15 Best BCAA Supplements for Men and Women

BCAA Powders

BCAA supplements can be a highly effective tool for improving performance, recovery, muscle growth, and fat loss. But to do this, you’ve got to know when and how to properly take BCAAs. Here, we’re going to give you a crash course on branch chain amino acids as well as share with you the absolute best BCAA supplements on the market.

[Click Here To Jump to the 15 Best BCAAs for Men and Women Ranking]

The Background on BCAA Supplements

BCAA (branch chain amino acids) along with all amino acids, are the building blocks of protein… meaning, you need these amino acids in order to build muscle. BCAA’s specifically, are three “essential amino acids” called leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three amino acids happen to be the most anabolic of them all.

The term “essential” refers to amino acids that cannot be created or synthesized naturally from the body but are still essential for proper growth. This means, you have to obtain these amino acids through your diet.

Branch Chain Amino Acids make up about 35% of the amino acids within muscle tissue, making these 3 the most prevalent and important.

NOTE: Although BCAAs are technically amino acids, they cannot be categorized with the worthless amino acids commonly used to spike protein.

Optimal BCAA Ratio

Many people wonder why it is important to take all 3 of the branch chain amino acids, and not simply Leucine alone (since it has the strongest effect on protein synthesis).

Studies have shown that BCAA’s in the 2:1:1 ratio (2 Leucine for every 1 Isoleucine, 1 Valine) yields the highest effect on muscle protein synthesis.

There are a lot of products that boast “superior” ratios/formulations. This is strategic marketing – something the supplement industry is known for. To date, the leading research supports a 2:1:1 ratio.


Leucine.

This amino acid is considered the most important of the 3 in regards to building muscle. Leucine works to directly induce muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is almost always the highest dosed amino in any BCAA supplement, and it very well should be.

Isoleucine.

Like Leucine, Isoleucine works to boost muscle protein synthesis, just not as strongly. The main benefit of Isoleucine is its ability to increase glucose uptake and usage during workouts. In simple words, increased energy.

Valine.

In regards to muscle building, Valine is last on the list. There’s not a lot of evidence to support Valine alone, only when paired with the other 2 BCAAs do we notice an improvement in muscle protein synthesis. However, one interesting thing to note is valines role in limiting tryptophan uptake in the brain, resulting in delayed fatigue.


Timing and Dosing Your BCAA Powder

It’s best to take between 5-10 grams BCAA, at least twice daily. BCAAs are often taken during workouts, due to exercise-induced depletion. However, taking immediately before has been shown to have the same affect.

Post workout, and first thing in the morning, has also been shown to be a beneficial time for improved muscle growth.

But enough of the boring information, it’s time for what you want… Here are the best BCAA powders for both Men and Women alike!

15 Best BCAA Supplements for Men and Women to Take

#1 Staunch Nation BCAA +Hydration

Top BCAAsOur top rated pick just happens to be the newest BCAA supplement on the market (2017) – BCAA + Hydration by Staunch Nation. Compared to every other BCAA product, Staunch BCAA +Hydration is the most effectively dosed and best tasting branch chain amino acid supplement available!

Each Serving Contains:

  • 7 Grams BCAA 2:1:1
  • 1.5 Grams Coconut Water Powder
  • 500 mg Patented Sustamine

Staunch BCAA + Hydration comes in two deliciously refreshing flavors – White Grape and Strawberry Coconut. You can find it and other staunch products at www.StaunchNation.com.

About Sustamine: Sustamine is a patented compound containing glutamine bonded to alanine. This unique ingredient has been found to rapidly absorb into the body where it improves hydration and improves performance.

View our Full Staunch BCAA Hydration Review Here (coming soon).


#2 Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

High Quality BCAAThe team here at Supplement HQ LOVES Transparent Labs BCAA (green apple flavor is my personal favorite).

Transparent Labs packs 8 grams of BCAAs in the 2:1:1 ratio (4 grams leucine, 2 grams isoleucine, 2 grams valine) + 5 grams of glutamine for a complete formula with both core ingredients at full clinical dosages.

The product also contains 1000 mg of coconut water powder for improved hydration and electrolyte support. If you hate coconut, don’t worry – the coconut powder is completely flavorless, but ads extra muscle and anti-fatigue support.

Transparent Labs BCAA+Glutamine contains ZERO artificial sweeteners or food dyes, ensuring there are never any harmful additives in their products. Likewise, BCAA Glutamine is 100% vegan friendly using plant-sourced BCAAs only.

