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Contents of this Article

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Recommend a Supplement

BCAAs are essential amino acids, meaning your body needs them to function, but cannot make them on its own. Therefore, you need to get them in your daily diet.

There are three amino acids in the BCAA category: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Each amino acid operates in a different way and provides different benefits to your body.

Branched chain amino acids can be found naturally in protein-rich foods. Meats, beans, nuts and some grains all have high concentrations of BCAAs.

On the other hand, you can also supplement BCAAs in order to get a much higher and more concentrated dose. This option can be ideal for those who train often and intensely as they breakdown protein, including BCAA’s, more rapidly than those who don’t engage in vigorous exercise

In order to help you find a good product, we’ve researched & compared the best BCAA supplements on the market right now.

10 Best BCAA Products Compared

These are the 10 best BCAA supplements as picked by our editorial team!

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1. Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs Coreseries Bcaa Glutamine Product

CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine is a new BCAA supplement that combines 8g BCAAs with 5g of glutamine per serving. And, like all Transparent Labs products, this supplement is completely free of dyes, unnecessary fillers, and harmful additives. Everything you need – nothing you don’t.

Highlights

  • Contains no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Non-GMO
  • Available in six delicious flavors
    • Sour Grape
    • Orange
    • Green Apple
    • Blue Raspberry
    • Tropical Punch
    • Strawberry Lemonade
  • Economical tub size contains 30 servings
  • Uses fermented vegan BCAAs
  • Includes coconut water powder for extra hydration
  • Ships worldwide*

What’s In It:

1 Serving (1 scoop, 19.65 g) contains:

  • 8 g BCAAs (2:1:1)
    • 4 g leucine
    • 2 g valine
    • 2 g isoleucine
  • 5 g glutamine per serving
  • 5 mg coconut water powder for hydration

Bottom Line

With tons of positive user reviews and scientifically-backed ingredients in the optimal dosages, TransparentLabs’CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine deserves a spot among the best for its superior quality, affordable price and carefully researched ingredients.

Where to Get It
transparent-labs-vendor-logo

2. Scivation Xtend ENERGY BCAAs

Scivation Xtend Bcaas

What sets Scivation Xtend apart from other BCAAs is its combination of BCAAs and caffeine. With several flavors to choose from and no sugar, calories or carbs, it’s a great choice if you need that extra kick of energy to power through your workouts. In addition to caffeine, Scivation Xtend also contains vitamin B6, citrulline malate and electrolytes, making it a solid, well-rounded choice to help provide increased levels of energy, decreased levels of fatigue, and enhanced hydration.

Highlights

  • Zero carbohydrate, sugars, and calories per serving
  • Available in three fruit flavors:
    • Fruit punch
    • Blue raspberry
    • Mango
  • Includes caffeine to help increase energy
  • Includes electrolytes sodium and potassium

What’s In It:

1 Serving (approximately 1 scoop, 11.8 g) contains:

  • 7 g BCAAs per serving
    • 3500 mg of L-leucine
    • 1750 mg of L-isoleucine
    • 1750 mg of L-valine
  • 1140 mg of “Electrolyte Blend”(Sodium citrate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride) to help replenish minerals lost in sweat
  • 1000 mg of Citrulline Malate
  • 125 mg of caffeine

Bottom Line

If you’re worried about running out of energy mid-workout and want a little pick-me-up that’s easy to mix with water, Scivation Xtend is a good option. With added electrolytes and three flavors to choose from, you can mix up your BCAA supplementation without worrying about carbs, calories or sugar.

Where to Get It

3. Post JYM Active Matrix

Post Jym Active Matrix

Made for post-workout recovery, Post JYM Active Matrix is a solid product that is available in a wide variety of flavors, so you’ll never get bored of this post-workout hit. It was formulated by Jim Stoppani, a world-recognized fitness expert with a Ph.D. in Kinesiology. He developed this product in order to provide those who train hard with a well-designed product that enhances their recovery efforts

Highlights

  • Available in 7 flavors
    • Blue Arctic Freeze
    • Fruit Punch
    • Lemonade
    • Mandarin Orange
    • Natural Lemon Lime
    • Rainbow Sherbert
    • Watermelon
  • Formulated by Jim Stoppani, PhD
  • No proprietary blends

What’s In It:

1 Serving (1 scoop, 19 g) contains:

  • 6 g BCAAs
    • 3.6 g L-Leucine
    • 1.2 g L-Isoleucine
    • 1.2 g L-Valine
  • 3:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine
  • 3 g of L-Glutamine
  • 2 g of Creatine HCl (as CON-CRET(r))
  • 2 g of Beta-Alanine (as CarnoSyn(r))
  • 2 g of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (as Carnipure(r))
  • 1.5 g of Betaine (Trimethylglycine)
  • 1 g Taurine
  • 5.3 mg Black Pepper Fruit Extract (as BioPerine)
  • 45 Calories
  • 1 g Carbohydrates
  • 35 mg Calcium

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a supplement that’s centered around recovery after a workout, it’s hard to beat the combination of powerful ingredients found in PostJYM; helping to aid in recovery and improve performance overall. With some interesting twists on the traditional fruit flavored supplement mixes, blends like mandarin orange and rainbow sherbert are sure to add some variety to your post workout recovery routine.

