In this review, we will present you with a detailed buyer’s guide of the best BCAA powder supplements in 2018.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are among the most efficient ways of gaining muscle and strength and losing fat quickly. Studies have shown that BCAA metabolites represent one of the key indicators of lean mass, especially for the young and middle aged population group.
But, for starters, what are BCAAs? Well, the term itself refers to the three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The word “essential” in this case is denoting the fact that the human body cannot produce them by itself. While a muscle cell is composed of around 20 types of amino acids, only one-third of those rank among BCAAs.
If you would like to get the maximum results from your workout regime, let us take you on a tour of the top BCAA supplements on the market today. Mind you, these products are not just there to “build muscle and lose fat”. Of course, that is one of their important jobs. But you should also grasp these supplements’ preventive significance, as they help prevent muscle damage.
Table of Contents
Before you read on – and in case you were wondering – branched chain amino acids have been subject of extensive research and studies. They represent a perfectly safe supplement, with no known side effects to using them as part of your workout routine.
Our list of products compiled for 2018 does not contain strict recommendations regarding daily dosage. This will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions, your workout routine, and what you’re trying to accomplish with it, whether you are also trying to lose weight, etc. There are many factors involved, but we do urge you to follow the instructions closely. Also, if necessary, consult your personal trainer and/or medical professional.
Finally, be advised that your supplements should be stored in a dark, cool and dry area.
This list will contain some of the products we deemed the most worthy of your attention when it comes to BCAA supplements in 2018.
|BPI Sports Best BCAA Powder|
|BulkSupplements BCAA Powder|
|Scivation Xtend BCAAs|
|Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine|
|ON BCAA Powder|
|Betancourt Plus Series BCAA|
|BCAA Energy Evlution Nutrition|
|Dymatize Nutrition BCAA Complex 5050|
|MP BCAA 3:1:2|
Best BCAA is considered a highly effective supplement for everyone aiming to develop muscle mass. It is an amino acid supplement using the Oligopeptide-Enzymatic Technology. This formula is designed to provide a more adequate transport for quick absorption. What this practically means is that you will reduce recovery time after a workout session, as well as boost your performance itself.
It supports muscle and strength-building, by relying on leucine, isoleucine, and valine, an amino acid combo that helps decrease protein catabolism. These come in a 2:1:1 ratio, with one scoop of the supplement containing 5 grams of amino acids. The supplement also contains the CLA matrix (conjugated linolenic acid), consisting of safflower, avocado and coconut oil (powdered) which, according to some studies, can account for fat loss. It also contains 250 mg of agmatine sulfate, namely a metabolite of L-Arginine which can be linked to boosting performance during a workout.
The Oligopeptide-Enzymatic formula practically helps concentrate and combine the three amino acids in a way that ups the recovery of your muscles and increases lean muscle building. This specific combination of amino acids is not produced in our body naturally. Hence, to increase the synthesis of protein and muscle growth, we need to supplement them.
As for flavors, this product comes in more than a dozen sugar-free flavors that will help you hydrate adequately pre, during and post-workout. The manufacturer recommends taking one scoop before, during, or after training. Furthermore, they recommend up to 3 daily servings.
This product comes from a reputable sports nutrition enterprise, BPI Sports, located in Florida. They have built a steady reputation for an accessible range of products including protein powders and bars. However, they have also branched out in the field of supplements and now boast a rather diverse product line.
This product from BulkSupplements impresses with its simplicity and straightforward nature. No wonder that it ranks rather high on most online best seller items’ lists.
In terms of ingredients, it consists of the building blocks of what BCAA represents. Amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, in a 2:1:1 ratio. This ratio, as we’ve come to learn, is the foundation of creating a supplement that will truly build your muscle with the optimal nutrition. It will also help you achieve faster and easier recovery. Lab tests have shown that BulkSupplements BCAA Powder contains up to 96% amino acids. Bear in mind that some manufacturers will gladly go the route of decreasing the content of the main product for the sake of profit. They will compensate the lack of, say, amino acids with some filler materials or heavy metals. Again, with that in mind, the 96% of amino acids contained in this supplement is indeed impressive. With each serving of BulkSupplements BCAA Powder, you will get 1.4 g of BCAA. This is another major benefit you will be getting if using this manufacturer.
