The Best BCAA Supplements For Muscle Gain, Keto and More

Whether you're low on protein, skipping meals, or training fasted, BCAAs may be able to help you retain muscle.

Expert Verified By: Dina R. D’Alessandro, MS, RDN
We receive free products to review and may receive commissions on purchases made through our links. See our disclosure page for details.

Once a niche athletic supplement, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have exploded in popularity as a means to improve muscle retention, fat loss, endurance, and focus during workouts. Today, hundreds of different BCAAs on the market include stimulants, adaptogens, micronutrients, and extracts to make them stand out from the crowd. Our goal here is to help you find the best BCAA supplements for muscle gain, keto dieters, weight loss, and a lot more.

It’s not uncommon to see BCAAs packaged with other supplements like caffeine, glutamine, taurine, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, and other ingredients that may benefit workout performance. In this article, we’ve taken the BCAAs, the extra components, the price, and the taste into account when deciding the best brand depending on your goal.

Best BCAA Supplements

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for the diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. 

Best BCAA Supplements Video Review

Be sure to check out our best BCAAs video for a more in-depth look at this supplement. 

Best BCAA Powder Overall

Our top pick is a BCAA formula with a solid blend of BCAAs that’s effectively dosed without any of the fluff, making it a great option for most customers who want to add more amino acids to their supplement regimen. 

Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

Though simple, this blend contains the ideal 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine, and contains 6,000mg total of BCAAs. For those who already have a solidified regimen and may just be looking for a basic BCAA blend — this product is just that. It contains 3,000mg of leucine, 1,500mg of isoleucine, and 1,500mg of valine without any additional ingredients. Jacked Factory comes in three flavors — Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, and Unflavored, all of which are created using both natural and artificial flavorings.

Jacked Factory BCAA Powder
Jacked Factory BCAA Powder
Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

This product contains a blend of 3,000mg of leucine, 1,500mg of isoleucine, and 1,500mg of valine. It comes in three flavors — Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, and Unflavored, all of which are created using both natural and artificial flavorings.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

  • Those who are looking for a simple and effective BCAA supplement with a 2:1:1 ratio — this product contains the proper dosages without any extras.
  • People who aren’t looking for a pre-workout or any other energy-boosting ingredients in their BCAA supplement.
  • Folks who want a less expensive BCAA powder as this is one of our more budget-friendly options.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

  • Folks who want to take their BCAAs in a pre-workout, or who want more energy-boosting or performance-enhancing ingredients in their BCAA blend. 
  • Anyone who wants a wider variety of flavors to choose from — this one only has three. 

If you’re looking for a BCAA supplement to add to your growing regimen, this one is about as streamlined as it gets — it has a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine and comes in three flavors.

Best for Muscle Growth

If muscle growth is your goal, then your primary concern should be eating enough calories and macronutrients throughout the day. (Here’s a macro calculator for that.) But when it comes to BCAAs, you might want something that supports in-gym performance and offers optimal BCAA ingredients.

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

If you’re working to build muscle in the gym, you’re likely keyed in on a lot of helpful energy-boosting and muscle-building supplements — like protein powder and pre-workout — already. Transparent Labs’ BCAA powder has a high 5,000mg dose of glutamine, which can help build muscle tissue, and it’s both vegan-friendly and contains coconut water powder for hydration. Transparent Labs’ also includes eight grams of quality BCAAs, and comes in six different flavors for variety. For those concerned with the transparency of their labels, this product lists every ingredient and ensures there are no artificial flavors, colors, ingredients, or preservatives. 

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Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

This glutamine supplement is gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of artificial preservatives. Each container provides 30 servings that contain 5000 milligrams of L-Glutamine and 1,535 milligrams of Vitamin C.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • Bodybuilders or anyone looking to gain muscle. This formula facilitates that goal better than other picks on this list due to its inclusion of glutamine.
  • Athletes looking for a quality vegan BCAA supplement. This one packs eight grams of BCAAS, five grams of glutamine, coconut water powder, and citric acid.
  • Lifters who want a supplement without artificial flavors, colors, ingredients, or preservatives. Transparent Labs’ formula has none of these extras. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • Anyone looking for a supplement with a ton of extra vitamins and electrolytes — other pre-workout options might be more appealing.
  • People who want a very sweet-tasting supplement regardless of flavor. This one tastes a tad dull.

Not overly complicated, but appealing to many, Transparent Labs has made a BCAA supplement that gets a lot of points for its dose of glutamine that can help support muscle growth even further. 

Best BCAA for Workouts

BCAAs can be key in making the most of your workouts. Not only does this supp contain a high dose of BCAAs, but it also includes electrolytes to help keep you hydrated throughout your training. 

Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

Huge supplements Huge BCAA is ideal if you’re looking for a supplement that offers a high dose of BCAAs at a 2:1:1 ratio. Huge Supplements Huge BCAA contains 8,000mg of BCAAs, which is one of the highest numbers we’ve seen. In addition, you’ll find calcium, potassium, and sodium, as well as coconut water powder to potentially help keep you hydrated throughout your workouts, as well. You can take this supplement before, during, or after your workouts, and it comes in four flavors — Kiwi Blueberry, Bomb Popsicle, Watermelon Lemonade, and Sour Grape. 

Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

Huge Supplements contains 8,000mg of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. This supp also includes an added dose of calcium, potassium, and sodium, as well as coconut water powder for a potential boost in hydration.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

  • For those who are looking for a high dose of BCAAs to supplement their workout routine, this supp has 8,000mg of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. 
  • Anyone who wants coconut water powder included in their supplement for added hydration throughout their workout. 
  • If you are looking for BCAAs you can take before, during, or after your workout, you’ll like this product. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

  • Folks who want a product that is just BCAAs will want to look elsewhere. 
  • If you want your BCAAs included within a larger post-workout or pre-workout supplement, this blend is not for you. 

Athletes who need to perform at high-levels can benefit from this dialed-in BCAA formula, which can help you build muscle and remain hydrated throughout your workout.

Best Tasting BCAA

If you’re trying to sneak more BCAAs into your diet, it’s important that the vehicle you’re using to sneak them in actually tastes good. This product is one of the best-tasting BCAA blends we’ve tried. 

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine comes in five tasty flavors — Sour Green Apple, Tropical Punch, Strawberry Lemonade, Blue Raspberry, and Orange. No matter which flavor you choose, this BCAA powder is entirely naturally flavored and sweetened. Transparent Labs dissolves well into water, and is intended to be sipped on during your workout as an intra-workout supplement. In addition to 8g of BCAAs, you’ll find 5g of glutamine and 1g of coconut water powder, which may help with even more muscle gain and hydration, respectively. Transparent Labs BCAA glutamine is a bit pricey, but the taste is worth it in our opinion. 

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Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

This glutamine supplement is gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of artificial preservatives. Each container provides 30 servings that contain 5000 milligrams of L-Glutamine and 1,535 milligrams of Vitamin C.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • For those who prioritize taste, this is a great tasting BCAA supplement to add to your regimen. 
  • Anyone who prefers to take their BCAA supplement while they are working out to potentially help build muscle at the gym. This is an intra-workout supplement. 
  • If you’re looking for additional glutamine or coconut water powder, you will like this formula.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • Those who just want BCAAs without any additional ingredients may be able to find a better option out there. 
  • Anyone on a tight budget — this is one of the more expensive products per serving. 

Though this supplement may be a bit pricier than some of the other options on this list, its five flavors are great tasting, and each dose can help provide hydration, as well as potential muscle growth via BCAAs. 

Best Total BCAA Blend

This pick not only contains BCAAs, but it has three blends of ingredients working toward power, performance, and support for tough workouts to build out a full package. 

Onnit Total Strength + Performance

Onnit’s formula contains three blends, one of which focuses on BCAAs, but all of which can help you crush big workouts. There’s a Power Blend with longjack, which is a plant that can help provide the fuel you need for muscle contractions. The Performance Blend contains the BCAAs, as well as glutamine and beta-alanine, which can all help you perform better at the gym. Then there’s the Support Blend with resveratrol, which can help you get through tough workouts. 

One of the best parts about this product is that Onnit breaks down each blend, along with the other ingredients — like vitamin B6 and black pepper extract — on their site, so there’s no question as to what each ingredient can help you with. Plus, it comes in a tasty Strawberry Lemonade flavor. 

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Onnit Total Strength + Performance
Onnit Total Strength + Performance
Onnit Total Strength + Performance

Onnit contains a Power Blend with longjack, which can help fuel muscle contractions, a Performance Blend with BCAAs, glutamine and beta-alanine, which can help boost performance during exercise, and a Support Blend with resveratrol that can help you push through during tough training.

Who Should Buy Onnit Total Strength + Performance

  • Anyone looking for a BCAA supplement that contains other pre-workout ingredients to build out a full performance package. 
  • Folks who like to know what each ingredient’s purpose is in their supplement — Onnit explains each one on its website. 
  • People who value great absorption and are looking for a product with black pepper fruit extract to help with that. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Onnit Total Strength + Performance

  • Athletes who are looking for a basic BCAA supplement — this is more of an all-inclusive pre-workout blend that contains BCAAs.
  • Those who want to know exactly how many BCAAs they’re getting in their supp — this product’s BCAAs are listed in a blend, so they don’t have an exact dosage. 
  • Buyers on a budget. This is a pretty expensive BCAA supplement because of all the extra ingredients you’re getting.

