Our Top 10 BCAA Supplements
You may feel an extra burst of motivation to hit the gym and start working on your fitness. You may also be inclined to check your eating habits and work healthier foods into your diet. These resolutions are incredible, but what happens when you hit a plateau with your fitness? When your gains stall, it can be tough to stay motivated at the gym, and your health and fitness may both suffer because of it.
One of the most effective ways to surmount a plateau and move forward with your lean muscle gains is by incorporating BCAA supplements into your daily fitness routine. However, just as there are innumerable fitness routines and workout classes to try, the market is saturated with what can feel like an overwhelming number of options for supplements. It's helpful to know the benefits BCAAs each offer.
If working out or taking supplements is a new endeavor for you, it can be tough to determine which BCAA supplement is right for your routine. We’re here to help you understand the incredible BCAA benefits to determine which products best meet your needs. We’ll even provide a breakdown of each of our top ten favourite BCAA supplements, how they work, and why protein, especially whey, is essential to helping you reach your fitness goals.
- What are Amino Acids?
- Understanding Essential Amino Acids
- What Do Essential Amino Acids Do?
- What Are the Benefits of Taking Essential Amino Acid Supplements?
- What are BCAA’s for?
- The Roles of BCAAs
- Why Add BCAA Supplements?
- Top Eight BCAA Benefits
- Enhanced Protection for Your Immune System
- Lean Muscle Protection
- Reduce Muscle Soreness and Injury
- Promotion of Muscle Protein Synthesis
- BCAA Benefits for Weight Loss
- Lower Effects of Exercise Fatigue
- Protection from Muscle Wasting
- BCAA Benefits for Liver Disease
- Whey Protein Vs. BCAA Supplements
- When Should You Take BCAA Supplements?
- How Much BCAA is Necessary?
- BCAA Supplement Powder vs. Capsules
- Our Top Ten BCAA Supplements
- ANS Performance Quench
- Mammoth BCAA
- Beyond Yourself AMRAP
- Mutant BCAA 9.7
- Allmax Aminocore
- 5% Nutrition All Day You May
- ProSupps HydroBCAA
- PEScience Amino IV
- Perfect Sports BCAA Hyper Clear
- PVL 100% Pure BCAA
What are Amino Acids?
Let’s start with the basics of amino acids. You may remember learning about amino acids in your high school chemistry class, but it is likely you haven't considered their role in muscle gains and achieving fitness goals.
Amino acids are organic compounds that work together to form proteins within the body. Together, amino acids and proteins are the foundational elements of life. The human body uses amino acids for several processes, including breaking down food and repairing and regrowing muscle tissues. They also function as energy sources, especially during endurance workouts. Fueling your body with foods rich in twenty necessary amino acids or adding supplements to your daily routine will help support your health. Great options for a well-rounded diet rich in amino acids include:
Great sources of amino acids from your diet include:
- lean meat
- brown rice
Understanding Essential Amino Acids
Of the eighty amino acids that may be found in nature, nine are labeled as essential. It is necessary to consume these nine essential amino acids, as our bodies cannot produce them naturally. The nine EAA’s include:
- Histidine – responsible for histamine production to support proper sleep-wake cycles, digestion, and immune response while protecting nerve cells via the myelin sheath.
- Isoleucine – supports proper hemoglobin production, muscle metabolism, and energy regulation.
- Leucine – supports repair of muscles and protein synthesis, regulates blood sugar levels.
- Lysine – supports enzyme and hormone production, protein synthesis, and energy.
- Methionine – supports propped detoxification, metabolism, vital mineral absorption, and tissue growth.
- Phenylalanine – vital in the production of additional amino acids.
- Threonine – supports healthy skin, connective tissues, immune function, and metabolism of fat.
- Tryptophan – supports serotonin balance for proper sleep, hunger, and mood regulation.
- Valine – stimulates muscle growth, production of energy, and muscle regeneration.
What Do Essential Amino Acids Do?
Essential amino acids play a vital role in your overall health and wellness. You’ll benefit from EAA supplements because they provide energy, repair your damaged cells, and build new cells. EAA’s produce enzymes, create hormones, and produce antibodies to support full-body health.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Essential Amino Acid Supplements?