Where to Get It

4. Dymatize All9 Amino

Dymatize All9 Amino

Dymatize All9 Amino (known simply as ALL9)  bills itself as a “full spectrum amino acid supplement that contains both BCAAs and EAAs (Essential Amino Acids). ALL9 gets its name from the fact that there are 9 total amino acids that can be deemed “essential” which the body can’t make on its own. This is unique in the sports supplement market as most place emphasis on just BCAA’s alone, whereas Dymatize does it with all 9 essential amino acids, which has shown to be the most beneficial way of stimulating muscle protein synthesis compared to just BCAA’s alone.

Highlights

  • Contains both BCAAs and EAAs
  • Available in five unique flavors
    • Cola Lime Twist
    • Fruit Fusion Rush
    • Jolly Green Apple
    • Juicy Watermelon
    • Orange Cranberry
  • Non-GMO
  • Gluten-free
  • No sugar
  • Includes vitamins B6, B12 and C

What’s In It:

1 Serving (1 scoop, 15 g) contains:

  • 7.2 g of instantly soluble BCAAs (l-leucine, l-isoleucine, l-valine)
  • 2.8 g of essential amino acids (l-lysine, l-threonine, l-phenylalanine, l-methionine, l-histidine, l-tryptophan)
  • 90 mg of vitamin C
  • 1.5 mg of thiamin
  • 20 mg of niacin
  • 10 mg of vitamin B6
  • 2.5 mcg of vitamin B12
  • 9 mg of pantothenic acid
  • 25 mg of sodium
  • 200 mg of coconut water fruit powder
  • Allergy Information: Contains Tree Nuts

Bottom Line

ALL9 is great for those who want a complete spectrum amino acid supplement that goes beyond BCAAs. There are several flavor varieties to choose from — some quite unique from the competition, like Cola Lime Twist. Those who are sensitive to phenylalanine should not take this supplement, as l-phenylalanine is one of the essential amino acids in the mixture. Overall a solid buy for anyone who wants to make sure they’re getting all of the amino acids their body needs for support of protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Where to Get It

5. MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2 Energy

Musclepharm Bcaa 3 1 2 Energy

MusclePharm is a well-known brand that’s always looking for ways to break the mold of supplement products and do so in a way that’s built on scientific study. The combination of BCAA’s with caffeine, green tea leaf extract and panax ginseng root powder provides an optimal energy boost and reduces overall fatigue.

Highlights

  • Available in Blue Raspberry or Watermelon flavor
  • Unique 3:1:2 BCAA blend which is patent pending (3 leucine, 1 isoleucine, 2 valine)
  • Contains caffeine for that added endurance boost
  • 30 Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • Tested by third party Informed-Choice and guaranteed free of banned substances

What’s It It:

1 Serving (2 scoops, 9 g) contains:

  • 6 g BCAAs per serving
    • 3 g of L-Leucine
    • 2 g of L-Valine
    • 1 g of L-Isoleucine
  • 5 Calories
  • 2g Carbohydrates
  • 100 mg Caffeine
  • 50 mg Green tea leaf extract
  • 50 mg Panax ginseng root powder

Bottom Line

MusclePharm is a well-known brand of muscle growth and energy supplements, and although this particular product only comes in two flavors, it provides you with six grams of BCAAs and 100 mg of caffeine for that added push to get through your workouts. If you’re looking for the one-two punch of BCAAs and caffeine, MusclePharm’s BCAA 3:1:2 Energy is worth trying to see how it works for you.

Where to Get It

6. EVL NUTRITION BCAA Energy

Evl Nutrition Bcaa Energy

BCAA Energy is a great product from a brand that’s exploding in popularity: EVL Nutrition. Along with BCAAs, this product contains beta alanine, l-alanine, taurine and a vitamin B and C complex for an extra burst of endurance-enhancement.