If you don’t mind blends, this product is a great combination of BCAAs and other performance enhancing ingredients that can act as a full pre-workout supplement. 

Best Protein Powder with BCAAs

Many whey protein powders already contain BCAAs, which means you may not need an additional supplement if you’re already taking a protein powder. This whey isolate contains a particularly solid dose of BCAAs, on top of its overall lean formula. 

Legion Whey+ Protein Powder

BCAAs naturally occur in protein powders that are sourced from dairy by-products, like whey protein. Legion Whey+ contains 5.6g of BCAAs. While this is lower than what’s offered in some of the dedicated BCAA supplements on our list, it’s a very solid dose — and if you’re already taking protein powder, switching to Legion Whey+ is a great way to knock out these two supplements at once. This formula also boasts 22g of protein, 3g of carbs and no fat or sugar. This is a great macro profile for anyone who is looking to lean out a little, but if you’re bulking, you may want something with more carbs and fats. Legion Whey+ comes in 13 different flavors, as well as an unflavored option, all of which are naturally flavored and sweetened.

Legion Whey Isolate Protein Powder
Legion Whey Isolate Protein Powder
Legion Whey Isolate Protein Powder

An all natural, non-GMO, fat-free whey that's cheaper than many competitors, Legion Whey Isolate Protein Powder is made from 100 percent grass-fed whey protein isolate from sustainable dairy farms in Ireland. It's also higher in calcium compared to other powders on the market.

Who Should Buy Legion Whey+ Protein Powder

  • Athletes who want a protein powder that contains BCAAS — this blend boasts 5.6g. 
  • Folks who want a lean whey protein powder with little to no carbs, fats, and sugars. 
  • If you’re looking for a wide variety of flavors to choose from, this pick has 13 flavored options, as well as an unflavored blend. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Legion Whey+ Protein Powder

  • There are higher doses of BCAAs on the market if you’re after the highest dose you can find. 
  • If you’re bulking, this lean protein powder may not be the best option for you. 
  • Athletes who just want a plain BCAA supplement will want to look elsewhere as this is a comprehensive protein powder.

Legion Whey+ contains 22g of protein, as well as 5.6 grams of BCAAs making it ideal for someone who wants to take their BCAAs within a whey protein powder supplement. 

Best BCAA for Men

For men working to build muscle, a dose of BCAAs may help you pump longer and harder. This particular supplement provides eight grams of BCAAs and a dose of coconut water powder for hydration.

Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

While many of BCAAs’ properties revolve around recovery, they can also help increase muscle growth. The amino acid leucine is particularly key for building muscle as it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and since amino acids can be depleted as you exercise, it’s important to make sure you can replenish as you go. Huge Supplements contains 8,000mg of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio.

Plus, there’s an added dose of calcium, potassium, and sodium, as well as coconut water powder for hydration to make sure you’re hitting all your marks during and after your workout. It’s worth noting that this supplement only comes in two flavors — Kiwi Blueberry and Bomb Popsicle — though, so if you’re looking for flavor variety, you will not find it here. 

Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

Huge Supplements contains 8,000mg of BCAAs in a 2:1:1 ratio. This supp also includes an added dose of calcium, potassium, and sodium, as well as coconut water powder for a potential boost in hydration.

Who Should Buy Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

  • Men who want a BCAA supplement they can take before, during and/or after their workout to make sure they are replenishing lost amino acids. 
  • Anyone who’s going hard at the gym and is looking for an increase in energy and endurance, as well as a decrease in fatigue.
  • Athletes who are concerned about dehydration and want a BCAA supplement with coconut water powder to help stay hydrated. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Huge Supplements Huge BCAA

  • Buyers who want a variety of flavors to choose from — this product only comes in Kiwi Blueberry and Bomb Popsicle.
  • Anyone who would prefer a BCAA supplement that’s just BCAAs — this product contains additional ingredients to supplement its leucine, isoleucine, and valine. 

Though BCAAs can be taken pre-workout, they can also be a part of a balanced intra-workout or post-workout supplement to potentially help with muscle growth, endurance, and energy. This supplement provides a solid dose of leucine, as well as other supplements like electrolytes for a well-rounded beverage that can be taken before, during, or after exercise. 

Best BCAA for Women

If paired with a healthy diet, BCAAs can be a great addition to a female athlete’s supplement stash for their potential to minimize fatigue and help maintain lean muscle gains made in the gym. 

Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

Jacked Factory BCAA Powder is an all-around great supplement, but we think its lean formula makes it even more ideal for women. This product has 6,000mg of BCAAs, and nothing else. A lot of BCAA supplements can come with other ingredients — especially if the BCAAs come wrapped within a protein powder. However, Jacked Factory sticks to the basics, and just provides a high dose of BCAAs for women who aren’t looking to add other supplements or more calories into their diet. You will find both natural and artificial flavors though, and this product only comes in Blue Raspberry, so if that flavor isn’t for you, we suggest you opt for a different pick off this list. 

Jacked Factory BCAA Powder
Jacked Factory BCAA Powder
Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

This product contains a blend of 3,000mg of leucine, 1,500mg of isoleucine, and 1,500mg of valine. It comes in three flavors — Blue Raspberry, Fruit Punch, and Unflavored, all of which are created using both natural and artificial flavorings.

Who Should Buy Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

  • Women who want a product that just contains a BCAAs without any additional supplements. 
  • Anyone looking for a high dose of BCAAs will appreciate that there are 6,000mg here. 
  • Folks who live and die for Blue Raspberry flavored supplements. That’s the only flavor this product comes in, so if you like that flavor, Jacked Factory has you covered.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Jacked Factory BCAA Powder

  • Athletes who are looking to bulk — BCAA supplements with glutamine can help you pack on even more muscle. 
  • Those who don’t like blue raspberry flavored supplements will likely not like Jacked Factory as that is the only flavor option. 
  • Folks who want to steer clear of artificial ingredients may not like this pick as it contains both natural and artificial flavors. 

This product is chock-full of BCAAs, contains zero calories, and comes in a delicious Blue Raspberry flavor for a full-package product that’s particularly great for female athletes. 

Best BCAA Pre-Workout

While some may be looking for a straight-forward BCAA supplement, others may want to just combine their BCAAs and their pre-workout. This pre-workout contains a solid dose of BCAAs to help consolidate your supplement stash. 

Transparent Labs LEAN

Transparent Labs LEAN is one of the most versatile BCAA supplements on this list as it’s not a dedicated BCAA supplement, but rather a pre-workout supplement that contains BCAAs. Though BCAAs are less common in pre-workouts, this one has 2500mg of BCAAs, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio — all of these can help with muscle growth, fatigue, and recovery. This product also contains caffeine (180mg), beta-alanine, citrulline malate, and creatine, which make for a variety of energy-boosting and workout-enhancing ingredients. Plus, there’s a good amount of theanine that may help with focus throughout your workout.

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Transparent Labs Lean
Transparent Labs Lean
Transparent Labs Lean

Third-party tested and clearly dosed, Transparent Labs LEAN has a huge variety of ingredients for endurance, power, alertness, and focus. Use code BARBEND10 for 10% off.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs LEAN

  • Athletes who prefer to take their BCAAs in a pre-workout blend. 
  • Folks who want a blend of potentially energy-boosting and muscle-building ingredients to knock out a number of supplements in one go. 
  • Anyone who prefers to take their BCAAs before their workout — rather than during or after their workout — will like this pre. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs LEAN

  • Those who are on a budget — there are other less expensive products on this list. 
  • Anyone who wants to take a more straightforward blend of BCAAs without the added pre-workout ingredients. 

Though this product is on the pricier end of the spectrum, it’s because you’re getting a wide range of ingredients in this mix. Along with a blend of BCAAs, you’re also getting pre-workout ingredients, so you won’t have to take both a pre-workout and BCAAs separately.

Best BCAAs for Electrolytes

While many BCAAs include micronutrients — like vitamin C — in addition to the BCAAs, this pick includes electrolytes to help promote optimal hydration. 

Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder is a blend of four grams of BCAAs in an optimal 2:1:1 ratio. But along with these BCAAs, this formula is also infused with electrolytes like potassium and sodium that can help with hydration, potentially leading to better athletic performance and endurance. It comes in Lemon Lime, and mixes seamlessly with water for easy digestion during your workout. Plus, Swolverine contains glutamine, which can help you build muscle more effectively. 

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Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder
Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder
Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder packs leuicine, isoleucine, and valine, which can help increase glucose uptake in muscle tissue, and promote fat oxidation during fasted exercise. It comes in a tangy Lemon Lime flavor. 

Who Should Buy Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

  • Athletes who prioritize hydration and want electrolytes infused into their BCAA supplement.
  • Anyone looking for glutamine in their BCAA supplement will appreciate that this product contains 1,000mg. 
  • People who prefer a powder supplement over a pill supplement. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Swolverine BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

  • Athletes who would prefer a BCAA supplement with added vitamins will want to look for a product with a more robust ingredient list — this product only contains a dose of vitamin B6 while many other BCAA supplements contain a wider variety of additional vitamins.
  • Folks who prefer a pill supplement over a powder one can find high quality BCAAs in pill form out there, as well. 
  • Anyone who wants more than one flavor to choose from — this supp only comes in Lemon Lime. 