BCAA Glutamine Rundown:

  • 8 Grams BCAA 2:1:1
  • 5 Grams Glutamine
  • 1 Gram Coconut Water Powder
  • Vegan Friendly BCAA Supplement
  • Zero Artificial Sweeteners or Dyes

For the purest and highest rated ‘clean’ BCAA product, check out transparentlabs.com.


Notice – Assessing BCAA Quality

In case you were unaware, our top 2 choices both use vegan friendly fermented BCAAs in their formulas. These fermented BCAAs are 300-400% more expensive than traditional BCAA sources.

Why does it matter? Well, non-vegan BCAAs are sourced from meat and low quality (unusable) milk sources. The process to break these raw ingredients down into isolated BCAAs is tedious and full of harsh chemicals that may remain.

To make matters worse, most of these low-quality sources include: human hair, animal hair/skin, and duck feathers. The more you know…


#3 Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAA with Glutamine.

PRO BCAAThis is another great BCAA product, again with 8 grams BCAA 2:1:1, 5 grams glutamine (this seems to be the golden ratio).

Rather than using coconut water, Optimum Nutrition simply ads in calcium, sodium, and potassium for electrolyte support.

The main downside with this product in comparison to Transparent Labs above is the use of sucralose and lecithin from soy.

Both products are priced similarly at $1.20 per serving (Optimum Nutriton sells PRO BCAA in 20 serving tubs and Transparent Labs in 30 serving tubs).

Check out ON Pro BCAA on amazon.com


#4 Labrada BCAA Power

BCAA PowerLabrada has really upped their supplement game in the last few years, as you probably noticed with their ingredient rich pre-workouts.

Now, we have their branch chain amino acid supplement to show off – BCAA Power.

BCAA Power contains 7 grams of BCAAs in the proper 2:1:1 ratio along with 3 grams of l-glutamine.

What makes Labrada’s BCAA Power such a high ranking BCAA supplement, is the fact that they choose to use fermented BCAAs and Glutamine… Providing the highest quality source just like our #1 and #2 best BCAA picks.

Keep up the great work Labrada, we’re paying attention and loving it!


BCAAs with Glutamine – Why is this combo so popular?

BCAAs alone are great, but studies have shown that when paired with Glutamine, the two have impressive synergistic effects.

Glutamine is also an amino acid … Not a branch chain, but still a vital component in muscle repair and immune system function.

  • Helps prevent muscle waiting (when fasting or undernourished)
  • Promotes protein synthesis (when fasting or undernourished)
  • Helps prevent overtraining (when paired with BCAA’s)
  • Enhances immune function

When paired with BCAA’s glutamine has been shown to help prevent the stresses from overtraining.

Studies:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19885855

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17984189


#5 Scivation Xtend

Scivation XtendRanking in at number 5 is Scivation’s Xtend. Xtend has been one of the most influential BCAA supplements in the industry over the last 7 years.

Throughout this time, there have been several slow upgrades and changes to the Xtend formula, ultimately creating what we have today.

Currently, there are 4 variations of Xtend BCAA. They include:

  • Xtend BCAAs
  • Xtend Free BCAAS
  • Xtend GO
  • And Xtend Perform

The differences between each are as follows… Xtend BCAAs is a 7 gram 2:1:1 BCAA with 2.5 grams glutamine, 1 gram citrulline malate, and electrolytes. Xtend Free BCAAs is the same as the regular extend, just without the artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Xtend GO contains the same 7 grams of BCAAs as the other two variations, however it has caffeine and l-theanine as its additions. Lastly, Xtend Perform is the same as the original Xtend, just with added PEAK O2.


BCAA Supplements Ranked #6 and Below Begin to Lose Ground as they contain sub-clinical Dosages per Single Serving Size

Alright, so the effective dose for a BCAA supplement has been found to linger above 7 grams. The products above meet this standard, but the products below do not. What this means, is that to have a good effect – you would need to take multiple servings.

So, why even put them on the list? Well, a lot of you guys are probably familiar with them, so we opted to give you our own feedback on each one.


#6 Post Jym Active Matrix

Post Jym Active MatrixPost Jym, Jim Stoppani’s BCAA gets a pretty low ranking on this list as a stand-alone product. This is because there are only 6 grams of BCAAs, and those BCAAs are in a 3:1:1 ratio which to our knowledge isn’t clinically backed with any significance.

