There are a handful of supplement varieties that have become commonplace on any countertop or within any cabinet of the loyal gym-goer. Protein is a hearty, muscle-building staple designed to boost your macro intake. Pre-workout is a popular supplement as well, serving as a great energy source for rallying through even the toughest workouts. In the middle of these two nutrition heavyweights is another supplement category that should be known by all: Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs as they’re generally dubbed, can provide a litany of benefits to the dedicated enthusiast. From enhancing muscle growth to the potential for fat loss to increased focus and more, there’s plenty to boast about when it comes to BCAAs. Unfortunately, however, finding the right BCAA in the cornucopia of available supplements can be more difficult than an RPE 10 deadlift.
With years of supplementation experience under our belt and a good understanding of how certain products should affect performance, we’ve scoured the shelves to determine the best BCAA powders for any training routine. Before we dive into the roundup of these essential fitness supplements, though, let’s get a little background on these health-inspired building blocks.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs are comprised of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, taking their name from their branched chemical structure which differs from other common amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which play heavily in muscle, bone and overall health. What makes these “essential” is the fact that our bodies cannot create them, therefore, they must be consumed through your diet, whether that be through proper nutrition or supplementation.
Typically, you’ll see BCAA powders with a ratio on the label. This indicates the ratio between each BCAA in the mixture. Because leucine has a higher oxidation rate, this will generally be the larger number in the listed ratio. While there are some that differ, a good rule of thumb is to choose a BCAA powder with a 2:1:1 ratio, meaning the supplement contains two parts leucine to every one part isoleucine and valine.
What are the Benefits of BCAA Powders?
As stated previously, BCAAs have a number of positives going for them. Because they play such a pivotal role in protein synthesis, they carry a number of benefits, including:
- Improved muscle growth
- Boosted muscle retention
- Lessened fatigue
- Increased recovery time
Naturally, however, every supplement’s performance is subjective, meaning the results you read about might not be felt in your experience. for the best results possible, make sure your normal eating habits are in proper order before turning to supplements for these potential additions.
The Relationship Between BCAAs and Your Diet
While BCAAs cannot be constructed by our bodies, this doesn’t mean that supplementation is the only way to consume them. Despite the popularity of this supplement category, you’re more than capable of ingesting healthy amounts of BCAAs through a well-regimented diet plan. If you’re eating meals that contain a good dose of protein, you might not need to supplement with BCAAs. But for those that aren’t as strict with their daily portions — or for those that want those muscle-boosting qualities — BCAA powders can be an easy, effective way to maximize your training results with a few rattles of a shaker cup.
How We Tested
With decades spent in the gym pursuing our ideal physique, we’ve had plenty of experience with BCAA powders through the years. This list was compiled from those findings, as well as testing a fresh assortment of brands new to the scene. We highlighted how we felt when using each BCAA powder while also noting key components, such as easy-to-read nutritional facts, key additives, and, above all else, taste.
Editor’s Note: The prices listed below indicate packages containing 30 servings unless otherwise noted.
BEST OVERALL BCAA POWDER
EVLution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder
- No frills BCAA supplement that gets the job done
- EVLution Nutrition offers plenty of deals year-round for money-saving perks
- Flavoring can be overpowering in some varieties
- Must been shaken well for a full blend
With a wide assortment of flavors and a trimmed-down list of ingredients, BCAA 5000 from EVLution Nutrition is a can’t-miss supplement. Each scoop contains five grams of muscle-boosting BCAAs, and we’ve really enjoyed the energy retention experienced in-between sets. Plus, EVL is constantly running deals and promotions, so you’re easily able to get this supplement at a lower price point, which is why we’ve been turning to BCAA 5000 for many years. As with any nutritional powder, though, make sure to shake it properly in your bottle.
BEST UPGRADE BCAA POWDER
Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 + Electrolytes
- Includes 1 gram of glutamine for better prevent muscle breakdown
- 60 servings included in one container for extended training between purchases
- Only one available flavor
- Contains artificial flavorings
Aside from the fact that we just can’t resist a good gym pun, Swolverine has quickly become one of our favorite BCAA supplements. Each serving contains a proper 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs with an added boost of glutamine for better recovery and electrolytes for hydration. While you can take this supplement anytime in relation to your training, we really enjoyed the lemon-lime concoction during our workouts as opposed to pre- or post-training. The only true downfall? If you’re not a fan of lemon lime, you’re out of luck, as Swolverine’s BCAA powder only comes in one flavor at this time.
Editor’s Note: The price indicates a 60-serving container, Swolverine’s lone size option.
BEST BUDGET BCAA POWDER
XTEND Original BCAA Powder
- 7 grams of BCAAs per serving
- Contains citrulline malate, which could help improve circulation
- Lack of stimulants limits pre-workout benefits
- Uses artificial flavorings
Why search through countless containers when you can just go with one of the most trusted BCAAs on the market? Delivering an impressive 7 grams of BCAAs per serving, Xtend has been providing muscle-boosting benefits for over 15 years. We found Xtend helped reduce our recovery time between workouts, and every flavor is extremely tasty. While each offering contains zero sugars, this BCAA powder does use artificial flavorings, though, which could be a deterrent for some fitness enthusiasts. With that said, however, this reasonably-priced supplement can be a great addition to any novice gym-goer’s daily intake.
