One of the key roles in sports nutrition is given to amino acids.
Among them, BCAA complexes are traditionally the most popular among people that are practicing strength sports, fitness or any other type of sports.
If you are one of them, when you go out to the market (no matter how you prefer shopping: online or offline) for BCAA, how do you actually pick one for yourself if all the bottles write BCCA?
In today’s post, I will be discussing the BCAAs, their importance, and the most popular supplements out there.
Ultimately, this is going to be a post that gives the answer to the question: What is the best BCAA supplement?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is BCAA and Why a Bodybuilder Needs Them?
- 2 BCAA Benefits
- 3 BCAA Downside
- 4 Types of BCAAs
- 5 Forms of Release
- 6 How to Take BCAA Supplements?
- 7 2 Most Common Mistakes When Choosing BCCA
- 8 Best BCAA Supplements Reviewed
- 8.1 Powder Form
- 8.2 1. Ultimate Nutrition BCAA Powder
- 8.3 2. AllMax BCAA
- 8.4 3. Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder
- 8.5 4. Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder
- 8.6 5. Scivation XTEND Sports BCAA Powder
- 8.7 6. Olimp Nutrition BCAA Xplode Powder
- 8.8 7. Scitec Nutrition
- 8.9 Capsules
- 8.10 1. Optimum Nutrition BCCA
- 8.11 2. MuscleTech Platinum BCAA Pill
- 8.12 3. Raw Barrel’s Pure BCAA Tablets
- 8.13 4. Inner Armour Amino Blitz Peak BCAA
- 8.14 Liquid Form
- 8.15 1. Nutrend BCAA Liquid Shot
- 9 Concluding Thoughts
What is BCAA and Why a Bodybuilder Needs Them?
BCAA is a unique complex of three essential amino acids with a branched side chain structure, specifically Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
They act as a building material for muscle tissue and more than 30% of human muscles are composed of these amino-acids.
The term “essential” itself means that the body is not capable of synthesizing these substances on its own and can only receive them with food.
These amino acids are present in the composition of the protein, which can be obtained from the food of animal and vegetable origin. The biggest amount of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine is found in dairy and meat products.
For example, the consumption of 200-250 grams of beef or other meat completely covers the daily requirement for BCAAs. Also, these amino acids are present in higher concentrations in such products as chicken a
nd turkey liver, tuna, salmon, eggs, peanuts.
However, it takes 1,5 hours on average for the body to receive them from nutrition. This is long enough for athletes whose needs for BCAAs increase several times during the workout. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that the intake of amino acids should be seen as an addition to the main diet.
The deficiency of these amino acids leads to the destruction of muscle fibers. To make up for it, manufacturers of sports nutrition offer to take the already processed BCAA protein and almost immediately compensate for the needs of the body.
BCAA supplement is needed for two purposes:
- First of all, to restore the muscle damage (microtraumas) obtained during a workout. Taking a BCAA supplement shortens the time needed for muscle recovering.
- To prevent muscle breakdown. This is very actual for the cutting period when you have a deficit in calories and cut down the carbohydrates and your muscle tissue needs additional resources for nourishing.
BCAAs are metabolized, unlike other amino acids, not in the liver, but in the muscles, and therefore, they are considered the fastest digestible amino acid and “fuel” for the muscles.
Among these three amino acids, the most important is Leucine and it even could be found as a separate supplement. That is why it makes sense to increase the dose of Leucine.
BCAA has the following beneficial properties:
- Prevent muscle breakdown (catabolism) during both intense physical exertion, as well as when on a prolonged break from workouts;
- Stimulate and provide muscle growth;
- Facilitate recovery;
- Provide the body with energy, increase endurance;
- Contribute to the improvement of power indicators;
- Helps fight body fat;
- Enhances the effect of other sports supplements.
Therefore, BCAAs perform several useful functions at once and can be used with great success in gaining muscle mass, in losing weight, working on relief, and aerobic training.
The supplement increases endurance and strength, that is why some athletes may feel like they are capable of lifting more than usual and thus, they come to apply excessive loads.
This, in turn, can lead to tears, muscle strain, joint damage, therefore, it is not recommended to exceed the recommended daily dosage.
Types of BCAAs
Under the acronym BCAA, the packaging may conceal either amino acids themselves with a branched side chain structure, or a complex based on these amino acids with the addition of other auxiliary components, like other amino acids (L-Glutamine, for example), or electrolytes, and vitamins.
Recommended Read: What is The Best L-Glutamine Supplement?
Also, there are unflavored and flavored versions of BCAA. Flavored BCCAs are most suitable for using them during or after a workout when you can pamper yourself with a good-tasting drink.
Unflavored versions usually have a bitter taste and they contain more servings simply because you don’t pay additional money for added flavors and sweeteners.
