BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) dietary supplements contain leucine, isoleucine and valine and are said to promote protein synthesis and promote muscle growth. Together they make up about a third of muscle protein.
Since the 1980s, there has been a great deal of interest in BCAAs by exercise nutritionists for their ability to increase recovery from intense exercise. Today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of supplements that contain some BCAAs.
How do you find the best BCAA supplement on the market?
Rene BCAA supplements are an obvious choice where the only ingredients are leucine, isoleucine and valine. But there are also powders that add L-glutamine to the mix and whey protein powders that combine BCAAs and creatine.
However, you have to consider the ratio and dosage of BCAAs. How Much Leucine do you need? Should you be taking BCAAs before, after, during, or at all three times for the best results?
By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to choose the perfect BCAA supplement. It contains everything you need to know about the best brands, cost per serving, flavors, amino ratios and how to find the lowest price.
We also analyzed ingredients from more than 50 BCAA powders and capsules and then compiled a top 10 list of the best BCAAs on the market . The listing also includes BCAA supplements, reviews, and products that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
The top 10 BCAA supplements
Finding the best BCAA supplement isn’t easy, especially if you’re looking for something beyond the standard leucine, isoleucine, and valine combo.
There are hundreds of products, many of which have their own unique combinations of ingredients. Depending on your goal, you may also want to combine your BCAAs with an energy and focus mix, CLA matrix, glutamine, vitamins, citrulline malate or an electrolyte complex.
Even if you find the perfect supplement, is it better to buy powders or capsules? And can you get the same dose at a lower price elsewhere?
These are just some of the important factors we considered when selecting our top 10 BCAA supplements.
After weighing the ingredients, dosages, cost per serving, customer feedback, and scientific research, we believe the supplements listed below are the best on the market.
1 Scivation Xtend
Scivation is a company built on BCAAs. Their original Xtend formula is also available as Xtend Free (no artificial colors or sweeteners), Xtend Raw (unflavoured, unsweetened), Xtend Go (with caffeine), Xtend Perform (Peak Performance Blend) and as an RTD if you want one pre-made BCAA drink.
- 7 g BCAAs in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- 0 carbohydrates, 0 calories, 0 g sugar
- 12 delicious flavors
- 2.5 g L-glutamine
- 1 g citrulline malate
- 1140 mg electrolyte mixture
- NSF certified
You get a slightly lower dose of BCAAs compared to Optimum Nutrition Pro BCAA, but the price is also cheaper. The PhytoBlend and Vitamin C, which are in O.N. Pro BCAA is also replaced by an electrolyte mixture and 1,000 mg of citrulline malate. After comparing the ingredients, price, and ingredients of more than 100 top BCAA supplements, Scivation Xtend has one of the top 10 highest doses of BCAAs per serving.
Scivation is also very flexible in its tub sizes and flavors. There are 16 choices, including unflavored (raw), if you want to mix the powder with your protein shake.
2 Nutricost BCAA powder
Nutricost has a reputation for developing inexpensive nutritional supplements with minimal ingredients. Their BCAA powder consistently uses leucine, isoleucine and valine, without the addition of mixtures, complexes or energy stimulants.
This helps keep the price down, especially if you are buying a 1kg bag. At the time of writing this review, a single serving was € 0.20, which is great when you get 6g BCAAs in a 2: 1: 1 ratio.
- 6 g BCAAs in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- Available in powder and capsule form
- Unflavoured and flavored powder available
- One of the cheapest BCAA supplements on the market
- Made in the USA
Smaller 250g and 500g bottles are also available, for a slightly higher cost per serving. You also have a choice of three flavors; Grape hydration, green apple and watermelon, in addition to the unflavoured version.
Nutricost isn’t the only company that offers a pure 2: 1: 1 BCAA supplement, but they are the cheapest. AMRAP, Dymatize Nutrition, Kaged Muscle, MusclePharm and NOW Foods all have products with no added ingredients.
While some of these companies have the same BCAA ratio as Nutricost, they are all more expensive.