BEST BCAA POWDER FOR HYDRATION
Vital Performance Recover
- Collagen peptides for multiple muscle, skin and bone benefits
- NSF certification ensures supplement safety
- Proprietary blend hies true dosage of BCAAs
- Premium pricing for less than 30 servings per container
Ever have that parched feeling when you’re working out? Sure, a sip of water could do the trick, but what if you combined the hydrating properties of electrolytes with the muscle-retaining qualities of BCAAs? Vital Performance Recover from Vital Proteins does just that in a flavorful powder designed for post-workout recovery. While slightly more expensive than others on this list, we easily quenched our thirst after long sessions thanks to this supplement. Additionally, the included collagen peptides are a nice touch, and promote better muscle, bone and skin health. A well-rounded product that packs plenty of mouth-watering goodness in every scoop.
Editor’s Note: The price indicates a 21-serving container.
BEST VEGAN BCAA POWDER
Naked Nutrition Naked BCAAs
- Unflavored profile, allowing for a variety of drink combinations
- Fast-absorption rate for noticeable, quick benefits
- Some users have noticed a unique smell to the powder
- Unflavored may not be the best for everyone
Fast-dissolving and free of artificial additives, Naked’s BCAA supplement gives plenty of performance-enhancing support to those with more restrictive diets. Containing just five ingredients, this bare-boned powder is great for vegan fitness enthusiasts looking to improve their recovery time and muscle development. Plus, every container holds roughly 100 servings, making this an exceptionally budget-friendly nutritional addition, too — even if you don’t follow the vegan lifestyle.
Editor’s Note: The price indicates a 100-serving container, Naked’s lone size option.
BEST PRE-WORKOUT BCAA POWDER
Transparent Labs Lean
- Great pre-workout for those susceptible to caffeine or energy blends
- Third-party tested for impurities
- Fat loss components can be underwhelming
- Proprietary blend doesn’t give transparent BCAA dosages
BCAAs are generally suited for intra- or post-workout usage, but that doesn’t mean your pre-workout powders can’t harness their muscle-building benefits. In our testing, we enjoyed Transparent Labs’ Lean formula the most. With 2.5 grams of BCAAs per serving, this allowed for enough support without overtaking the general purpose of the supplement, which leans more so into energy and alertness. While Transparent Labs does pride itself on visible nutritional facts — we do appreciate that Lean is third-party tested for impurities — the BCAA blend is still a proprietary blend, meaning you don’t know for certain how much leucine, isoleucine and valine are included in each serving.
BEST INTRA-WORKOUT BCAA POWDER
Animal Juiced Aminos
- Exceptional flavors make filling up between sets effortless
- 6 grams of amino acids per serving
- Tart flavors could be overwhelming for some
- Proprietary blends don’t give a full picture of ingredients
If there’s one brand we’ve been more than loyal to over the years, it’s Animal. The New Jersey-based brand has prided itself on no-frills execution for the sole purpose of bettering your in-gym performance. Juiced aminos has been a staple of our intra-workout regimen thanks to its impressive amino acid dosage of 6 grams. Every flavor is enjoyable between sets, although they do carry a bit of tartness, which could deter some gym goers. We’d like to see a more detailed nutritional list — there are a handful of proprietary blends — but we trust this performance-driven brand, and would highly recommend Juiced Aminos for any intra-workout refreshment.
BEST POST-WORKOUT BCAA POWDER
Jym Supplement Science Post Jym BCAAs + Recovery Matrix
- 3:1:1 BCAA ratio
- Thoughtful inclusions such as creatine hydrochloride and taurine
- Recommended 32 ounces can make for a large post-workout drink
- Premium pricing
After you’ve put in a monster session, you want to make sure that the work you just endured pays off, right? With a slew of ingredients designed to maximize your results, Post Jym can help you achieve such a feat. With a boosted 3:1:1 BCAA ratio — as well as other ingredients like creatine monohydrate for muscle size and taurine for reduced muscle cramps — this post-workout recovery shake has it all. Be prepared, however, to sip on this for a while, as the instructions call for 16–32 ounces of water for proper blending.
BEST BCAA POWDER FOR ENDURANCE TRAINING
BSN AminoX BCAA
- 10 grams of BCAAs and more essential ingredients
- Mixes easily for quick, efficient consumption
- Contains soy, limiting inclusivity
- Actual dosage of each BCAA is not listed
If you’re in it for the long haul, your supplements should support your enduring training routine. BSN’s AminoX delivers an efficient 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs with an overall profile designed to propel your workouts forward. L-taurine is included to help prevent muscle cramps, while L-citrulline can keep the blood pumping through every PR-pushing rep. Choose from the four available flavors can lock in for those training days where the clock is an afterthought.
BEST BCAA POWDER FOR STRENGTH TRAINING
Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
- 8 grams of BCAAs per serving
- Features glutamine for improved muscle growth
- Limited flavor offerings
- Higher price per serving than others on this list
It’s kind of in the name, isn’t it? Huge BCAA is designed with the strength athlete in mind, boasting an impressive profile that caters to those wanting that muscle-bound physique. 8 grams of BCAAs, as well as the convenient glutamine and coconut water, can improve your muscle retention and recovery. This means that getting back to the plates for continued growth is an easier endeavor than with other supplements. While the price is steeper than other options, if you want to pack on the pounds and flex out of your workout shirts, this is the BCAA powder for you.
Editor’s Note: The price indicates a 25-serving container.
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