Highlights

  • 13 different flavors!
  • Zero Calories, carbs and sugars
  • Gluten Free

What’s In It:

1 Serving (2 scoops, 9 g) contains:

  • 5 g BCAAs
    • 2,500 mg of L-leucine
    • 1,250 of L-Isoleucine
    • 1,250 mg of L-valine
  • 90 mg of Vitamin C
  • 10 mg of Vitamin B6
  • 30 mcg of Vitamin B12
  • 500 mg of CarnoSyn(r) Beta-Alanine
  • 500 mg of L-Alanine
  • 500 mg of Taurine
  • 110 mg of “Natural Energizers” (Natural coffee, green tea extract)

Bottom Line

The most unique thing about this product is that there are so many different flavors to choose from (Furious Grape, anyone?) so you’ll always have something different and unique to keep you going.

Where to Get It

7. BPI Sports Best BCAA

Bpi Sports Best Bcaa

Best BCAA is a simple BCAA powder made by BPI Sports, and offers 5g of BCAAs per serving, combined with 1,000mg CLA and added agmatine for potentially optimized fat oxidation in addition to recovery benefits. If you’re looking for flavor variety, BPI is one of the best choices, with a dozen different options to choose from. Plus, it’s affordably priced.

Highlights

  • 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs
  • 15 different flavors to choose from!
  • Includes Omega-6 fatty acids and CLA
  • Includes a 30-day money back guarantee

What’s In It:

1 Serving (1 scoop, 10 g) contains:

  • 5 g BCAAs
    • 2.5 g of L-Leucine
    • 1.25 g of L-Isoleucine
    • 1.25 g of L-Valine
  • 1 g of Proprietary Omega 6 fatty acids and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) Matrix
    • Saffron Oil Powder (seed)
    • Avocado Oil Powder (fruit)
    • Coconut Oil Powder (fruit)
  • 250 mg Agmatine Sulfate

Bottom Line

BPI Best BCAA is definitely a solid choice if you’re focused on the taste of your powdered supplement mix. It does contain artificial sweetener and contains the oils of tree nuts (coconut), so you’ll want to watch out for those if you’re sensitive to them. If you’re looking for a good overall BCAA supplement, this product should definitely be on your list.

Full Breakdown: BPI Sports Best BCAA Review

Where to Get It

8. Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules

Optimum Nutrition Bcaa Capsules

This is an excellent choice of BCAA supplement made by Optimum Nutrition. If you read this brand’s reviews online, you’ll see that people are more than satisfied with their products. This is the perfect choice if you’re just looking for pure BCAAs with no added ingredients. The only downside would be that you need to take 10 capsules per day to get the average 5 g serving of BCAAs that most manufacturers recommend.

Highlights

  • Pure BCAAs, no other ingredients
  • Made by Optimum Nutrition, one of the best brands out there
  • Affordable
  • BCAAs 2:1:1 ratio
  • Available in 60, 200, or 400 count capsule bottles

What’s in It: (Capsule form)

1 Serving (2 capsules) contains:

  • 1 g BCAAs per serving
    • 500 mg micronized L-Leucine
    • 250 mg micronized L-Isoleucine
    • 250 mg micronized L-Valine

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for one of the simplest, most cost-effective, and well-reviewed BCAA products, then this is it. Optimum Nutrition is a brand that has been around a long time and produces quality products.

Where to Get It

9. Cellucor Alpha Amino Performance BCAAs

Cellucor Alpha Amino Bcaas

Like many of the other brands profiled here, Cellucor is well known in bodybuilding and weightlifting circles for their performance products. Alpha Amino, their amino acid supplement, is no exception. With 14 different amino acids and five delicious flavors, Cellucor has given fitness enthusiasts a lot to love with this dietary supplement.

Highlights

  • Reliable and well-known brand with a history of creating supplements for fitness
  • Contains Essential amino acids as well as BCAAs
  • Zero calories, carbs and sugars
  • Contains electrolytes
  • Available in four flavors
    • Fruit Punch
    • Icy Blue Raz
    • Lemon Lime
    • Watermelon
    • Grape

What’s In It:

1 Serving (1 scoop 12.7 g) contains:

  • 5 g Instantized BCAA 2:1:1 Blend
  • 3.75 g of Essential Performance Amino Acid Complex
    • Micronized (L-Glutamine, Taurine, L-Alanine, L-Citrulline, L-Arginine, L-Lysine HCI, L-Phenylalanine, L-Threonine, L-Methionine, L-Tyrosine, Histidine)
  • 1.75 g of Alpha Amino Hydration Blend
    • BetaPower Betaine Anhydrous (1250 mg)
    • Coconut (Cocos nucifera) water powder
    • Dipotassium Phosphate
    • Disodium Phosphate
    • Dimagnesium Phosphate
  • 65 mg of Phosphorus
  • 13 mg of Magnesium
  • 30 mg of Sodium
  • 70 mg Potassium

Bottom Line

Cellucor Alpha Amino provides a good choice when you need reliable hydration, fast. With raw coconut water, over a dozen amino acids and BCAAs, it’s among the best in terms of full-spectrum amino acid supplement.