Another common difference between BCAA supplements is the different ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine in them.
The classic version is 2: 1: 1, and this formula is considered to be the most effective for starting muscle synthesis and energy reproduction.
There are also 4: 1: 1, 6: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1 and even 12:1:1, and you may find different opinions regarding whether a higher dose of Leucine is better than the classical one.
I personally think that Leucine should be always more, than Isoleucine and Valine, but not by too much, although it is considered the main branched-chain-amino-acid.
Forms of Release
Forms of release are the same as for the rest of sports nutrition supplements. These are powder, tablets, capsules, and liquid form.
There is no difference between these in terms of the speed of assimilation, they all work at approximately the same rate. There might be a slight difference in the assimilation of tablets (more slowly) if to compare with capsules and powder form.
Instead, the most important factor here is the price and ease of use.
When you buy BCAA in capsules or tablets, keep in mind that you always pay a higher price for your comfort.
In order to take capsules or tablets, there is no need to dilute them in water or use any kind of tableware and that is why this is considered to be the most convenient form.
The amount of BCAA that you will get in capsules/tablets will be always less than in the powder form.
To meet the daily requirements, often there is a need to take twice as much as the manufacturer has indicated on the label. Usually, this may be up to 10 capsules/tablets.
Capsules and tablets are more expensive but more convenient to take.
For this reason, the most popular option is powder. It is cheaper and usually has a higher concentration of BCAA per serving.
At the same time, there is a common issue that most athletes may encounter is that when you dilute the powder in a shaker bottle, most of the powders form chunks or remain on the shaker sides.
This may lead, again, to waste some amount of the product.
This issue may be overcome in the most simple way which is when you take a spoon of the product into your mouth and wash it down with enough amount of water.
In this way, you make sure that none of the product has been wasted. Although this maybe not the most comfortable way and if you prefer more comfy ways, then I would suggest using a blender.
But keep in mind though that this adds up in the price.
How to Take BCAA Supplements?
In order to understand how to correctly take BCAAs and obtain the maximum benefit from them, as well as to not throw away your money uselessly, it is helpful to know how these are digested.
The fact is that they are absorbed directly in the intestines and this means that they don’t need to be processed the way as a usual unprocessed protein.
Taking into account that these are amino acids, they have the capacity to kind of compete with each other for digesting.
The suggested dose of BCAA for athletes is between 4-6 g per serving. If you will take more than 6 g of BCAA at once, most probably, there will be a surplus of undigested amino acids.
That is why I would suggest you to not overtake BCAAs as this will not bring you any better result in terms of muscle building, but will make you spend more money on BCAA supplements which I bet you don’t want to.
The best way is to consume BCAA is before the workout, during the workout and right after the workout.
Also, it is very important to take BCAA immediately after waking up, as the level of cortisol (which leads to muscle destruction) is the highest in the morning, because at night during sleep our body goes hungry for a long time.
2 Most Common Mistakes When Choosing BCCA
#1. Not Reading the BCAA Supplement Label Pack
If you are choosing the BCAA supplement just for the fact that on the package writes BCAA and you don’t read carefully the content and nutrition information, you are making great disfavor to yourself.
I suggest you always read the BCAA supplement label because some of the BCAA supplements are pure BCAA and some other contain other added components, like, for example, Caffeine or Taurine.
If you don’t know this and take this BCCA before going to bed, you are not going to fall asleep and will don’t even know why.
#2. Don’t Know How Much of BCAA You Get in Each Product
This mistake also results from mistake #1. If you are not reading the label of the BCAA supplement, you don’t know how much of BCAA you actually get in each product.
For example, in the case of pure BCAA, if the label states that you get 5 g of BCAA. you actually know that you will take 5 g of BCAA.
In the case of BCAAs enhanced with other ingredients, the label may state that you get 10 g of product, but here is the catch that of this 10 g, only 5 g will be BCAAs, and the remaining part – other components in the product.
Thus, 50% of the product will not be BCAA, but other components, like sweeteners, additives, etc.
Reading the pack label actually gives you the knowledge for what you are paying your money.
Best BCAA Supplements Reviewed
Below is the review of the best BCAA supplements in powder form. If you are in a hurry, go to #1 product in this list as this is my #1 choice when it comes to BCAA supplements in the powder form.
Otherwise, I would suggest going through the entire review to choose a BCAA supplement that better serves your individual fitness goal and needs.
1. Ultimate Nutrition BCAA Powder
This is Ultimate Nutrition BCAA Powdered in its purest form. Unlike most sports products labeled on the BCAA package, there are no other active substances besides those listed above.
The same material for growing muscles in the optimal proportion of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine 2: 1: 1.
One serving of this BCAA is 6 g and the ratio is as follows:
- Leucine – 3000 mg;
- Isoleucine – 1500 mg;
- Valine – 1500 mg.
