA supplements that we outlined above are perfectly fine for you to take. While, there are many gender customized pre workouts for women, BCAAs are pretty much unisex.

However, we’ve got to recommend against taking the following products unless you are alright taking 2-3X servings per dosing window. They include: NLA Her Aminos and FitMiss BCAA. Each of these products contain less than 3,000 mg BCAA per serving.

For the guys, here are popular BCAA supplements that have pathetically low BCAA dosages. They include: Dymatize Amino Pro, Musclepharm Amino 1, and Muscletech Myobuild.


Conclusion and Recap of rankings

At the end of the day, anyone can take BCAAs and completely abolish any potential gains with too many bad habits. So, be the best you, inside and outside of the gym. If you do that, then BCAAs may offer you an added edge that in our experience is worth having.

 

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