Where to Get It
cellucor-logo-price

10. BSN Amino X

Bsn Amino X

BSN Amino X comes with a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs and five different flavors available (that we saw), plus vitamin D, taurine, alanine and citrulline, creating a solid formula for testosterone-boosting, increased energy, and nitric-oxide enhancement. It’s a well-rounded muscle support supplement. BSN also has a pretty unique 70 serving container available; A 30-serving size tub is also available. The downside is that the individual amounts of amino acids are not disclosed.

Highlights

  • Micronized for easier mixing
  • Caffeine-free
  • Sugar-free
  • Larger size tub available

What’s In It:

1 serving (1 scoop, 14.5 g) contains:

  • 10 g of Micronized BCAA Blend (L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine, L-Alanine, Micronized Taurine, Micronized L-Citrulline)
  • 12.5 mcg of Vitamin D
  • 170 mg of Sodium
  • 2 g of “Efforsorb Endura Composite” (Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cholacalciferol)

Bottom Line

BSN’s Amino X supplement is a decent choice if you’re looking for a little bit of everything with your supplement. Because it blends both BCAAs and some EAAs, it provides a good balance of the amino acids the body needs, but without the sugar and caffeine.

 

Where to Get It

How to Pick a Good BCAA Supplement

Dosage

Some products may contain more BCAAs per serving than others, so it can be difficult to scour the playing field of all the BCAAs available on the market today. It’s important to make sure that the BCAA product favors leucine in comparison to isoleucine and valine. This is because leucine is considered to be the more important of the three BCAAs. This is because it is important for activating the muscle protein synthesis pathway known as mTOR [1]. Isoleucine and valine are certainly important in their own right, but leucine is considered to be the most important component of BCAAs.

As a general rule of thumb, make sure the product is dosed at a ratio of 2:1:1, meaning that the product has twice as much leucine as it does isoleucine and valine. Also, make sure the product has at least 5 total grams of BCAAs in order to get your money’s worth. Any less is just a waste of your precious hard-earned money.

Ingredients

Now of course, the product should have all three BCAAs in there, but sometimes companies will provide additional ingredients to the product in order to make their product stand out from the competition. These include ingredients such as creatine [2], capsaicin [3], and nitric oxide boosters like L-Citrulline [4]. These ingredients are solid additions for sure, but make sure that these are additions that you actually want. If not, you’ll just be driving up the cost of the product for yourself without any additional benefit.

Value

It’s an unfortunate fact that many BCAAs are on the pricey side. So it’s even more important that you make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from the company you’re buying from. Make sure that if it contains any extra ingredients, that those are helpful to you and your fitness goals. Also, make sure it is adequately dosed; the last thing you want is to get the short end of the stick while paying a decent amount of your hard-earned money on the product.

Quantity

Most BCAA supplements (at least the powdered versions) come in 20 and 30 serving containers. Remember that it’s most likely the case that you’re getting more bang for your buck with the containers that have smaller amounts of servings, as they most likely contain more BCAAs per serving. If you’re really concerned, you can always split the servings in half if you’re really trying to stretch your dollar here.

Product Form

BCAA supplements come in either tablets, capsules, or powders. The powdered versions are by far the most popular, as they provide the most variation with the vast amount of flavoring options, as well as their portability. However, this doesn’t mean that there is anything necessarily wrong with taking the tablets or capsules. It’s all a matter of personal preference at the end of the day. The form in which you take it in does not affect how the BCAAs will work in your body.

User Feedback

Have you heard anything personally about the product from friends or fellow gym-goers? Don’t forget to check online reviews as well, but it’s very important to remember to not only check the manufacturer’s website, but also third-party websites like Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, and TrustPilot. These can be valuable, objective resources for you to consider when buying your BCAA supplement.

Brand Reputation

Have you ever heard of the brand before? Is it a well-known brand in the sports supplement industry? Some people feel more comfortable from more well-known brands like Optimum Nutrition or BSN compared to some lesser-known brands. But just because a brand is not as famous, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. Sometimes you just have to take the dive if you feel that a company’s product is good, despite them being an “up-and-comer”.

BCAAs FAQ

These are the most commonly asked questions about BCAAs and BCAA supplements.

What are amino acids?

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the structural units of proteins. There are 20 amino acids that the human body needs to survive, but your body makes 11 of them, which are called the nonessential amino acids. The 9 that your body doesn’t make are called the essential amino acids. You must get these from either food or supplementation in order to survive and function properly.

What are BCAAs?

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs, which is short for Branched Chain Amino Acids, are three essential amino acids. Each of them have their own function and purpose.