Adding EAA’s to your routine can provide you with tremendous benefits. Many who use EAA supplements report a decrease in muscle soreness and exercise fatigue, with improvements in areas including:
- liver function
- meeting weight loss goals
What are BCAAs for?
Before we dive into our favourite BCAA supplements, you’ll need some necessary background information on branched-chain amino acids. BCAA's are one of the most effective tools to fuel your body correctly, both pre and post-workout.
While there are many amino acids out there, the most critical three you should familiarize yourself with when considering supplements are the three that make up branched-chain amino acids.
BCAA's differ from most amino acids; they break down in your muscle instead of your liver. BCAA benefits include providing the building blocks vital for muscle proteins (critical to supporting the body’s ability to repair itself), promoting lean muscle mass, and beating exercise fatigue. In fact, they account for the makeup of roughly 35% of the body’s muscle protein. Studies have shown BCAAs benefit muscle protein synthesis by 22% in those who used it. Muscle protein synthesis is a process that occurs naturally to produce protein to support the repair of muscles injured during intense workouts. Muscle protein synthesis also protects against the loss of protein from your fitness efforts.
The Roles of BCAAs
Each BCAA plays a critical role in your overall health and wellness and supports your fitness goals. The three amino acids that makeup BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Leucine is essential in boosting your overall muscle mass during strength training and can help you maintain muscle mass while dieting. Leucine directly stimulates protein synthesis and helps regulate your blood sugar. It also plays a vital role in initiating muscle protein synthesis.
Isoleucine is the amino acid that boosts your overall endurance during a grueling workout. It also helps regulate your blood sugar during and after a workout so that you don't experience an energy dip in the middle or at the end of your session.
Finally, valine is essential for repairing torn muscle tissue and increasing stamina for long workouts. It also acts as an appetite suppressant, helping you stay on track with your healthy eating goals.
When looking for an amino acid supplement, you'll want to choose one that combines all three BCAAs. Combining the three will provide the stamina you need to push through your most challenging training sessions and the muscle repair and growth support to see real gains and provide optimal BCAA benefits.
Why Add BCAA Supplements?
Adding BCAA supplements to your routine provides quick and effective support to your overall health and wellness goals. BCAA’s help your body preserve glycogen storage – your muscles’ primary fuel source for energy production. When you have sufficient reserves to rely on during your workouts, you can power through. BCAAs benefit your fitness goals by preventing muscle protein breakdown for energy use.
Many turn to these supplements for additional proven BCAA benefits, including:
- assisting your body in absorbing protein
- providing you more sustained energy
- helping with muscle fatigue
- promoting fat loss
- boosting in clarity and focus
- enhancing endurance
- decreasing the time needed for recovery
BCAA benefits also include targeting muscle repair needs as soon as they enter your bloodstream and upon completion of your set.
Many use them for their support in achieving weight loss goals by:
- curbing cravings
- reducing a desire for carbs
- supporting muscle mass goals
Top Eight BCAA Benefits
While we have shared many incredible BCAA benefits, there are eight in particular that are most widely recognized amongst BCAA supplement users. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits:
1. Enhanced Protection for Your Immune System
If training is new to your routine, then this is a critical BCAA benefit to understand. Exhausting your body without sufficient recovery time in between training sessions can have a harmful impact on your body. Athletes who push themselves to train repeatedly for days of high volume, intense sessions risk fatigue, injury, and immune suppression.
Through continued use of a supplemental BCAAs, benefits include strengthening the immune system to sustain weeks of intense training. Studies have shown the immune system will regenerate and protect itself from the harmful effects of pathogens by utilizing BCAA supplements found in the immune cells in your gut. Using this source as fuel allows the immune system to strengthen while supporting recovery time and boosting endurance levels.
2. Lean Muscle Protection
BCAAs benefit lean muscle and protect from protein muscle breakdown. BCAA supplements work to maintain your muscle mass gains while under catabolic conditions. Athletes often utilize BCAA supplements for strenuous marathons to provide added protection from muscle loss. As you train, your body increases the breakdown of BCAA’s for extra energy rather than dipping into its stored amino acids to keep you going.
During targeted fat loss, calorie restriction can cause a decrease in muscle mass. Your body can take advantage of the benefits of BCAAs, as studies show they help prevent muscle loss, even during periods when your muscles are not completely mobile. You’ll reap the benefits of losing fat while protecting and building more lean muscle.