Furthermore, this product also does not contain any GMO or any the following: soy, dairy, sugar, gluten, yeast, additives. It does, however, contain a small amount of lecithin which has the purpose of an emulsifier. But, generally speaking, it contains no unnecessary ingredients, which is what you should be looking for in a BCAA supplement.
As for usage, the manufacturer advises you to take this product half an hour prior to your workout. Alternatively, you can also take it half an hour thereafter, preferably with a meal.
In addition, this supplement is lab tested and certified as a filler-less pure BCAA powder. It will provide you with reliable supplementation of the three basic amino acids not produced by our body, reduce soreness and improve recovery time.
Last but not least, it is rather inexpensive, making it a true best-buy option.
This product comes from a reputable manufacturer from North Carolina.
As a company, Scivation dedicates much of its efforts to low-calorie products and supplements. However, their main products are indeed BCAAs. Xtend comes in the form of fluid, capsules and the regular supplement powder.
The Xtend supplement consists of the leucine, isoleucine and valine combo, with the standard 2:1:1 ratio. Apart from that, it contains 2.5 g of L-glutamine which is also an amino acid. This addition was not welcomed by all experts. Namely, since this amino acid is already well-represented in the human body, some do not consider it a powerful muscle builder. Still, given its positive effects on gastrointestinal health, we cannot object to its inclusion.
Also, there is 1 gram of citrulline malate which is said to benefit your circulatory system, as well as a 1.17 g electrolyte blend containing potassium chloride, trisodium citrate dihydrate, and sodium chloride. In addition to this, it contains 220 mg of sodium and 170 mg of potassium, along with 32% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B6.
Also important: the supplement has been marked as containing zero calories. It has no sugar, or carbs whatsoever.
This product also ranks among the inexpensive BCAAs. With the Xtend, you will get 7 g per one scoop. When compared to many of the other BCAAs, this comes as one of the best gram-price ratios by far.
As for the ingredients’ purpose: the added vitamin B6, loads of electrolytes, and citrulline malate may boost circulation and muscle retention. The abundance of electrolytes will also help you keep hydrated before, during and after your workout.
And another benefit, depending on your workout routine: it does not contain any stimulants or caffeine, so you can use this supplement at any time.
Scivation Xtend BCAAs comes in a variety of flavors. Most are artificially sweetened, however, there is also a naturally flavored one.
Overall, this manufacturer’s products are focused on two main goals: recovery and repair. In that regard, this specific supplement does not disappoint.
The “transparent” part of this brand’s name is a major selling point. The market is saturated with certain products where you’re never sure what you will be getting. Namely, there are many products which aim to make profits by simply increasing the number of servings in order for you to get the desired and necessary amino acid dosage. With that in mind, it is highly rewarding to pick a product from a manufacturer who delivers on its promise, and then some.
Transparent Labs, with its BCAA Glutamine supplement, provides 8 grams of branched chain amino acids as the main ingredient. Since the average in similar products hovers around 3-5 grams, this is an exceptional result. Some tests have indicated that a dose of 7 g and above significantly reduces the possibility of muscle damage. Therefore, with its 8 g dosage, Transparent Labs have obviously taken this into account. They have also considered the fact that such a ratio boosts the capacity of carrying oxygen.
All the ingredients rely on relevant research, as does their dosage. The five main active ingredients are put together so as to increase synthesis of protein. Apart from that, they decrease muscle fatigue and help muscle growth after the workout, while also boosting your performance in the process.
The five main ingredients include leucine, isoleucine, valine, glutamine and coconut water extract. Together, they bring forth an effective mix designed to accelerate fat loss and reduce muscle damage, among other things.