The main advantages:
- Pure BCAA per serving;
- Optimal Concentration;
- Excellent Value for Money and Quality;
- Money-Back Guarantee.
- Bitter Taste.
There are different flavors in this BCAA (Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Fruit Punch, Grape, Lemon Lime, Orange, Pink Lemonade, Ruby Red Candy, Watermelon, and Natural), so it’s easy to pick one for your taste.
The size pack is also very convenient for every need and budget: there are packs of 30, 34 and 60 servings.
Ultimate Nutrition provides a 100% money-back guarantee. Ultimate Nutrition products are developed in the United States and undergo rigorous testing and quality control.
If you’re not completely satisfied with this product, you are free to return it for a full refund.
Overall, Ultimate Nutrition BCAA Powder 12000 promotes an accelerated recovery process, has excellent anti-catabolic and anabolic effects.
2. AllMax BCAA
This is BCAA powder from the Canadian brand AllMax. This amino acid complex is of pharmaceutical-grade production from high quality Japanese raw materials.
The ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine is 2: 1: 1 in the maximum concentration in an unflavored version. The amount of BCAA in a 5-gram serving is 5 g.
The main advantages of this BCAA:
- High-quality Product of a Pharmaceutical-grade;
- Micronized for Better Mixing with Liquid.
- Higher Price.
3. Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder
This BCAA supplement from Evlution Nutrition provides 5 grams of pure Branched Chain Amino Acids in the most optimal ratio of 2:1:1.
It contains zero sugars, carbohydrates, it is also a gluten-free product. The pack size is for 30 and 90 servings which are very convenient for every type of budget and fitness goal.
The product is manufactured in 9 different flavors, take a look at the picture below to see them:
However, if you are looking for an unflavored version, you are not going to find it at this BCAA supplement.
- High-quality Product;
- The Optimal BCAA ratio;
- Different Flavors;
- Affordable Price.
- No Unflavored Version;
- No Money-Back Guarantee.
4. Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder
This is an amino acid complex in classical composition and proportions: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine in a ratio of 2: 1: 1.
5 g of BCAA per serving is 5.7 g of unflavored powder. In flavored version (Fruit Punch and Orange), the BCAA concentration is lower – the same 5 g, but per almost 10-gram serving.
- High-quality product from a reputable brand;
- Micronized formula;
- Optimal BCAA ratio;
- Flavored&Unflavored version;
- Different package sizes;
- Affordable price.
- No Money-Back Guarantee;
- It contains Carbs and Sugars.
5. Scivation XTEND Sports BCAA Powder
This BCAA complex from Scivation offers a higher dose of amino-acids per serving – 7g. Thus, the concentration of each essential amino acid is as follows:
Leucine – 3500 mg;
Isoleucine – 1750 mg;
Valine – 1750 mg.
The thing that I like the most about this BCAA is that besides a higher dose of amino acids, it also provides an important electrolyte blend. Electrolytes are important for athletes in terms of hydration.
Another important aspect is that this BCAA has been tested and verified for purity and quality by the third-party NSF for Sports.
- Higher Dose of BCAAs;
- Pure Product;
- It contains Electrolytes and Coconut Powder;
- Doesn’t Contain Sugars &Carbs;
- Two Delicious Flavors (Blue Raspberry & Strawberry Kiwi);
- Third-party tested and verified (NSF Certification);
- Affordable Price.
- Only One Pack Size (345g);
- No Unflavored Version.
6. Olimp Nutrition BCAA Xplode Powder
This is BCAA made by a Polish brand. Olimp Nutrition Xplode provides 6 g of the highest-quality BCAA in each portion.
It is also enriched with L-Glutamine, one of the non-essential amino acids that helps the body to recover faster after heavy loads workouts.
The manufacturer recommends taking 1 to 2 portions a day during the day, before or after the workout, before meals, or before going to sleep.
Every single dose of BCAA Xplode should be dissolved in 200 ml of cold water and consumed immediately after preparation.
Xplode BCAA is available in 500 g jar, as well as 1000 g jar, which determines the final price of the product. Also, there are 8 different flavors to chose from, such as Cola, Lemon, Orange, Pineapple, Strawberry, Fruit Punch, Mojito, and Ice Tea Peach.
- Optimal BCAA ratio (2:1:1);
- Different Flavors;
- Different Package Size;
- Contains L-Glutamine.
- No Unflavored Version;
- No Money-Back Guarantee.
7. Scitec Nutrition
This is a Hungary brand and BCAA XPRESS contains a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
It is available in an unflavored version, as well as flavored such as Apple, Melon, Blood Orange, Pear, Pink Lemonade and Cola Lime.