  • Leucine: this can be considered the “primary” BCAA, as it is the one of most importance. This is because it induces what is called mTOR [1], which is the primary skeletal muscle protein synthesis metabolic pathway in the body.
  • Isoleucine: this BCAA promotes the uptake of glucose [5]; the primary fuel source of the muscle. This helps to promote a reduction in fatigue.
  • Valine: the exact effect of valine is unclear, but it appears to assist both leucine and isoleucine [6] in their respective functions.

These specific essential amino acids in particular are special because they are known to assist in building muscle [12], decrease fatigue [8], and decrease muscle soreness [9], amongst several other benefits.  In other words, the body cannot produce them on its own. It must obtain it through the diet either through food or supplementation.

What are the benefits of BCAAs?

What are the benefits of BCAAs?

BCAAs are often used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts in order to help them achieve their performance and body composition goals. It’s important to remember that all BCAA products are different and that some may contain different amounts of BCAAs then others. So the effects you see may be slightly different from product to product.

With that in mind, the effects that you can expect to look for from a BCAA supplement are as follows:

Decreased Fatigue

BCAAs can help to decrease the amount of perceived physical and mental fatigue [7] that you feel, especially the longer an exercise session goes on. What’s particularly interesting about BCAAs are their ability to reduce mental fatigue [8] as this can be helpful in improving other sports-related skills, such as reaction time and decision making.

Decreased Muscle Soreness

BCAAs have also shown to decrease delayed-onset muscle soreness [9], commonly referred to as DOMS. This can help to increase a person’s training volume, which may allow them to recover faster in between training sessions. More volume equals more results from training!

Increase Endurance

A common measure of endurance performance called “time to exhaustion” has shown improvements when subjects were glycogen-depleted [10], which is the primary source of energy that muscles use to fuel themselves during training.

Lose Body Fat

Along with increased endurance, those who are glycogen-depleted and/or fasted may see enhanced results in terms of their body composition [10]; increasing rates of fat oxidation during exercise. This brings more fat to the bloodstream in order to be burned for energy!

What do BCAAs do to your body?

What do BCAAs do to your body?

Each one of the three BCAAs plays a different role in your body [13]. Leucine is important for promoting skeletal muscle protein synthesis, or muscle growth and regeneration, while isoleucine is important for glucose uptake into cells. This helps provide your muscles energy when you are exercising. Valine appears to assist both leucine and isoleucine in their respective functions, but research isn’t clear on its precise mechanism just yet.

What are the recommended dosages for BCAAs?

What are the recommended dosages for BCAAs?

There is no one-size-fits-all dose range for BCAAs. Although there hasn’t been an exact established dosage, there are some general guidelines from the research that we can follow that helps us to best find the right dosage.

It appears that ~20 grams of total BCAAs per day is optimal, although it’s not necessary to use a supplement for all 20 grams in order to see benefits. This is because BCAAs are also found in protein-rich foods (See “What foods contain BCAAs?” in the FAQ section for more info). Most supplements contain ~5-10 grams of total BCAA per serving, which is more than enough! As long as you’re eating a protein-rich diet, you’ll have no problem getting the full 20 grams of BCAAs per day while supplementing with BCAAs.

No matter the specific serving size of the BCAA supplement you’re using, make sure it has an amount of leucine that ranges anywhere from 2-10 grams and isoleucine at 48-72mg/kg of body weight [11]. The exact dose for valine remains understudied, as it can be considered the least important of the three BCAAs.

What foods contain BCAAs?

What foods contain BCAAs?

BCAAs are found in many high-protein foods, which include but are not limited to:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Legumes
What are BCAA Supplements?

What are BCAA Supplements?

BCAA supplements are simply BCAAs that are normally found in food sources synthesized into an easy-to-consume supplemental form. It usually comes in either flavored or unflavored powders as well as unflavored capsules or tablets.

Should You Take BCAA Powder vs BCAA Tablets?

Should You Take BCAA Powder vs BCAA Tablets?

This is ultimately up to your personal preference. Many people find that the powdered version offers more convenience and taste in contrast to the tablets, as it is more practical to drink the powdered version mixed with water during your workout then it is to have to carry the tablets with you wherever you go. Some people also find that having a flavor of BCAA that they like helps them to reach their daily protein intake as well as consume more water much more easily.

But if you happen to prefer the tablets because you are sensitive to artificial flavorings or you find it inconvenient to have to bring a shaker with you wherever you go, then opting for the tablets will give you the same exact benefits as using the powder.

Are BCAAs a waste of money?

Are BCAAs a waste of money?

Some supplements out there are a complete waste of money, but BCAAs wouldn’t be considered one of them. This is because BCAAs have actually shown benefit in the scientific literature for aspects of athletic and fitness performance such as increased endurance [10], decreased fatigue [14], and increased focus [8] during workout sessions. I certainly wouldn’t call that a “waste” of money.