If you’re looking to add some electrolytes to your BCAA supplement for a boost of hydration, this product’s sodium and potassium can do just that. Plus, it comes in a delicious Lemon Lime flavor that can keep you hooked and consistent with your supplementation. 

Best Vegan BCAAs 

For plant-based eaters, it’s important to know that what you’re taking is free of any and all animal products — this is a solid vegan BCAA supplement. 

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs doesn’t use any animal products or artificial coloring or sweeteners in their BCAA formula. They offer complete transparency on their label, so you know exactly what you’re getting in each scoop. With a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine, and a high 5,000mg dose of glutamine, these BCAAs may help boost muscle growth and assist with muscle fatigue and recovery. This product comes in six flavors and you can buy up to three tubs at a time to bring down the cost per serving.

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Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

This glutamine supplement is gluten-free, non-GMO, and free of artificial preservatives. Each container provides 30 servings that contain 5000 milligrams of L-Glutamine and 1,535 milligrams of Vitamin C.

Who Should Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • Athletes looking for a quality vegan BCAA supplement — this one has a 5,000mg dose of glutamine and a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
  • Lifters who want a supplement without artificial sweeteners or colors. Transparent Labs’ formula has none of these extras. 
  • Anyone who wants a variety of flavors to choose from will appreciate that this one comes in six. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

  • People who want to take their BCAAs within a pre-workout — this product is just a straightforward BCAA supplement. 
  • Those who prefer to take their BCAAs in pill-form as this is a powder product. 

Transparent Labs has made a high quality BCAA supplement that contains a solid dose of glutamine as well as a good blend of leucine, isoleucine, and valine — the fact that it happens to be vegan-friendly is a bonus. 

Best BCAAs for Weight Loss 

Many take BCAAs to help preserve muscle when in a calorie deficit, and some products — like this one — even add extra ingredients with links to weight loss. 

Disclaimer: Please note that none of these products describe themselves as weight loss supplements and should not be taken as such. Please consult with a medical professional before beginning any weight loss protocol.

IdealLean BCAA 

IdealLean BCAAs for Women has the most dedicated weight loss ingredients. Along with a respected ratio of 2:1:1 of leucine to isoleucine to valine, this product includes evodiamine, a berry extract that’s been linked to fat loss in rodent studies; green tea extract; and CLA, a type of fat that may help with weight management. Note that these ingredients are present in relatively small amounts, but there may be some effect. This product also comes in seven different flavors for variety, and is fairly inexpensive compared to the other products on this list. 

IdealLean BCAA
IdealLean BCAA
IdealLean BCAA

This supplement delivers over 5 grams of 2:1:1 ratio BCAAs to fuel every type of workout. It's marketed to women, but it's a great supplement for anyone looking to potentially help boost their metabolism.

Who Should Buy IdealLean BCAA

  • If you’re absolutely committed to losing weight, your calories are in control, and you’d like all the help you can get, it’s possible that the non-BCAA ingredients here might help you on your journey.
  • Anyone who wants to add a dose of BCAAs to their diet to help with lean muscle retention.
  • Folks who value having a variety of flavors to choose from. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy IdealLean BCAA

  • Those who are skeptical about supplement dosing, as the ingredients listed, though effective, may be dosed too little. 
  • Athletes who are trying to bulk — you can find BCAA products without ingredients that are meant to help with fat loss. 

Weight loss is all about your calories, not your supplements, but IdealLean has put together an impressive BCAA supplement that may be more helpful for weight loss than others.

Best BCAA Pills 

There are a lot of benefits to taking your BCAAs in pill form instead: You can take them with you to the gym or on the road, which is great if you’re going for long periods between meals, as you do sometimes when you’re out and about.

Performance Lab BCAA

Though pills may not be as easily digested as powder mixed into water, they are definitely the most convenient way to take your BCAAs. Performance Lab has the best BCAA pills we’ve tried. These are extremely straightforward, with very few added ingredients, and the 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine that many customers are looking for in their BCAA supplement. Performance Lab BCAAs are fermented and vegan-friendly, plus they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners. However, this product is a little more expensive than others on this list — you’re paying for its convenience factor.

Best BCAA Pills
Performance Lab BCAA
Performance Lab BCAA
Performance Lab BCAA

An incredibly straightforward BCAA supplement in the 2:1:1 ratio many athletes are looking for. The BCAAs are vegan-friendly and in capsule form.