Glutamine, being the most represented amino acid in our body, has its major significance among the ingredients. Despite its abundance, studies have shown that workout sessions can result in a decrease of glutamine levels. Hence, supplementing this amino acid was found to have a positive effect. That way, you can reduce fatigue and improve recovery.
As for the 1 g addition of coconut water powder, the idea behind it is to replenish all the electrolytes you lose during a strenuous workout.
Regarding its price, this supplement by Transparent Labs is very much in accord with other similar products and its competitors. All said, it comes highly recommended.
Another straight-up BCAA supplement with no unnecessary ingredients comes from Optimum Nutrition. This company, of course, is a household name on the supplement market, best known for their best-selling protein powder Gold Standard Whey.
Optimum Nutrition has announced its BCAA powder as its very first Instantized Formula, available in its flavored or unflavored variety.
As with most of the BCAA supplements manufacturers, this brand also comes with the 2:1:1 ratio (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). This blend brings you a 5 g combo of the three essential Branched Chain Amino Acids. What clearly sets it apart from some of the competition is the high content of amino acids in this product. It amounts to more than 98% of the product’s weight. Thus, they provide the desired anabolic and anticatabolic effects for the daily gym user.
Apart from the three main ingredients, the supplement contains a mixture of lecithin, soybean oil, and some silicon dioxide. These serve the purpose of building an emulsion as the product is being blended into a protein shake, for example. The silicone dioxide helps avoid clumps of powder to form. The added ingredients, for all their practicality, may be a barrier to overcome for a supplement purist. Especially those who tend to avoid any kind of soy ingredients in their diets.
Finally, as a side note, the Optimum Nutrition BCAA also comes in the form of capsules, via its Optimum Nutrition 1000 BCAA Capsules package. For consumers seeking to rid themselves of any additional ingredients, flavorings, and colors, this might be the way to go. Namely, the capsule contains pretty much just 1 gram of BCAAs, in the common 2:1:1 ratio, and nothing else. And not to mention the fact that going with capsules will result in a much lower price.
Still, other users might have an issue with getting their dosage right, if grown accustomed to BCAA powder.
This Florida-based company has a broad spectrum of products, ranging from fat-burners to testosterone-boosters. In this case, however, we will focus on their amino acid supplement – the Plus Series. Betancourt takes pride in being a company founded by athletes, making products for athletes. With this supplement, they intend to help athletes with protein synthesis, muscle retention, muscle soreness and recovery, and hydration. In a nutshell: with the post-workout process as a whole.
Unlike most BCAA supplements, Betancourt has chosen a slightly different path with this product. Namely, the BCAA mixture is designed according to a 4:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. With this approach, they put more emphasis on leucine, arguing that with this ratio, it gains in absorption ability, and overall enhancing protein synthesis. In total, one serving of this supplement will provide you with 6 g of amino acids, organized as described above.
Apart from the essentials, other ingredients include: Vitamin B6 (100% of recommended daily value), Vitamin B12 (500%), as well as zinc (147%). Also, the product contains potassium and sodium (1 percent of daily value). Vitamin B6 has been added in particular for the purpose of muscle retention, while B12 has shown to act as an energy booster. Zinc is rarely found in these kinds of supplements. However, it is a welcome addition, as research has shown that it corresponds with increased production of testosterone.
Finally, this supplement boasts the so-called “Hydration +Plus Blend” which consists of taurine and Sustamine (1.5 g). It is also a very welcome addition. On the other hand, it contains no caffeine. This makes it perhaps not as suitable for pre-exercise use. Still, this will mainly depend on your routine and habits.
On the downside, this supplement is a bit pricey and the packaging provides no information about the calorie contents. Still, the Betancourt Plus Series BCAA does bring a lot to the table. You are just well-advised to make sure that the ingredients and their design suit your specific needs.
Ingredients for this product are simple, transparently laid out, with no proprietary blends or fillers, which is always great. As for specifics, the BCAA Energy offers the standard 2:1:1 BCAA Matrix (L-Leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-Valine).
As per the manufacturer’s instructions, you can use this product before, during or after a workout. Its main goal is to provide you with endurance, muscle recovery, enhance your performance and help you build muscle more effectively.