3. Reduce Muscle Soreness and Injury
BCAAs benefit your fitness goals by reducing muscle soreness due to extreme exercise. BCAA supplements, when used both before and after your training sessions, help reduce and even delay your muscle soreness. Known as DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness can last up to several days and prevent you from maintaining your vigorous regimen. You can offer your body protection from severe muscle damage that is often seen in endurance exercising and resistance training by using high-quality BCAA supplements. You’ll experience quicker recovery times and decreases in muscle fatigue and soreness.
4. Promotion of Muscle Protein Synthesis
Perhaps the most notable BCAA benefit, particularly amongst weight trainers, is promoting muscle protein synthesis. Adding leucine through the use of BCAA supplements to build up muscle mass is known as the leucine threshold. This process maximizes the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, providing quick and optimal results.
5. BCAA Benefits for Weight Loss
Shedding pounds while maintaining or building lean muscle mass is an incredible BCAA benefit that athletes appreciate. If this fits your fitness goal, here’s what you have to look forward to:
- Help to curb sugar cravings
BCAAs benefit your weight loss goals by helping reduce your sugar cravings and binge eating habits. BCAA supplements are known to help regulate blood sugar and glucose levels. While limiting your caloric intake, BCAA’s support the bulk of your blood sugar production as you train and exercise. Your liver continually releases available BCAAs, supporting manageable blood sugar levels and preventing drops in blood sugar that often lead to cravings and binges.
Maximizing workouts and increasing fat burn
BCAA supplements regulate your blood sugar which allows you to push through and maximize your workouts. You’ll boost endurance feel enabled to tackle more rigid training sets with optimal results. BCAA’s blood sugar support helps you sustain as your body burns off fat.
6. Lower Effects of Exercise Fatigue
We all battle exercise-induced fatigue, but you can help decrease the effects with the support of BCAA supplements. As the BCAA levels in your bloodstream are used during your workout, tryptophan, an essential amino acid within your brain, increases. When tryptophan is converted into serotonin, you feel fatigued and begin to lose steam. BCAA benefits include lowering these serotonin levels to keep your mind razor-sharp, alert, and focused on your goals.
7. Protection from Muscle Wasting
Muscle wasting and breakdown can occur when the breakdown of protein exceeds your body’s muscle protein synthesis. They are common signs of malnutrition in people with chronic illnesses and occur naturally with age and in times of fasting. Replenishing your depleted levels of BCAAs is imperative to your health, as they make up roughly 40% of your body’s amino acid requirement.
8. BCAA Benefits for Liver Disease
Patients diagnosed with cirrhosis may find the use of BCAAs benefits their improperly functioning liver. As the liver becomes less able to filter toxins out of the bloodstream, hepatic encephalopathy can develop. HE is known to cause loss of cognitive functioning, including confusion, and may lead to unconsciousness. In some studies, the use of BCAA supplements has shown improvements in HE patients’ symptoms.
Additional studies have shown the use of BCAA supplements may protect cirrhosis patients from developing a form of liver cancer known as hepatocellular carcinoma.
BCAAs benefit patients that experience complications due to liver failure as well as supporting recovery time following liver surgery.
Whey Protein Vs. BCAA Supplements
You’ve likely heard the ongoing debate on whey protein versus BCAA supplements.
There are several factors to consider when deciding between the two:
- Whey protein does not mesh with everyone’s dietary needs, as it is derived from cow’s milk.
- Whey helps you maintain fitness goals, as it contains some BCAAs. However, if your goals include building muscle mass, the use of BCAAs benefits your needs more.
- Whey protein requires several hours to be fully digested for optimal effects in your bloodstream.
You may also want to consider combining whey protein and BCAA supplements, as the two work together well to help you achieve your muscle-building goals. The quick and effective work of BCAA supplements allows the protein to be absorbed easily during your anabolic window. Together, the two supplements stimulate hormones, replenish BCAAs to keep you going, and produce tremendous gains.
You’ll also reap whey protein and BCAA benefits through:
- speedy muscle repair
- curbing cravings by keeping you satisfied longer
- boosting your immune system
- increasing your energy for more reps and extended sets
When Should You Take BCAA Supplements?