Check the following chart to see what you get with the flavored and unflavored version:
The available packaging is:
280 g – 40 servings
700 g – 100 servings (unflavored)
500 g – 100 servings (flavored)
- Optimal BCAA ratio;
- European Standard Quality Product (HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) system, ISO 9001, FSSC (Food Safety System Certification), IFS Food (International Featured Standard), IFS logistic and GMP certificate).
- Different Package Sizes;
- Different Flavors, Including Unflavored.
- Not so Popular
- Few Customer’s Reviews.
Below is my review of the best BCAA supplements in the capsule form. Again, if you are in a hurry and would like to know which is my #1 pick for BCAA supplements in the capsule form, go to #2 in this list.
BCAA from MuscleTech is my choice, especially because I don’t have to take too many capsules in order to meet the daily requirements.
If you have the time, I encourage you to do your own research and go through the entire review so that you can pick a product that better suits your individual preferences.
1. Optimum Nutrition BCCA
This BCAA capsules from Optimum Nutrition provide the optimal BCAAs 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine.
These capsules are easy to use and cause no issue with swallowing.
The package is available in 60 counts, 200 counts, 400 count bottles that can serve anyone’s budget and fitness goal.
Each capsule of Optimum Nutrition delivers 0,5 g of BCAAs. The recommended daily intake by the manufacturer is 2 to 8 capsules in the morning, between meals and after training. But, in order to meet the daily requirements for that 5 g of BCAA, there is a need to take 10 capsules of this product.
If used before endurance training, the BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine can help spare muscle. If used after strength training, they help kick-start protein synthesis which plays an important role in muscle building.
- The Classic Version of BCAA ratio;
- Availability of Different Pack Sizes;
- 10 Capsules May Seem Like a Lot;
- No Money-Back Guarantee.
2. MuscleTech Platinum BCAA Pill
This product from MuscleTech provides a higher dose of Leucine per serving. Thus, the overall BCAA ratio is 8:1:1.
Each capsule contains 0,8 g of pure BCAAs and in order to meet the daily requirements, the manufacturer suggests to take 5 capsules.
- Higher Dose of Leucine;
- A Product from Reputable Brand;
- Affordable Price.
- No Money-Back Guarantee.
3. Raw Barrel’s Pure BCAA Tablets
In case you decide to buy this Raw Barrel’s Pure BCCA tablets, as a bonus, you will get a free digital guide to fitness.
Raw Barrel’s company provides a Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee. If you don’t see results or are not happy for any reason with this product, you can return it for a full refund.
- The Optimal Ratio of BCAAs;
- Laboratory tested product;
- Free Fitness E-book Guide;
- Money-back Guarantee.
- Not Found.
Actually, there is a sale on this product on Amazon nowadays, and there are even more benefits of buying this Raw Barrel’s BCAA supplement, which is saving more money!
4. Inner Armour Amino Blitz Peak BCAA
Moreover, it is enhanced with recovery agent Glutamine, to sustain a hydrated and positive muscle-building environment.
Amino Blitz Peak is formulated to enhance and sustain energy, dialing up focus with Caffeine and Green Tea, while Coconut Water Powder delivers a rich source of naturally occurring electrolytes to help maintain and replenish lost nutrients during exercise.
- Higher Ratio of Leucine;
- Enhanced with L-Glutamine and L-Arginine.
- Not Suitable to Take Before Bed Because it Contains Caffeine.
1. Nutrend BCAA Liquid Shot
This is a product for people who don’t have the time to prepare BCAA drinks from powder and are tired of swallowing capsules and tablets.
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are divided into precise doses of the individual shots. Each shot gives 3 g of BCAAs.
Each unit is 60 ml size and there are 20 units the one box.
- 3000 mg of BCAA per one Serving;
- 2:1:1 ratio of amino acids
- Without Sugar
- European Brand (Czech Republic);
- Super-convenient Use;
- Doesn’t Contain Sugar;
- Optimal BCAA Ratio.
The recommended dosage is one drink-shot of a 60-ml dose about 30 minutes before a workout and a second dose immediately after the end of the performance.
- Few Customer Reviews;
- No Money-Back Guarantee.
Thanks to BCAA, about 90% of the absorption of amino acids occurs in the first hours after eating.
After the BCAA is transported into the blood, the amino acid interacts with the cells in the muscles, which improves athletic performance and accelerates recovery after intense training.
The use of these amino acids stimulates the formation of new muscle tissue and slows down the destruction of existing, normalizes the processes of fat metabolism, accelerates the burning of subcutaneous fat and improves metabolism.
Nowadays, there is no doubt that is highly beneficial to take BCAA for people actively involved in sports.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and now, you know better what is the best BCAA supplement.
If you have any questions or thoughts about the above aspects, or you have something to add or share your story, please leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you asap.
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All the best,