Do I need to take BCAAs?

Do I need to take BCAAs?

You certainly don’t need to take BCAAs. BCAAs are a dietary supplement, meaning that they can be a helpful addition to your exercise regimen and may help you achieve your goals slightly faster and easier. However, you don’t need them to be successful in the pursuit towards your athletic and fitness goals.

Are BCAAs a steroid?

Are BCAAs a steroid?

No, BCAAs are components of protein. They have no hormonal agents or components that would make them considered a steroid.

Are BCAAs banned in sports?

Are BCAAs banned in sports?

No, as BCAAs are classified as components of protein. Therefore, they are legal to use and are not banned by any internationally-recognized sports governing bodies.

Who can benefit from taking a BCAA supplement?

Who can benefit from taking a BCAA supplement?

Anyone who has exercise performance or body composition goals can benefit from using BCAA supplements! These range from endurance athletes [10] all the way to those looking to enhance their focus and concentration [8] during the latter stretches of their workout session, when fatigue is really setting in.  Its fatigue-fighting properties [14] really help those who are trying to achieve their body composition goals to push themselves harder then they would normally without taking a BCAA supplement.

Should I take BCAAs if I don’t work out?

Should I take BCAAs if I don’t work out?

It wouldn’t be in your best interest to do this, especially if your wallet isn’t exactly the fattest. However, there’s no harm in taking BCAAs to get the protein you need throughout the day and/or it helps you drink more water since BCAA supplements are often flavored.

What can make BCAAs less effective?

What can make BCAAs less effective?

The only thing that can make BCAA supplementation less effective are the dosages of each individual BCAA itself included in the product. If the dosages are inadequate, then the product itself will be less effective then its adequately-dosed counterparts.

There has been an exact established dose for BCAAs. However, it appears that ~20 grams of total BCAAs is optimal, with leucine ranging anywhere from 2-10 grams and isoleucine at 48-72mg/kg of body weight [11]. The exact dose for valine remains understudied, thus undetermined.

Can I take BCAAs individually?

Can I take BCAAs individually?

The only BCAA you’re likely to find in its isolated form is leucine, which is the most well-studied of the three branched-chain amino acids. It’s most notable for its action on a metabolic pathway called mTOR [15], which is the primary muscle protein synthesis pathway.

Although leucine appears to be the most potent amino acid in respect to stimulating muscle protein synthesis [16], it appears to be inferior in isolation in comparison to using a protein supplement or BCAA supplement.

How do I take a BCAA supplement?

How do I take a BCAA supplement?

BCAA supplements come in either capsule or powder form, with most coming in the former. But no matter which form it comes in, it’s best to take it right before your workout [17] or you can even take it during your workout [7].

Many people find that they prefer the powdered version as opposed to the capsule version. The powdered version appears to be superior due to the fact that it is easier to drink something during your workout as opposed to taking capsules. Also, powdered BCAAs often come in delicious flavors which encourages people to drink more of them, while on the other hand, the capsules are not flavored. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of preference.

Can I take BCAAs on an empty stomach?

Can I take BCAAs on an empty stomach?

BCAAs can safely be ingested on an empty stomach. Interestingly enough, BCAAs seem to be very beneficial during times of fasting. This is because if one is in a calorie deficit, the risk of losing muscle mass increases the longer a person is subjected to a calorie deficit.

However, when supplementing with BCAAs, lean muscle mass appears to be spared to a significant degree compared to those who don’t [18]. Therefore, it can be beneficial to use BCAAs in a fasted state, as many people who reach significant levels of leanness appear to exercise in a fasted state.

When is the best time to take BCAA supplements?

When is the best time to take BCAA supplements?

The best time of day to take BCAA supplements is right before your workout session [17]. This is when you’ll see the greatest benefits in terms of perceived levels of soreness and recovery from muscle damage.

There is also evidence to suggest that taking BCAA supplements during your workout may help to reduce perceived levels of both physical and mental fatigue [7]. While this may not directly enhance measures of body composition like muscle gain or fat loss, it can help to increase performance by increasing the effort and intensity that you bring towards the workout session. Because of this, BCAAs can have an indirect benefit on body composition in this regard.

Should I take BCAAs on days I don’t work out?

Should I take BCAAs on days I don’t work out?

If money is not an issue, then you can certainly take BCAAs on the days you don’t work out if it helps you to reach your protein goals for the day or you feel like it helps you feel less sore and more recovered for your workout session the following day [19]. However, BCAAs can be pretty expensive for a dietary supplement. So if you’re strapped for cash but still want to supplement with BCAAs, you’re better off saving it for your workout days so that your supply of BCAAs doesn’t get depleted so fast that you have to constantly repurchase it.

Is it okay to take BCAAs before bed?