When considering adding a BCAA supplement into your routine, you’ll need to keep timing in mind. Believe it or not, when you take your supplement has a significant effect on whether you maximize lean muscle growth and muscle repair. The majority of BCAA supplements come in the form of shakes, making them quick and easy to consume when you get to the gym or while you cool down post-workout.
The best time to take a BCAA supplement is in the forty-five minutes following your workout. This timeframe, known as the anabolic window, allows your body to absorb the BCAAs and protein needed to replace and rebuild muscle. You can also take a BCAA supplement during your workout to help mitigate muscle soreness and obtain mental focus and energy during your lift session.
If your main goal is to shed pounds while building more muscle mass, pre-workout BCAA supplements are right for you. Ingesting thirty to forty-five minutes before your workout will allow your muscles to absorb the amino acids and reap the BCAA benefits, which include:
- minimizing muscle fatigue
- maintaining muscle mass during cardio workouts
- increasing rep workouts
- maintaining gains
- supporting growth
- reducing recovery time
You can also choose to take a BCAA supplement during your workout to increase stamina. You’ll gain an energy boost while:
- blocking serotonin
- increasing your focus
- intensifying your workout
If you’re adding BCAA supplements to your routine to support general weight maintenance goals or a healthier diet, timing isn’t as critical. BCAA benefits for these goals can be acquired by taking your supplements any time throughout your day. For weight loss or maintenance goals, you may prefer to consume your supplement between meals to help curb cravings and control your appetite.
How Much BCAA is Necessary?
Dosage recommendations for BCAA supplements will vary according to your sex, weight, and health goals. While you should follow the recommendations per BCAA supplement, here are a few general guidelines to consider:
- Women average roughly nine grams per day.
- Men average twelve grams of BCAAs per day.
- Bodybuilders consume an average of thirty-five grams a day. While you may hear of weight trainers consuming more than this, additional BCAA benefits will cease to be seen after passing a certain point. There are currently no studies showing evidence of damaging side-effects, although following intake guidelines is recommended.
Our Top Ten BCAA Supplements
After learning what amino acids are and, more importantly, what BCAAs benefits you can add to your overall fitness goals, you’re ready for our top ten favourites! Here are our top ten suggestions for BCAA and protein supplements to take your gains to the next level:
If ever there was a perfect muscle-building supplement packed with plenty of BCAAs, this is it! 7.2 grams of BCAAs per serving means you’ll be able to train harder than ever before. While it may have taken you a few days to recover before trying Quench, you’ll now see how much faster you’re able to bounce back and hit the gym for another grueling session.
Quench also promotes hydration, which is crucial to your continued success in the gym! With electrolytes and trace minerals from pink Himalayan salt, you’ll hydrate naturally. Try the Sour Gummy Blast or Peach Mango flavours for a boost of guilt-free energy!
2. Mammoth BCAA
There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’re making progress at the gym but seeing no visible results. This supplement is perfect for those looking to gain and maintain their muscle mass. The high dose of all three BCAAs you’ll get with Mammoth BCAA ensures that all amino acids broken down during your workout are replaced, and then some. You’ll experience BCAA benefits, including accelerated muscle recovery, improved muscle gains, and minimal latent muscle soreness.
We suggest trying out the White Grape flavour, a refreshing burst of taste for you to enjoy as you refuel your body with 10.2 grams of amino acids per serving.
AMRAP stands for “as many reps as possible,” which will be appealing to those who love to go big and go hard at the gym. This zero-carb BCAA endurance formula offers vital amino acids in a 4:1:1 ratio, meaning this supplement packs a leucine punch. By taking Beyond Yourself AMRAP, you’ll be stimulating your fat loss process, increasing your lean muscle growth, and decreasing your muscle soreness.
With zero carbs and zero calories, you can enjoy flavours like pomegranate blueberry, lemon-lime, and strawberry kiwi with zero guilt. Try it during your next workout to not only quench your thirst but also elevate your performance.
Another BCAA-packed supplement, Mutant BCAA 9.7, delivers your three branched-chain amino acids in a slightly different ratio than the AMRAP supplement listed above. Instead of a 4:1:1 ratio, which is heavy on the amino acid leucine, Mutant offers a 2:1:1 ratio, which is much more balanced. Not only do you get 9.7 grams of BCAA, but you’ll also get eight grams of electrolytes for hydration. Plus, this amino stack contains magnesium, which helps facilitate protein synthesis.