3 Universal Nutrition Juiced Aminos
Universal Nutrition has a wide variety of amino acid supplements. Not only do they have products that are sold under their own names, such as BCAA Pro and Atomic 7, but also Animal-Pak supplements such as Animal Fury and Animal Juiced Aminos.
- 8 g BCAAs in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- 4 g L-leucine, 2 g L-isoleucine, 2 g L-valine
- Also contains citrulline malate (1 g), L-taurine (500 mg), vitamin B6 (10 mg)
- Available in 5 flavors and 2 sizes (30 servings and 70 servings)
- Improves training performance and recovery
- Made in the USA
With 30 years of experience in the sports nutrition industry, Universal has brought a lot of experience to its products.
If you want to keep a strict budget and only want 5g BCAAs in a 2: 1: 1 ratio, the BCAA Pro capsules are the closest thing to you. Each serving provides 0.5 g leucine, 0.25 g isoleucine and 0.25 g valine in addition to 2 mg vitamin B6.
But if you’re looking for the best value for money, we recommend the 1.24 kg can from Universal Nutrition Atomic 7. It still contains the 2: 1: 1 ratio, but at a much higher dose BCAA (4g: 2g: 2g). Each serving also contains 2 g glutamine, 1 g citrulline malate and 500 mg L-taurine.
The ingredients are enough to compete with Scivation Xtend with 1 g of citrulline malate but 1 g less BCAAs. This is likely due to the added taurine, and we still think the Universal supplement is excellent value for money.
4 Evlution Nutrition BCAA energy
Evlution Nutrition has a selection of BCAA powders and capsules to choose from, including BCAA Energy, BCAA 5000, EVL Lean BCAA, and Amino-10.
Amino-10 is the complete package. You get a high ratio of BCAAs (4: 1: 1) mixed with 3075 mg Muscle Performance Ammo – a combination of L-arginine, L-citrulline and L-taurine. Evlution also included L-alanine and L-lysine as part of a recovery booster.
The price is at least 50% higher than other BCAA preparations.
Evlution BCAA 5000 is your basic 2: 1: 1 ratio with a total of 5 grams of BCAAs. Evlution BCAA Lean Energy sits between the two and combines 5 g BCAAs in a 2: 1: 1 ratio with 1600 mg of their Energy Lean Matrix (CLA, ALA, Maca powder).
As a side note, Evlution Nutrition also has some of the cheapest BCAA capsules on the market. The formula and ratio are the same as their BCAA 5000 powder, but in capsule form. The only downside is that you have to take 8 capsules to get the full dose.
5 MuscleTech Amino Build Next Generation
MuscleTech has 4 main BCAA supplements; MyoBuild 4X Amino BCAA, Platinum BCAA 8: 1: 1, Amino Build Next Gen and Cell Tech Hyper-Build (4: 1: 1 BCAA ratio, with glutamine, creatine, taurine and electrolytes).
- 4 g BCAAs per spoon in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- Cell volumizing and recovery complex (taurine, glutamine, alanine)
- Strength-improving compound (betaine anhydrous)
- Electrolyte mixture (sodium, coconut water, watermelon juice)
- 4 flavors; Fruit Punch, Icy Rocket Freeze, Watermelon, White Raspberry
- “Energized” version also available that contains natural caffeine
- Made in the USA
Platin BCAA 8: 1: 1 is pure BCAAs, with 800 mg of leucine per capsule. Hyper-Build is the high-end strength and size supplement, while Amino Build Next Gen is the middle ground – a combination of BCAAs and strength boosters.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one BCAA, we recommend Cell Tech Hyper-Build. If you calculate the cost of each ingredient, it is actually good value for money. But for 2: 1: 1 BCAAs with strength and recovery elements, Amino Build Next-Gen is MuscleTech’s best option.
Amino Build Next Gen is also available as an “Energized” version, which simply contains 50 mg of caffeine from Robusta coffee beans. This is a pretty small dose compared to other supplements. BSN Amino X Edge adds 125 mg of caffeine anhydrous, while MusclePharm BCAA 3: 1: 2 Energy adds 100 mg of caffeine.