Apart from the main ingredients, it also contains beta-alanine (to boost endurance), caffeine, vitamins, taurine, which can decrease muscle cramps, etc. The product contains no calories and no carbs.
The vitamins included will provide 150% of your recommended daily dosage of vitamin C and 500 % for vitamins B12 and B6. Also, studies have shown the latter to be an energy booster.
This supplement offers 5 g of BCAA in one serving – this is worth noting and considering in advance. You will eventually have to decide for yourself, i.e., whether this dosage suits your workout routine and habits. However, we cannot deny the neat and transparent labeling. Every single ingredient is accounted for, by the gram – something that is sorely missed in the case of some other manufacturers.
Whether the added caffeine (110 mg extracted from green tea and coffee bean) suits you, will depend on your workout habits. As the amount corresponds to an average serving of coffee, we see it as a welcome addition. Still, it probably renders this product more convenient for daily usage.
Lastly, the price of this product is also very reasonable, as it compares very well with other similar supplements.
This product is another simple, quality made BCAA supplement. It consists of an industry-standard 2:1:1 mixture of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This makes for just over 5 grams of BCAAs which serve the strict purpose of building muscle and enhancing recovery.
Other than that, ingredients include the anti-clumping agent silicon dioxide which makes sure the powder is dissolvable and makes it easy to mix pre-workout.
Generally speaking, unlike some other products, this supplement does keep things simple. Therefore, the manufacturer did not include additions such as glutamine, electrolytes or vitamins.
The supplement is suitable for pre- or post-workout use, although some athletes prefer using it during their sessions. As it mixes very well with water (or any beverage, for that matter), this product makes for an ideal companion during your workouts.
The Dymatize Nutrition BCAA Complex 5050 is gluten-free and comes in a variety of flavors, i.e., as a flavored and unflavored version. If using the unflavored version, we might suggest mixing it with a sports drink for better taste. Also, if you are after the additional electrolytes that this supplement lacks, this could be an alternative.
If you are looking for a simple solution concentrating just on essential BCAA’s, and skipping on additional ingredients, this very well might be your product. Lastly, and on top of everything, this supplement is also very cost-effective.
The supplement manufacturer is MusclePharm and is based in Colorado. It is a rather reputable company, well-respected among the bodybuilding community, best known for products from their “Combat” line, such as the Combat Crunch protein bars. However, with this BCAA supplement, they have made a strong case on this side of the market, too.
With regard to the ingredients, other than the BCAAs, it’s pretty much a simple affair.
The MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2, as its name suggests, relies on a different ratio of its main ingredients. So, leucine, isoleucine, and valine come in a 3:1:2 ratio. As we’ve learned, these are the key amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. The ratio was thus designed to provide additional amino acids for your body so that it can build muscle. Practical usage has shown this supplement to be the most effective when used after a workout.
Other than the BCAAs, the supplement contains malic acid and other flavoring ingredients, sucralose (sweetener), silicon dioxide (anti-caking ingredient) and fruit and vegetable juice as coloring agents.
As for its overall effectiveness, this supplement has scored some respectable results. It can help build lean body mass, as well as decrease catabolic muscle breakdown. Additionally, it might provide a helping hand in workout regimes which target weight loss.
Concerning its different flavors, the supplement can be bought in the form of powder or capsule. Flavors include blue raspberry, watermelon, as well as an unflavored variety.
And, on another positive note, this product ranks among the relatively inexpensive ones, while still delivering the goods.
The BSN acronym denotes “bio-engineered supplements and nutrition”. The company itself hails from Illinois. It is known for sponsorship deals with numerous athletes and bodybuilders, such as UFC champ Connor McGregor.
Leucine, valine, and isoleucine, the three main amino acids are included in AMINOx’s rather large serving (14.5 g!). The manufacturer also claims that you will be getting 10 g of BCAAs per serving. We’ll come back to that later.