A quick note about BCAA benefits and protein - they are often combined in workout supplements, and for a good reason! A supplement containing protein, especially whey protein, can significantly improve your overall muscle mass after a challenging workout. Whey protein and amino acids work together to build muscle. Since whey protein is high in the BCAA leucine, the combination of the two allows for higher protein synthesis and muscle stacking so that you can achieve and maintain your muscle gains!
When creating Aminocore, Allmax took cutting-edge research by the Nobel prize-winning Karolinska Institute to heart. The Karolinska Institute discovered that high doses of BCAAs signal your muscles to grow. Allmax delivers your BCAAs in a 45:30:25 ratio to stimulate pure protein synthesis on a truly epic scale.
Aminocore’s 8,180 milligrams of BCAA means you’re getting over 89 grams of BCAAs per serving. To see visible muscle gains, you must reverse your body’s tendency to break down muscle, known as catabolism. The number of BCAAs in Aminocore signals the body to build muscle and increase your body’s anabolic effect.
Aminocore also features Instaclear, solubility technology that flash freeze-dries the Aminocore powder to ensure it is easily mixable and absorbs entirely when in liquid form.
We all know the feeling when we’ve maxed out during a workout. When you push yourself through an intense session, your muscles fill with lactic acid. This causes your pH levels to drop, preventing further muscle damage from occurring.
Along with all required BCAAs, benefits from All Day You May provide you with Copmax and Beta-Alanine. Both Copmax and Beta-Alanine help your muscles push through fatigue by buffering lactic acids and keeping your pH level stable. Using this supplement will push you (and your gains) to the next level.
7. ProSupps HydroBCAA
While All Day You May allows you to go beyond your standard output in the gym, HydroBCAA is perfect for your much-needed muscle recovery process, packed with BCAA benefits. The combination of BCCA with Glutamine and Citrulline allows you to bounce back more quickly between gym sessions. It also prevents further breakdown as you progress in your workout regimen.
While getting your protein during meals is vital to properly fuel your body and stay satiated, taking free-form amino acids is key to optimizing your performance in the gym. PEScience believes there is no such thing as too many amino acids in your pre or post-workout supplements. The five grams of leucine packed into Amino IV puts protein synthesis into hyperdrive, meaning you’ll be stacking more muscle than you thought possible!
PEScience also takes pride in the way they produce their supplements. To provide consumers the highest-quality supplements possible, PEScience tests all their raw materials for pesticides, microbials, and other contaminants before putting them on the market. They are also continually innovating their formulas, meaning you’ll always be taking the best of the best they offer!
If you are vegan, this BCAA supplement has your name on it! Featuring only vegan, non-GMO BCAAs, you’ll be able to enjoy flavours like Intense Watermelon Candy and Intense Peach Ring Candy guilt-free! This formula is extra-soluble, so you’ll skip tasting any bitter or unpleasant aftertastes that can come along with free-form BCAAs.
Last but certainly not least, PVL’s 100% Pure BCAA supplement is vegetarian, micronized for quicker absorption, and tested for safety, purity, and efficacy at USP pharmaceutical standards. The leucine, isoleucine, and valine present in Pure BCAA will provide your body muscle-building support and prevent your muscles from turning into fuel post-workout. This supplement is suitable for pre- or post-workout consumption!
BCAA Supplement Powder vs. Capsules
While it all boils down to preference, there are a few considerations that may help you decide on the best form to meet your needs. Here are a few points to consider:
- Capsules are more convenient, especially for on-the-go use and storage.
- Capsules may cause digestive upset for some if consuming pre-workout.
- Powders absorb more quickly into your bloodstream.
- If you enjoy a great-tasting drink, powders come in a variety of flavours.
BCAAs and So Much More
You now have an inclusive list of all of our favourite BCAA supplements to consider trying out during your next workout session. Just remember, BCAA supplements aren’t the only ones out there!
Depending on your health and fitness goals, you may want to incorporate other types of supplements into your daily routine. We know that no two athletes are alike. As such, we provide the widest variety of supplements for you to choose from. Our Featured Products page is a great place to start! Please take a look through our featured options to find your perfect match, and check out our blog for tips and tricks on maximizing your time in the gym.
Make the most of your workouts by adding BCAA supplements to your daily routine today!