In defense of Jym Supplements however, if you were to combine the 4 grams of BCAAs in Pre-Jym with the 6 grams of BCAAs in Post-Jym… Well, you are doing pretty well at 10 grams.

So if you are a Pre-Jym user, go ahead and rock the Post Jym if you’d like. No loss. For everyone else though, you’ve got to work your BCAA dosage up.

Unfortunately, from here on down things get rougher.


#7 Kaged Muscle In-Kaged

In-KagedIn-Kaged by Kaged Muscle is Kris Gethin’s version of an intra-workout supplement. Specifically, this intra workout is intended to be taken in conjunction with Gethin’s own Pre-Kaged pre workout (almost feels like they ripped of Stoppani a little bit, right?).

Of note for In-Kaged, is that there are 5 grams of fermented BCAAs per serving. This 5 grams stacks with the 3.5 grams in Pre-Kaged for a grand total of 8.5 grams BCAAs 2:1:1.

Overall, this intra-workout is alright if you are getting the rest of your BCAAs from a pre workout. In addition to those 5 grams, there is L-Citrulline, Caffeine, Beta-Alanine, and coconut water. Essentially they completed the Pre-Kaged formula with the intra-workout.

If you are looking for caffeine in your BCAAs, this may be an option… You’ll just need to dose heavier or top off with an entirely different product.

Note: you may have noticed – wow, In-Kaged is pretty cheap! Well, 20 servings per container alert… Multiply by 1.5 to get you’re per 30 serving price.


#8 Musclepharm BCAA 3:1:2

BCAA 3:1:2Musclepharm BCAA 3:1:2 delivers 30 servings with 6 grams BCAA each in an ultra-affordable product. However, this is in-fact a 3:1:2 ratio which hasn’t been scientifically validated…

As well, we are unsure as to the source of their BCAAs.

Overall, this is a good consideration if you find it on sale or conveniently available for purchase at your local supplement shop.

Musclepharm BCAA 3:1:2 is available in 3 flavored versions and one unflavored. Flavored BCAA 3:1:2 versions include: Blue Raspberry, Lemon Lime, and Watermelon.


#9 Evolution Nutrition BCAA Energy

EVL BCAA EnergyBCAA Energy by Evolution Nutrition is a 5 gram BCAA formula containing small quantities of beta-alanine, L-Alanine, Taurine, and caffeine derived from coffee bean and green tea.

The dose is very low, but this is a pretty good tasting BCAA formula. Each time you take BCAA Energy, you’re going to be taking 2 servings to get this 5 gram dosage.

However, if you want to up it, Evolution Nutrition provides their own dosing protocol:

  • 2 scoops – Anytime Energy
  • 4 scoops – Moderate Energy
  • 6 scoops – Maximum Energy

But be warned, if you take their ‘maximum energy’ recommendation – you are only receiving 10 servings per container.


#10 Muscletech Cell-Tech HyperBuild

Cell Tech Hyper BuildOne of the newest Products to this list is HyperBuild by Muscletech. Hyperbuild is a variation of the original Cell-tech which for a long time has been a Muscletech best seller.

Hyperbuild is a BCAA/Recovery/Creatine hybrid supplement. Each serving contains 6 grams BCAA, 5 grams creatine (monohydrate and HCL), along with taurine, glutamine, tart cherry, and electrolytes.

Overall, this is a serious recovery supplement to take post workout near your meal. If only they increased the BCAAs and used fermented plant-based sources… We’d be able to rank this one a lot higher then.


#11 BSN AminoX

BSN’s AminoX is a wildcard. Why? Because we don’t know how much BCAA is actually in this product.

IN AminoX, the BCAA matrix is summed up in a 10 gram proprietary amino acid blend. How much BCAA is in here? We don’t know. Where are these BCAAs sourced? We don’t know.

What do we know? Well, it will taste good and have a cool effervescent feel as you drink it – just like N.O Xplode does.

That’s about all there is to it.


#12 Muscletech Amino Build Next Gen

Yes, another Muscletech supplement indeed. This time, we have Amino Build (Next Gen) which is a part of their Next Gen supplement series.

Amino Build contains 4 grams of BCAAs.

In addition to these BCAAs, we have some betaine, taurine, glutamine, alanine, and electrolytes. That’s all folks.