First of all, we should note that the main BCAAs are also followed by l-alanine, taurine, and l-citrulline, among others. The inclusion of l-alanine, for instance, aims to increase nitric oxide, while taurine was added to boost recovery time and lessen muscle cramps. Finally, the addition of l-citrulline is for enhanced circulation. Experts agree that these are welcome additions, substantiated by scientific research rather than just throwing ingredients in for the sake of profits as has been apparent in some cases.
AMINOx contains no caffeine, but it does hold a considerable measure of vitamin D. Also, it comes in five different flavors.
Although the product ingredients’ list suggests a rather scientific approach, there are downsides as well. Namely, the packaging does not specify the exact amount of each of the BCAAs. This might be a deal-breaker, especially for the athlete or bodybuilder seeking a very precise dosage when taking their supplements.
If you do not mind this, nor the fact that it includes artificial sweeteners and soy, this product might be interesting for you. Especially since it comes at a very competitive price.
Here we will address a couple of products that did not make our list but certainly deserve to be part of the conversation:
Do Vitamins BCAA arrive in the form of capsules. Therefore we excluded them from our main list that covered BCAA powder supplements. However, this product is worthy of inclusion in this discussion. Namely, its ingredients include the usual suspects for an effective BCAA supplement: L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine (2:1:1 ratio). This supplement is being branded as the “purest natural BCAA”, containing no animal product whatsoever. Thus, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans who might not be getting enough protein via their regular diet. Also, you can use it pre- or post-workout.
This product aims to prevent muscle breakdown, provide faster recovery periods and, of course, enhance protein synthesis. In addition, this supplement is GMO- and gluten-free, containing no additives or fillers.
This supplement comes from a company mainly dedicating its products to women’s fitness programs, which includes BCAAs.
Overall, it will provide you with a supplement of leucine, isoleucine, and valine in the standard ratio (2:1:1), with 5 g of BCAAs per serving. As the manufacturer claims, IdealLean BCAAs for Women features several targeted ingredients that help burn fat and act as a metabolism booster. Also, it comes free of calories. Interesting additions include vitamins B12, B9 and B6, as well as magnesium and coconut water powder. The product also contains the so-called IdealLean Fat Loss Blend – aimed to improve circulation and fat loss.
This product certainly has a lot to offer. Nevertheless, some experts find the ingredients’ list to be too crowded and lacking the focus necessary to create the desired effect. Still, if viewed purely as a BCAA supplement, this is certainly a solid product.
The biggest sources of amino acids are, generally speaking, milk, dairy, soy and red meat. But after we take those into our system, their “first stop” is our liver which uses them to produce energy if it lacks another source. Hence, they cannot be used for the purpose of muscle-building every time. However, Branched-Chain Amino Acids are an exception, since our liver sends them directly into our muscles. Unlike other amino acids, they can be used directly.
As a result, BCAAs secure muscle energy and performance during a workout, while building muscle cells in the post-workout period. Thus, the most common period for using BCAA supplements is before and after a workout.
As for the specific properties of the essential amino acids, studies have shown leucine to be the most effective out of the three. It directly stimulates protein synthesis while also supporting the production of growth hormone. Isoleucine, on the other hand, also supports the development of muscle, helps recovery and contributes to lean body mass. Finally, valine helps supply our muscles with the energy they require.
With this list, we intended to provide you with a comprehensive palette of choices. Hopefully, after having read it, as well as the introduction of BCAAs, you are now prepared to make some decisions.
The most important thing you can do is be aware of your body. It may sound silly and self-explanatory, but it all boils down to that. Sure, you will get all the relevant info and get your supplements accordingly. But at the end of the day, it is your body that has to work with them to produce the best results. So, listen to it! And don’t be afraid to mix things up as you go along until you have found the perfect supplement solution for your workout and your body.
Good luck and happy exercising!
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Liam is a 23-year old student. He has dedicated his time to compile these product reviews and product guides on DB Strength to help consumers determine their best purchasing options. Avidly involved with fitness, Liam spends much of his time working out and testing top health products to provide expert opinions available on this website.