6 BSN Amino X
BSN have two amino supplements; Amino X and Amino X Edge. The only difference to the Edge version is that it contains 325 mg of an energy and focus mixture (caffeine anhydrous, Londan extract, Lindera extract).
- 10 g amino acids per serving
- Contains L-leucine, L-valine, L-isoleucine, L-alanine, taurine, citrulline
- 2 g Efforsorb EnDura Composite (contains citric acid, malic acid)
- 500 IU of vitamin D per serving
- No sugar or caffeine
- 4 flavors; Blue raz, watermelon, green apple, fruit punch
- Amino X Edge version also available, with 125 mg caffeine
The label on the American version lists an “amino acid interfusion” but without breaking down the individual doses of amino acids. We bought the same supplement in Europe that shows you are getting 4g BCAAs per scoop, in a ratio of 2: 1: 1 (2g leucine).
Taurine is also present in a dose large enough to be significant (2.5 g). A study published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology reported that the combination of BCAA and taurine reduced the effects of DOMS and the amount of muscle damage during exercise.
But what about the price? Fortunately, BSN has only focused on ingredients that have been shown to improve endurance, recovery and training.
It’s a lower dose of BCAAs than Scivation Xtend, but with a more complete amino profile that supports your workouts in other ways (reduced DOMS of taurine, L-alanine for glucose metabolism, vitamin D for maintaining healthy bones) .
7 Optimum Nutrition BCAA
Optimum Nutrition Pro BCAA is one of the only dietary supplements that contains more BCAAs than Scivation Xtend (8 g vs. 7 g). It also has twice the amount of glutamine, a high dose of vitamin C (230 mg) and 160 mg of PhytoBlend
- 5 g BCAAs in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- 2.5 g leucine per serving
- Designed to increase intra-workout performance
- 6 flavors, including apple & pear, cola and peach & passion fruit
- Informed-Choice certified
However, it’s also one of the most expensive BCAA supplements on the market, priced at around € 1.08 per serving. After calculating the cost of buying the glutamine separately and combining it with Optimum Nutrition BCAA, we believe the BCAA-only version is better value for money.
You’re still getting a 2: 1: 1 ratio (2.5g: 1.25g: 1.25g) and even that, it’s one of the cheapest BCAA supplements out there. If you want to replenish 5 g of glutamine to better match the Pro BCAA Supplement, Optimum Nutrition Glutamine Powder costs just € 0.18 per serving (from the 1 kg pack).
8 MusclePharm BCAA 3: 1: 2 energy
MusclePharm has a full range of amino supplements, including Amino 1, BCAA 3: 1: 2 and BCAA 3: 1: 2 Energy. The energy version simply means you get a dose of anhydrous caffeine mixed with 50 mg of green tea leaf extract and 50 mg of Panax ginseng root powder.
- 6 g BCAAs in a ratio of 3: 1: 2
- 3 g leucine per serving
- 2 g carbohydrates, 5 calories per serving
- Energy Complex contains 100 mg caffeine, 50 mg green tea extract
- Also available without natural stimulants (MusclePharm BCAA 3: 1: 2)
- 2 flavors; Blue raspberry and watermelon
- Intra-workout support for lean muscle growth and recovery
Amino 1 only provides 3g of BCAAs, but in the same 3: 1: 2 ratio as your other amino supplements. BCAA 3: 1: 2 doubles this to 6 grams of BCAAs, for a much lower cost per serving.
MusclePharm BCAA 3: 1: 2 is pure BCAA, with no added ingredients. The 3: 1: 2 ratio was created by dropping 0.5 g isoleucine and adding 0.5 g valine, which is a patent-pending formula that the MusclePharm claim is more effective than 2: 1 for muscle development: 1.
MusclePharm BCAA 3: 1: 2 was also very popular in LabDoor’s quality ranking, but was not compared to Nutricost. Nutricost also has a BCAA supplement that delivers 6g of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine in a 2: 1: 1 ratio for half the price of MusclePharm.