Who Should Buy Performance Lab BCAA

  • Travelers. If you’re on a lengthy trip and airplane meals or truck stop snacks aren’t giving you the leucine you need, having BCAA pills in your backpack can be handy.
  • Anyone who doesn’t like carrying a shake bottle around. 
  • People who want a vegan-friendly BCAA supplement.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid the artificial sweeteners so common in these products.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Performance Lab BCAA

  • People looking to get the cheapest BCAA possible — these may not be better value than plain old powder.
  • Anyone who doesn’t want to take six pills at a time for a three-gram dose (or more to reach a 10-gram dose). 

Capsules are a handy way to get your BCAAs in on the go, without a shaker bottle. Plus everything is precisely measured out to make dosage easier. When you don’t feel like chugging sweetened water, this is a fast and convenient way to spike your amino acid intake.

Best BCAA for Keto 

Ketogenic diets are ultra low-carb and often relatively low in protein, so many supplements with branched-chain amino acids can help retain muscle. 

Cellucor Alpha Amino 

Cellucor Alpha Amino is our top choice for people on a ketogenic diet. It has very few calories and no carbs, so there’s little risk of it kicking you out of ketosis, and it’s also pretty high in magnesium, sodium, and potassium — minerals that are usually recommended as important supplements for people following the high-fat diet. It contains five grams of BCAAs, which includes the desired 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine. It’s worth noting, however, that this is not the cheapest product on the market.

Cellucor Alpha Amino
Cellucor Alpha Amino
Cellucor Alpha Amino

With zero grams of sugar, this is an ideal formula for anyone on the low-carb, high-fat keto diet. It also packs 750mg of creatine HCL for improved in-gym performance. 

Who Should Buy Cellucor Alpha Amino

  • If you’re on a keto diet, this product won’t take you out of ketosis.
  • The extra electrolytes here may make it a useful supplement for those who want help with hydration.
  • Alpha Amino happens to be soy-free, so it’s a solid choice if you’re avoiding soy.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Cellucor Alpha Amino

  • This one is a little pricier than your average offering at 17 cents per gram of BCAAs. Penny pinchers may want a cheaper product.
  • Anyone who wants more than one flavor to choose from — this product only comes in Watermelon.

BCAAs are particularly popular among those limiting their protein intake. If you’re finding your high-fat meals lacking in protein, BCAAs might be a good addition to your diet.

When Should I Take BCAAs?

It’s best to take BCAAs before or during your workout, depending on which kind you are using. BCAAs are a great supplement to potentially help build muscle through muscle protein synthesis. Many BCAAs come in a pre-workout blend, some come in an intra-workout blend, and most general BCAA supplements will instruct you to consume them 20 to 30 minutes prior to working out. A few BCAA supplements will say that you can take them before, during, or after a workout, but as far as basic BCAA supplements go, they’re most effective if you take them pre-workout. (1

BCAAs can come in an intra-workout blend, and these blends are meant to be consumed specifically during exercise. For anyone who’s going hard at the gym, intra-workout BCAAs may be helpful in warding off fatigue. (2

How Much Do BCAAs Cost?

BCAAs can be a fairly expensive individual supplement. Container prices range from $20 to $50, but in order to know exactly how much you are getting for your money, you’ll want to look at the cost per serving of each product. To do so, you should weigh the overall cost against the number of servings in each container — you’ll likely find that BCAAs go for anywhere between $0.75 and $2.50 per serving. 

The price of your BCAAs will go up depending on the ingredients you’re getting and how convenient the supplement is to take. For example, Performance Lab BCAAs are likely a bit more expensive because they come in pill form, which makes them easy to take on the go. Pre-Kaged is also more expensive because these BCAAs come in the form of a pre-workout, which contains a number of other energy-boosting ingredients. 

BCAA supplements often come with vitamins and minerals mixed in as well, and these blends will be more expensive than basic blends that are mainly just BCAAs. 

How We Decide the Best BCAAs

There are several elements we looked at — and dozens of products — to land on this list of the best BCAAs. Here’s the list we referenced as we assessed these supplements’ efficacy.

man drinking BCAAs
Image via Shutterstock/MDV Edwards

Amino Acid Ratio

The standard formulation for these products is two or three grams of leucine for every gram of isoleucine and valine (2:1:1). Although some products have many times more leucine, this hasn’t been shown to be more successful than the “standard” ratios. We looked for products with this standard 2:1:1 ratio when formulating this list. 

Ergogenic Effects

In addition to BCAAs, many products — including our number one pick — include ergogenic aids or ingredients linked to improved performance. These can include citrulline (related to improved circulation), beta-alanine (endurance), and caffeine (explosive power). We’ve included picks on this list that incorporate these ingredients, as well as picks that don’t. With the variety of options, those who are avoiding certain ingredients, like caffeine, shouldn’t have a problem finding a pick that works for them. 