So, in order to get the proper effect out of this BCAA powder – you are definitely going to need to double up the serving size.

Also, Amino Build comes in a caffeinated form, named, Amino Build with Energy!

This variation contains an added 50 mg of caffeine per serving for those looking to get a modest kick.


#13 Bulk Supplements Pure Branch Chain Amino Acids

Low price option! If you are on a budget, this is a great choice for pure BCAA powder in the 2:1:1. However, there are some things to consider.

Downsides: So Bulk Supplements puts the serving size at 1500 mg… this is way below the clinical tested levels of 7-10 grams (7,000-10,000 mg). Luckily, they have 166 servings so it comes out to roughly 30 servings when taken at clinical dosages.

It doesn’t taste too bad at 1500 mg, but at 5 servings (7,500 mgs) it is significantly more bitter and some individuals may not be able to wash it down more than a few times.

I usually scoff at people who complain about flavor, but there is a limit. I ended up buying mix-in-flavoring to add in with this BCAA so that it was bearable.


#14 Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy

Essential Amino Energy is essentially, energy with a hint of amino acids in a great tasting blend. That’s it.

But wait! It’s made by Optimum Nutrition! Aren’t all their products ‘optimum’?

Many of Optimum Nutrition’s products are great, and without any real problem. However in our experience they rarely have the ‘premium quality’ that you would expect based upon their marketing and naming.

So, how does Essential Amino Energy stack up? Well, each serving of Essential Amino Energy contains 5 grams of an amino acid blend, along with 160 mg of caffeine. That’s it!

So, we look at this product less as a BCAA, and more as a minimalists energy boost before the gym. You’ll be taking this supplement for the caffeine kick and delicious taste… Not to build more muscle or have any form of BCAA benefit.


#15 RSP Nutrition Amino Lean

Amino Lean by RSP Nutrition is the exact same story as Essential Amino Energy, except it isn’t quite as great tasting.

  • 5 Gram Proprietary Blend
  • Probably Less than 2.5 grams BCAAs
  • Fat Burner Complex
  • Caffeine

This is a modest fat burning pre workout, for a minimalist… Not really an amino acid supplement as it is advertised to be.

But, we must say… Product performance wise – Amino Lean will out-perform Essential Amino Energy in regards to fat loss. However, Essential Amino Energy tastes better and delivers more energy.


Other Popular BCAA Supplements we considered that didn’t make the cut

We’ve tried so many BCAA and intra-workout supplements, it’s not even funny. Legit, we should be turning blue, red, or yellow from all the artificial dyes we’ve consumed over the years from these products! But hey, we haven’t become any sweeter from all the sucralose either…

Here are some BCAA products we tried, but didn’t make this list: BPI Sports Best BCAA, Best BCAA Shredded, BCAA 5000, Kaged BCAA, Gold Standard BCAA… And the list goes on but this is all that comes to mind.

A Quick Note on BCAA & Protein

It is important to remember, that although BCAA’s are powerful in signaling the body to grow muscle, a full spectrum of amino acids (aka true protein) is need for muscle growth …

… Which leads into one of our original questions (why do we need both BCAA and Protein?). BCAAs are depleted during workouts. By taking a BCAA supplement, we replenish these essential amino acids, laying the groundwork for muscle protein synthesis. Our body then uses the ‘complete’ protein as fuel for the creation and growth of muscle.

Taking a BCAA product WITHOUT proper protein nutrition is borderline worthless (besides the delayed fatigue benefits). The BCAA would signal muscle to grow, but it would have no fuel to grow from.

Be sure to obtain sufficient protein through protein powder supplementation or your diet.

Finishing up the Best BCAA Supplements Mega-Ranking

When it comes to taking BCAA supplements, it’s all about protocol. The main basis of taking BCAAs is to elevate bodily BCAAs to a level that will stimulate growth and recovery.

To achieve this, you need the right dose: 7 or more grams.

Next, where are those BCAAs coming from? Choose fermented vegan-friendly for the highest quality product.

And lastly… Try to get a good deal and cut down on preservatives and fillers if possible (unless you are a flavor freak).

That’s all there is to it! Got questions? Slam out the fields below and we’ll get back to you if we find your comment relevant and important.

 

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Comments

  1. andrew@aimworkout says:

    I’ve been taking ON’s Gold standard which has 6g of BCAA’s including Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine along with whey. Do I really need a separate BCAA supplement to induce muscle growth?

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