9 Cellucor Alpha Amino
Cellucor has two BCAA preparations in its range; Alpha Amino and Beta BCAA. A 30-serving can of each will typically turn out to be around 28 euros, which means a cost per serving of slightly less than 1 euros (at the time of this writing). Alpha Amino is also available in a 50-serving can, which can reduce the cost per serving by up to 20%.
- 5 g BCAAs in a ratio of 2: 1: 1
- 2.5 g leucine per serving
- 3750 mg Essential Performance Amino Acid Complex (11 essential amino acids)
- Contains L-glutamine, taurine, L-alanine, L-citrulline, L-arginine
- 1750 mg alpha-amino drinking mix
- Contains BetaPower Betaine (1250 mg) and coconut water powder
- Repels lost minerals and electrolytes during intensive training sessions
Beta BCAA is the more expensive of the two, although it contains far fewer ingredients (1.6 g CarnoSyn, 3 g citrulline malate). In comparison, Alpha Amino contains 14 amino acids, including L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine in a ratio of 2: 1: 1. This is designed to help maintain muscle glycogen stores and reduce protein breakdown.
Alpha Amino also contains a hydration blend. Although it sounds like MusclePharm’s Amino Hydration System in their Amino 1 supplement, the only ingredient they share is coconut water. The Cellucor blend was developed to increase the concentration of fluid in muscle tissue.
10 Bulk Supplements BCAA powder
Although the label indicates a 2: 1: 1 ratio, this is not the case with the ingredients per serving (800 mg L-leucine, 230 mg L-isoleucine, 398 mg L-valine). The amount of isoleucine is barely half of what a ratio of 2: 1: 1 requires.
- 1500 mg BCAAs per serving
- 800 mg of leucine
- Pure BCAA powder without caffeine or stimulants
- Available in powder and capsule form
- Sizes from 100 g to 25 kg
- One of the cheapest BCAA powders on the market
Isoleucine is typically only useful for increasing glucose uptake and does not induce muscle protein synthesis in the same way as leucine. ATP is made from glucose, which is an important fuel for muscle contraction.
Despite the lower levels of isoleucine, bulk supplements still have one of the most popular BCAA supplements on Amazon, with thousands of highly rated reviews.
Although bulk supplements are known for offering the cheapest supplements on the market, it is important to check out other companies before buying. When we compared Nutricost BCAA to Bulk Supplements, Nutricost delivers more BCAAs in a 2: 1: 1 ratio at a cheaper price (unless you buy 1kg or 25kg bags from Bulk Supplements).
What are BCAAs?
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) increase the rate of protein synthesis as well as the capacity of the cell for protein synthesis. Combine this with your ability to reduce the rate at which protein is broken down and you have a supplement that is critical to building and maintaining muscle.
The three essential amino acids that make up BCAAs are L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body itself, which means that your intake must come from food sources such as dietary supplements.
So what exactly is it that makes BCAAs so popular for muscle building and recovery?
As the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids in muscle, it’s no surprise that leucine is the best studied. This is likely because leucine has a higher rate of oxidation than isoleucine or valine and stimulates protein synthesis in muscle.
In most BCAA supplements, it is also the highest ingredient in the mix ratio. The example of 2: 1: 1 would contain 2.5 grams of leucine, 1.25 grams of isoleucine and 1.25 grams of valine
Leucine is also classified as an mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) activator. mTOR controls cell growth and metabolism and is stimulated by nutrients and growth factors to ensure that cells only grow under favorable conditions.
Natural food sources that contain leucine include soybeans, hemp, beef, peanuts, fish, and almonds.
One study looked at supplementation with two different concentrations of leucine; 3.5 grams (group enriched with leucine) and 1.87 grams (essential amino acid group).
Adults in the study completed two separate laps of cycling. They consumed the drink fortified with leucine during the first round and consumed the drink with essential amino acids during the second round.
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) was increased by 33% in the leucine-enriched group. The total body protein breakdown was also rated as lower.
