The best BCAA supplements can help you take your post-workout recovery to the next level by stimulating protein synthesis.
As a result, BCAAs, just like some of the best EAAs around, are quickly becoming some of the most popular supplements among gym enthusiasts as they contain three of the nine essential amino acids, these being leucine, valine and isoleucine - none of which our body can produce on its own.
Therefore, we feel BCAAs are a great addition alongside some amazing protein powder, for example, as part of your daily supplement intake as they should help promote muscle growth whilst also reducing fatigue.
However, finding the right blend to suit your training can be a little tricky at times, especially as there are so many options to choose from. Fortunately, we've compiled a list of our top picks based on ingredients, price, and reviews, to kick off your search in the best way possible.
Whether you're looking for a powdered mix, like this Xtend BCAA Powder, or for something in capsule form, like these OPALFITNESS BCAA Tablets, we've got you covered.
As BCAAs, and supplements in general, can be a little tricky to get your head around at times, we've also answered some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding them to help you work out whether you should take them as part of your training diet. With that in mind, here's our list of the best BCAA supplements available now...
Best BCAA supplements
- Best powdered BCAA supplements - Xtend The Original BCAA Powder
- Best cheap BCAA supplements - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA
- Best vegan BCAA supplements - MYO Plant Nutrition Essential Amino Acids Powder
- Best all-in-one BCAA supplements - JYM Supplement Science Post Active Matrix Powder
- Best BCAA capsule supplements - OPALFITNESS BCAA Tablets
- Best tasting BCAA supplements - MusclePharm Essentials BCAA Powder
- Best BCAA supplements for recovery - Cellucor Alpha Amino EAA & BCAA Powder
Best powdered BCAA supplements - Xtend The Original BCAA Powder
This Xtend BCAA Powder contains an impressive 7g of BCAAs per serving which, Xtend states, is in the clinically studied 2:1:1 ratio for optimal protein synthesis.
The 2:1:1 ratio refers to the amount of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine (i.e. the 3 essential BCAAs) in comparison to one. In the case of this supplement, you get 3.5g of Leucine per 1.75g of Isoleucine and Valine.
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Furthermore, this blend also contains 2.5g of Glutamine which is primarily an energy source for your intestinal and immunity cells.
With a variety of flavours available, this Xtend BCAA Powder looks to be one of the best powdered BCAA supplements on the market right now.
Best cheap BCAA supplements - Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA
We've featured Optimum Nutrition before in our list of the best creatine supplements, so it may come as no surprise they feature again, especially because they make one of the best BCAAs blends on the market.
One 9.5g serving of the Gold Standard BCAA contains 15 calories in total, 4g of which are carbohydrates, while 5g are BCAAs in the optimal 2:1:1 ratio. The remaining 0.5g contains ingredients like Rhodiola, which is a herb strongly linked to reducing fatigue and increasing focus.
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It also contains an ingredient known as Wellmune. Wellmune is designed to deliver beta-glucans which multiple studies suggest are linked to improved mood and immunity.
All in all, this is a packed BCAA blend filled with many ingredients designed to enhance your gym experience.
Best vegan BCAA supplements - MYO Plant Nutrition Essential Amino Acids Powder
This MYO mix appears to be the perfect supplement to accompany your best vegan protein powder and protein bars as part of a plant-based diet.
It contains the full 9 essential amino acids to supplement all areas of your diet as opposed to just the 3 BCAAs.
This vegan blend is also high in electrolytes like potassium and calcium. This is to help maintain your body's balance of fluids both during and after exercise. Calcium also plays a role in maintaining strong bones to potentially benefit your body even further.
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Away from the blend itself, it comes in a plastic-free and biodegradable container as MYO Plant Nutrition believes in elevating sustainability with its products.
As BCAA supplements go, this vegan powder is up there with the best in our opinion and, therefore, earns a spot on our list.
Best all-in-one BCAA supplements - JYM Supplement Science Post Active Matrix
This Post Active Matrix aims to maximise your recovery post-training by utilising 8 core ingredients.
These ingredients, which include 6g BCAAs, 3g Glutamine, and 2g Creatine HCL, should aid muscle repair and promote gains in strength, size, and endurance.
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JYM Supplement Science suggests taking this supplement after a tough workout in order to feel the most benefits because, as previously stated, this blend is built for recovery.
Ultimately, if you're looking to get more than just BCAAs out of your supplements, then the Post Active Matrix might be for you.
Best BCAA capsule supplements - OPALFITNESS BCAA Tablets
If you prefer to take BCAAs in tablet form, then these OPALFITNESS BCAA Tablets could be for you.
OPALFITNESS recommends taking 2 to 4 tablets a day, with 4 tablets providing a 2.4g serving of BCAAs in the optimum 2:1:1 ratio.
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Moreover, each tablet contains Vitamin B6, more commonly found in the best beef live supplements, which is required by the body to produce red blood cells and for amino acid metabolism in the muscles, thus contributing to the absorption of BCAAs
This helps make these tablets ideal for quick consumption either pre or post-workout. On the whole, if you prefer taking supplements as tablets then make sure you check out these BCAAs from OPALFITNESS.
Best tasting BCAA supplements - MusclePharm Essentials BCAA Powder
While taste is subjective, we feel the range of fruity flavours on offer for this MusclePharm Essentials BCAA Powder means there's likely a flavour in there that will suit most tastebuds.