Lipolytic Effect

Some of the BCAA products we highlighted include ingredients that may exert lipolytic or “fat-burning” effects. These include conjugated linoleic acid, green tea extract, and evodiamine. Fat loss is almost entirely about how many calories you burn in a day. Still, some limited research has suggested ingredients like these can help break down fatty acids, particularly during exercise. We’ve included BCAAs both with and without these ingredients on this list to suit the variety of needs customers may have. 

Micronutrients

Many BCAAs include extra Vitamin B6, which may help with muscle retention and which the body appears to lose during intense exercise. Some BCAAs have other B vitamins in addition to more micronutrients — like Vitamin C, which may help to limit oxidative damage during exercise, and sodium, which may help with hydration. If you’re keen on having added micronutrients in your BCAA supplement, we have plenty of options for you on this list. And if you’d rather skip the added vitamins and minerals and pay a little less for your BCAAs, you’ll also find those products in this list. 

What Are the Benefits of BCAAs?

You might have heard that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, but they’re not all alike. The three proteinogenic branched-chain amino acids (meaning BCAAs that are incorporated into proteins during translation) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Some evidence suggests that supplementing with pure BCAAs can positively affect workouts, mainly if you’re working out on an empty stomach or if you haven’t eaten much protein throughout the day. This is because they may promote muscle protein synthesis, and by preventing a serum decline in BCAAs (which occurs during exercise), they can help prevent fatigue. (3)(4)(5) They’ve even been linked to increased fat loss and quicker reaction times. (6)

Note that if your priority is muscle mass, you still need to eat enough calories and protein, get enough sleep, eat the right micronutrients, and so on. Nonetheless, on days when you haven’t been hitting every macronutrient goal, many athletes find BCAAs useful.

What’s In Your BCAAs?

We know that supplements, particularly ones like these, can involve a lot of jargon and be tough to understand for the average person. Let’s break down what you’re most likely to see on your ingredients label, starting with the three branched-chain amino acids.

BCAA Supplement Powder
Image via Shutterstock/Casimiro PT

Leucine 

Perhaps the most highly prized of all the amino acids, leucine has the closest link with boosting muscle protein synthesis, which occurs when protein in your body helps to repair the muscles damaged during exercise. While your total calories are essential for muscle growth and muscle retention, muscle protein synthesis is a vital part of the puzzle. (7)

Isoleucine

Used in the biosynthesis of proteins, this branched-chain amino acid may help prevent muscle breakdown, and promote fat burning. (8)

Valine

Another BCAA, valine, has some links to endurance and focus. Interestingly, if you have difficulty digesting it and there’s more of it in the blood, this could actually be a sign of insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes and other conditions. (9) (10)

Then there are these other amino acids that aren’t BCAAs, but often accompany them in supplements:

Glutamine 

A conditionally essential amino acid (remember amino acids are building blocks of protein), glutamine is enormously popular in supplements because it has some links to muscle gain. However, most research has only seen this among people whose bodies are in trauma, like victims of burns or stab wounds — it hasn’t translated to gains for gym-goers. (11)

Beta-Alanine

A ubiquitous addition to pre-workouts, one-and-a-half to four grams of this stuff has shown to improve endurance and possibly hypertrophy. It’s possible that it also has some anti-aging effects, as it can increase the amount of carnosine (an antioxidant) in the body. (12)

Citrulline Malate 

An amino acid that’s prevalent in watermelons (along with legumes and organ meats), citrulline appears to improve nitric oxide metabolism, which can lead to better circulation and blood flow. In workouts, this can translate to better endurance and power output. It’s also a common ingredient in erectile dysfunction supplements. (13)

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

This amino acid may reduce muscle damage caused by high-intensity exercise. It also has links to longevity, as it may improve mitochondrial function, and it could help retain lean muscle mass and enhance aerobic output. (14)

Vitamin C 

This vitamin may reduce cell damage that occurs during exercise. It’s a powerful antioxidant, which can be helpful for immune support. (15

B Vitamins 

The eight B vitamins may help increase one’s energy without jitters or unwanted sleep loss. They may also help with brain function and cell health. (1)

What to Know Before Buying BCAAs

If this is a brand new supplement for you or even if it isn’t, there’s information you should be aware of before adding these to your daily regimen. Always speak with your physician before undertaking a new supplement regimen. Once you do, read on for a few pro tips to consider on BCAAs

Calories Are King

Many take supplements like BCAAs and fat burners because they hear they help with weight loss and muscle gain. BCAAs may help you retain muscle, but it’s essential to keep in mind that losing weight only happens if you’re in a calorie deficit. BCAAs can help with energy levels and potentially make it easier and more productive to work out on an empty stomach — but your total calories will be what makes or breaks your fat loss and muscle gain. All in all, to reap the most benefit from your BCAAs, make sure your daily nutrition and caloric intake is on track first and foremost.