Is it okay to take BCAAs before bed?

Of course! In fact, any way in which you can add protein into your diet is beneficial. The time of day in which you take your BCAA supplement if you’re just using it to reach your dietary protein allotment for the day does not matter. However, it would not be suggested to take it before bed instead of taking it before your exercise session that day or the next day.

How quickly do BCAAs work?

How quickly do BCAAs work?

Evidence suggests that BCAAs appear to begin working right after ingestion! [20] However, just remember that you might not necessarily “feel” it like you would a jolt of energy from caffeine. Its effects are modest, but powerful.

How often should I take BCAAs?

How often should I take BCAAs?

The question doesn’t appear to be “How often?” but rather “When should I take BCAAs?”.

It appears that supplementation with BCAAs is most beneficial when taken before exercise as opposed to after exercise; even in repeated doses [17]. Taking it before exercise provides better results towards alleviating perceived muscle soreness and exercise-induced muscle damage. This proves that more is not always better.

So coming back to the question of “How often?”, you could say that you should take it once a day if you’re looking to see the benefits both before and after your workout sessions. You can also take them on your rest days if you’d like, as this has the potential to carry over to your workout session the next day. However, this is not required.

For how long should I take BCAAs?

For how long should I take BCAAs?

There’s no predetermined length of time that you need to take BCAAs, as the benefits associated with taking BCAAs appear to happen acutely [20]. In other words, they appear shortly after digestion of the BCAA supplement. There is no need to “load” BCAAs or let them build up in your system in order to see results. Instant gratification as its finest!

Should I take a break from BCAAs?

Should I take a break from BCAAs?

There’s no evidence that suggests that BCAAs need to be “cycled” or be stopped at any point in time. Only take a break from them if you feel like they aren’t providing you any benefit or you find that they fall outside of your allotted supplementation budget.

Can you take too many BCAAs?

Can you take too many BCAAs?

Yes. However, it’s not detrimental to your health to take in too many BCAAs. This would be the equivalent of taking in more protein than what is required to reach your fitness goals; all you’d be getting are extra calories with no added muscle-building or fat loss benefits.

Just make sure to factor in BCAA intake into your daily protein allotment for the day. Although FDA labeling laws do not require the labeling of calories that fall below 5 calories per serving [21], BCAAs do have calories and can add up pretty significantly if you take in multiple servings throughout the day.

Remember; 1 gram of protein has 4 calories. Therefore, 1 gram of BCAAs have 4 calories since BCAAs are protein. Might take a revisiting of some basic arithmetic skills, but it’s not too bad!

Are BCAA supplements safe to take?

Are BCAA supplements safe to take?

Given that you don’t have any preexisting health conditions such as kidney or liver problems, then BCAA supplements are perfectly safe to take. However, if you still have any concerns, consult your physician before adding BCAA supplementation to your diet.

What are the side effects of BCAA supplements?

What are the side effects of BCAA supplements?

As of the writing of this guide, BCAA supplements are not known to possess any sort of serious side effects. Depending on the source of the BCAAs and the manufacturer you purchase them from, some BCAA products may cause gastrointestinal upset due to the artificial flavoring inside of them [22].  This is especially so if you take an excess amount of servings throughout the day.

Do BCAA supplements cause damage to the kidneys and liver or any other organ?

Do BCAA supplements cause damage to the kidneys and liver or any other organ?

If you are a normal, healthy individual that has no preexisting health conditions, particularly those involving the kidneys or liver, then supplementing with BCAAs won’t cause any sort of damage to these organs.

However, if you do have a preexisting kidney or liver issue such as kidney disease or liver cancer, then please consult your physician before adding BCAAs to your dietary regime.

Do BCAAs affect sperm?

Do BCAAs affect sperm?

Interestingly, ingestion of BCAAs during endurance exercise appears to improve what’s called sperm motility [23], which measures the efficiency of sperm to move towards its target, which would be the egg it is attempting to fertilize. A low measure of sperm motility often indicates infertility. However, we need more data to see if this occurs to the same effect in humans, as the data that we have on BCAAs and sperm motility are in animal models such as rats and mice.

Do BCAA supplements cause acne?

Do BCAA supplements cause acne?

No, there isn’t any sufficient evidence to prove that BCAA supplements can cause acne of any sort.

Do BCAA supplements cause hair loss (alopecia)?

Do BCAA supplements cause hair loss (alopecia)?

No, BCAAs certainly do not cause alopecia. If a standard serving of protein doesn’t cause hair loss, then taking BCAAs definitely won’t either.

Will BCAA supplements cause testicle shrinkage?

Will BCAA supplements cause testicle shrinkage?

No of course not! BCAAs do NOT contain any sort of anabolic steroids or other hormonal agents that would cause testicular atrophy (shrinkage).