MusclePharm's range includes Blue Raspberry, Grape, Lemon Lime, Orange Mango, Watermelon, and finally Fruit Punch as featured above.
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In terms of the ingredients, you get the 3 amino acids in a rather unique 3:1:2 ratio, with each serving containing an impressive 6g of BCAA's.
It's also worth pointing out there's an unflavoured option if none of the aforementioned flavours suits you, thus making it a great supplement to consider adding to your collection.
Best BCAA supplements for recovery - Cellucor Alpha Amino EAA & BCAA Powder
This BCAA blend from Cellucor looks to be a particularly great supplement to aid your recovery post-training.
What we like about this powdered supplement is that it features electrolytes to aid hydration on top of the impressive 5g of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio it already contains.
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You also get 3.75g of EAAs to further help your recovery by covering all the essential amino acids you need to supplement your training.
Overall, Cellucor's Alpha Amino Powder looks to be an excellent choice to add to your supplements collection, especially as the brand has previously been featured in our list of the best pre-workouts.
Frequently Asked Questions About BCAA Supplements
People tend to have a lot of questions regarding BCAAs, especially considering there are a few common misconceptions, but we're here to clear up some of the more typical queries you may have.
What do BCAA supplements do?
Of the 9 essential amino acids, 3 of them are branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, which refer to their chemical structure.
Our body uses these BCAAs to stimulate the building of protein in muscle tissue, and possibly reduce muscle breakdown as part of protein synthesis.
As a result, BCAA supplements work by essentially stimulating protein synthesis, which is vital as a gym-goer as your muscles are in a constant state of breaking down and repairing during your workouts.
The synthesis element is continuously occurring to replace protein lost, thus benefitting your muscle growth and training.
A study by Song-Gyu Ra et al. supports this. 15 young men were given either BCAAs or a placebo before and after performing 30 reps of a non-dominant arm exercise. Results showed, in the days following the session, delayed onset muscle soreness, upper arm circumference, and elbow range of motion all improved compared to the control and post-workout groups.
What ingredients should you look for in BCAA supplements?
Although some of the additional ingredients may vary, all BCAA supplements will include Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine as these are the 3 essential branched-chain amino acids.
Leucine is typically the main component, being the 2 in the 2:1:1 optimal ratio, as it stimulates protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and other tissues.
Other ingredients you may find include Glutamine as an energy source and electrolytes to help regulate your fluid levels and keep you hydrated.
When should you take BCAA supplements?
BCAAs are effective inter and post-workout supplements so they should ideally be consumed either during your gym session or immediately after.
The reason for this is that BCAAs mostly help muscle recovery and alleviate soreness, so you'll likely feel the benefits best if you take them during or after your workouts.
However, you can ultimately take BCAAs at any time of day, even during exercise and between meals, it really comes down to what works best with you and your schedule.
Can you take BCAA supplements on an empty stomach?
As touched on above, BCAAs can be taken at a time that suits you, which extends to consuming them on an empty stomach.
If you choose to take BCAAs pre-workout though, we'd perhaps advise making sure you digest some food before training.
Although training on an empty stomach can help burn fat, you'll no doubt lack the energy needed to perform to the best of your ability.
Can you take BCAA supplements every day?
According to Healthline, supplemental BCAA intake is safe for everyday consumption if you get the right dose per your body weight.
In fact, you may need to consume a daily dose of at least 91mg per lbs (200mg per kg) of body weight for BCAAs to be effective, with long-term supplementation (over 10 days) recommended to see significant benefits.
Should you take BCAA supplements on a rest day?
Since BCAAs are essential amino acids and can't be made by your body, they must be obtained from food or supplements.
As a result, taking BCAAs on rest days shouldn't cause any problems with overconsuming if taken as per the instructions.
However, you may not see as many benefits from taking BCAAs on rest days due to the factors that lead to improved fitness levels after exercise – the damaged muscles, the exhausted energy stores – not being as present as they are right after you exercise.
How do BCAA supplements differ from creatine?
While both are supplements used to benefit your training, the way they work differs drastically.
As previously mentioned, BCAA's stimulate protein synthesis which is important as you need to be in a positive protein balance to gain muscle. As a result, BCAA's can help support muscular hypertrophy, plus improve recovery.
Conversely, creatine plays a critical role in cellular energy production or ATP which, in simple terms, means it supplies the energy needed for intense exercise sessions or heavy lifting, whereas BCAA's help you recover quicker.
To find out more on creatine, check out our guides on what creatine does and creatine monohydrate vs HCL right here.
Do you need to take BCAA supplements if you take protein?
At a molecular level, BCAAs and protein are essentially the same, the key difference being protein contains all twenty amino acids, while BCAAs contain only the essential three. In short, BCAAs are just proteins in their most simplistic form.
As a result, the two supplements complement each other and are, therefore, perfectly okay to take together.
You don't necessarily need to though. In fact, people tend to just opt for BCAAs when they're trying to maintain a caloric deficit as they usually contain next to no calories.
The choice is yours though, with some opting to take BCAAs almost as a snack to keep muscle protein synthesis elevated. Taking both isn't essential for training though which is always worth keeping in mind.
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