BCAAs Aren’t Necessary

BCAAs are not necessary if you have a sufficient protein intake. Still, they’re often used as supplements to boost muscle protein synthesis between meals or enhance performance and retain muscle when exercising on an empty stomach. If you’re eating macro-friendly meals throughout the day, these supplements may not be as necessary. Consider your diet in full before deciding if a BCAA supplement is right for you. 

Final Word

We tried dozens of branched-chain amino acid supplements when putting together this list — weighing price, taste, ingredients, and effectiveness along with many other factors. Plenty of people have different ideas about what constitutes a “high quality” supplement, but we think we’ve put together the most comprehensive guide to aid in picking the perfect BCAA supplement to match your goals. 

FAQs

What are BCAAs?

It stands for branched chain amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and the branched chain amino acids are those most closely associated with muscle protein synthesis, the process by which protein is produced to repair and retain muscle.

What are the benefits of BCAAs?

Evidence suggests that BCAAs may help to retain muscle and improve workout performance, particularly if you’re exercising on an empty stomach or if you haven’t eaten much protein lately. By preventing the serum decline in BCAAs, they may also help to reduce fatigue and muscle soreness during workouts.

Do I need to take BCAAs?

Probably not, so long as you’re eating plenty of protein and calories throughout your day. If that’s the case, taking extra BCAAs around a workout probably won’t serve much extra benefit. Where BCAAs appear to have the most use is when the athlete is exercising on an empty stomach, isn’t eating much quality protein with a meal, or wants to retain their muscle during a fast or during a long period without protein. If you fall into those categories, BCAAs may be useful.

Are BCAAs vegan?

Usually not. Most BCAAs are made from hair or feathers. However, if you look for brands with fermented BCAAs, such as KAGED MUSCLE, then you can be confident it’s vegan friendly.

References

  1. Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy–A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068
  2. AbuMoh’d, M. F., Matalqah, L., & Al-Abdulla, Z. (2020). Effects of Oral Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Intake on Muscular and Central Fatigue During an Incremental Exercise. Journal of human kinetics, 72, 69–78. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2019-0099
  3. Zheng L, et al. Effects of Supplementation of Branched-Chain Amino Acids to Reduced-Protein Diet on Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Degradation in the Fed and Fasted States in a Piglet Model. Nutrients. 2016 Dec 28;9(1).
  4. Matthews DE, et al. Observations of branched-chain amino acid administration in humans. J Nutr. 2005 Jun;135(6 Suppl):1580S-4S.
  5. Blomstrand E, et al. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise–effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;63(2):83-8.
  6. Wiśnik P, et al. The effect of branched chain amino acids on psychomotor performance during treadmill exercise of changing intensity simulating a soccer game. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Dec;36(6):856-62.
  7. Mero A. Leucine supplementation and intensive training. Sports Med. 1999 Jun;27(6):347-58. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199927060-00001. PMID: 10418071.
  8. Du Y, Meng Q, Zhang Q, Guo F. Isoleucine or valine deprivation stimulates fat loss via increasing energy expenditure and regulating lipid metabolism in WAT. Amino Acids. 2012 Aug;43(2):725-34. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1123-8. Epub 2011 Oct 21. PMID: 22016194.
  9. Tsuda Y, Iwasawa K, Yamaguchi M. Acute supplementation of valine reduces fatigue during swimming exercise in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2018 May;82(5):856-861. doi: 10.1080/09168451.2018.1438168. Epub 2018 Feb 23. PMID: 29475409.
  10. Bloomgarden Z. Diabetes and branched-chain amino acids: What is the link? J Diabetes. 2018 May;10(5):350-352. doi: 10.1111/1753-0407.12645. Epub 2018 Feb 13. PMID: 29369529.
  11. Gleeson M. Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training. J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2045S-2049S. doi: 10.1093/jn/138.10.2045S. PMID: 18806122.
  12.  Huerta Ojeda Á, Tapia Cerda C, Poblete Salvatierra MF, Barahona-Fuentes G, Jorquera Aguilera C. Effects of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Physical Performance in Aerobic-Anaerobic Transition Zones: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 19;12(9):2490. doi: 10.3390/nu12092490. PMID: 32824885; PMCID: PMC7551186.
  13. Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0. PMID: 20386132.
  14. Fielding, R., Riede, L., Lugo, J. P., & Bellamine, A. (2018). l-Carnitine Supplementation in Recovery after Exercise. Nutrients, 10(3), 349. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030349
  15. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211. PMID: 29099763; PMCID: PMC5707683.