Can I take a BCAA supplement with other supplements?

Can I take a BCAA supplement with other supplements?

Yes, that wouldn’t be a problem at all! Think of taking BCAAs like taking in an extra serving of protein during the day. This would certainly not affect how your other supplements work and interact with one another.

What are the best supplements to take BCAAs with?

What are the best supplements to take BCAAs with?

There are limitless possibilities when it comes to this! However, since BCAAs provide best results when consumed before training [17], it would be smart to pair BCAAs with other supplements that are commonly found in pre-workout supplements, such as creatine [2], nitric oxide boosters [24], and caffeine [25]. This would provide an optimal environment for increased energy, performance, pump, and recovery [19] for both during and after your training session!

Should I take BCAAs if my other supplements have some added to it?

Should I take BCAAs if my other supplements have some added to it?

It certainly won’t hurt! Taking in more BCAAs is identical to consuming a couple extra grams of protein throughout the day. Also, the amount contained in other supplements that combine additional ingredients together often won’t have nearly the same amount of BCAAs in it in comparison to a product that just has BCAAs in it. So the additional amount that you’ll receive from your other supplement is negligible.

Do BCAAs increase testosterone?

Do BCAAs increase testosterone?

The increase in sperm motility that was presented in a study from a question asked earlier in this FAQ [23] appears to have a modest effect on testosterone levels. However, more studies are needed to confirm this, as most of the experiments that have been completed on this topic are done on animal models. Although more human research is needed, it does sound promising!

Do BCAAs help you lose weight?

Do BCAAs help you lose weight?

Now this is really where BCAAs show their true colors! It appears that during longer bouts of exercise (moreso applicable for endurance athletes than strength-training athletes), BCAAs can help to preserve the body’s main source of fuel; glycogen. During normal circumstances, once glycogen is depleted, it will then begin to catabolize (break down) muscle tissue in order to keep on fueling its exercise efforts.

However, BCAAs illustrated their ability to not only preserve glycogen during long-duration exercise, but to enhance what’s called fat oxidation [10], which is the release of fat into the bloodstream so that it can be used for energy.

Do BCAAs help you gain muscle?

Do BCAAs help you gain muscle?

If you’re having trouble getting enough protein throughout the day, then adding BCAAs into your daily nutrition plan may help you to reach your daily protein goal. Making sure you take in an adequate amount of protein during the day will help you to gain muscle, not BCAAs themselves. So BCAAs can help you to gain muscle if you just can’t seem to get in enough protein every day. Other than that, BCAAs don’t possess some sort of magical formula that helps you gain muscle. However, it can be a delicious way to help you get the rest of the protein that you need for the day!

Do BCAAs give you more endurance?

Do BCAAs give you more endurance?

Specifically for endurance athletes, BCAAs can help to reduce fatigue via the reduction of serotonin and tryptophan. Serotonin and tryptophan act as central nervous system depressants, in a sense, during long-duration endurance exercise. In turn, this can reduce the levels of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase [14], which are markers of muscle damage that contribute to feelings of fatigue the longer a bout of exercise carries on for.

So the simple answer is yes, specifically in endurance athletes, BCAAs have the potential to offset fatigue compared to those who don’t take BCAAs.

Do BCAAs give you energy?

Do BCAAs give you energy?

If we’re talking about stimulant-like energy such as caffeine, then the answer here is no. Think of it like eating any of the foods you’d normally eat throughout the day. These foods provide you with energy since they contain calories, which are units of energy. Notice the effect that eating has on you when you’re hungry compared to how you feel when you drink a cup of coffee.

That’s exactly the difference you feel when you supplement with BCAAs. BCAAs are protein, so treat them the same way you’d look any other source of protein.

Can BCAAs make you stronger?

Can BCAAs make you stronger?

Most likely not. Where BCAAs really shine is their ability to help those who are trying to lose fat. In other words, BCAA supplementation may allow for increased loss of body fat while still being able to maintain exercise performance [26]. Notice the key word “maintain” here in terms of a calorie deficit; that’s where the benefits appear to end. So taking BCAAs during your cutting/fat loss phase is where you’ll most likely see the greatest benefit to your training regime.

Will I Lose Weight or Muscle Mass If I stop using a BCAA supplement?

Will I Lose Weight or Muscle Mass If I stop using a BCAA supplement?

No, it’s not likely that you will anyway. This is mostly dependent on how intensely you’re training and how spot-on your nutrition plan is. If those things happen to fall by the wayside, then those things will be the most likely reasons as to why you’d lose muscle mass.

Remember, BCAA supplementation is just one small piece to a much bigger puzzle. Will it help? Absolutely. Is it the end-all, be-all? No.

ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Zachary.

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