Numerous other studies have been conducted to investigate the health benefits of leucine.
Isoleucine is the second of the branched chain amino acids that is used to keep the energy balance stable. It does this by helping regulate blood sugar.
As with leucine, it is an essential amino acid, which means that every intake must come from your diet. This can be done either from protein-rich foods like nuts, meat, eggs, and fish, or from a BCAA supplement.
Most BCAA supplements combine their amino acids in a 2: 1: 1 ratio, but some – like Rich Piana’s whole day do it by betting on a 10: 1: 1 ratio. Every other BCAA product contains a much lower amount of isoleucine compared to leucine.
Valine works with the other two BCAAs (leucine and isoleucine) to promote normal growth, repair tissue, regulate blood sugar and provide energy to the body.
As one of 9 essential amino acids, valine cannot be synthesized naturally by the body either. Supplementing with a BCAA powder or tablet is the easiest way to increase your intake, but you can also get smaller amounts directly through food.
Unfortunately, there are still relatively few studies looking at the health benefits of valine in isolation. However, several studies have highlighted the benefits of BCAA supplementation.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that higher BCAA intake was associated with lower prevalence of obese adults.
Who should take BCAAs?
0If you are exercising on a low-calorie diet, consider BCAAs as a supplement to muscle catabolism.
Leucine is the most important amino acid because it promotes protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown. While you can get leucine from natural food sources if you are on a diet, you may not be eating enough leucine-rich foods to have a sufficient intake.
The second reason you might want to supplement with BCAAs is if you are currently on a low-protein diet. Protein naturally contains amino acids, including leucine, although the concentration varies depending on the food source.
When is the best time to take BCAAs?
BCAAs in tablet form are designed to increase amino levels in blood plasma, while BCAAs in whey protein are protein-bound amino acids. They also affect blood sugar levels.
Whichever BCAA supplement you choose, you should look for a “Recommended Usage” section or something similar on the package insert that advises you when to take it. Most bodybuilding forums recommend consuming BCAAs before, during, and after your workout.
If you don’t work out on a certain day, it’s best to have one serving when you wake up and one before you go to sleep.
The only caveat with taking BCAAs before bed is that it should be a BCAA-only supplement, not a pre-workout powder containing BCAAs. That’s because some pre-workout supplements contain a mix of BCAAs and stimulants like nitric oxide or caffeine. this makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
What is the best ratio of BCAAs?
The big difference between most BCAA products is the ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. While most fitness articles and bodybuilding forums suggest a 2: 1: 1 ratio (leucine: isoleucine: valine), is there actually any scientific evidence to support this?
In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for supplement companies to move away from 2: 1: 1 to offer higher doses of leucine. Some use 4: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1, or even, in the case of Rich Piana AllDayYouMay, 10: 1: 1.
The fact is, there just isn’t enough scientific evidence to support higher dosages. That doesn’t mean they don’t work or that they are unsafe. It’s just that most of the muscle building benefits come from leucine in tests.
- Taking a BCAA-containing supplement as part of a resistance training program will lower body fat, increase muscle mass, and increase strength gain better than a whey supplement or sports drink.
- BCAAs taken during a standardized cycle ergometer exercise reduce the effects of perceived exertion and mental fatigue.
- Leucine supplement of 50 mg / kg body weight / day, in addition to a daily protein intake of 1.26 g / kg body weight / day, appears to prevent the decrease in serum leucine levels in strength trainers
L-leucine is also much cheaper to manufacture than valine or isoleucine. This means that if a company sells a BCAA supplement with 7 grams of BCAAs for 30 euros, it will make more money with a 4: 1: 1 ratio than with a 2: 1: 1 ratio.
But isn’t it true that leucine is the most studied BCAA and the most anabolic?
It is certainly best researched, but there is a limit to the amount you can consume without negating the effects of the other two BCAAs. Based on the evidence presented in the studies above, 3.5 grams appears to be optimal in a 2: 1: 1 formula.
A higher proportion of isoleucine also promotes fat loss, while a higher proportion of valine improves endurance and energy.