Whether you are trying to build muscle, lose weight, or boost athletic performance, BCAA supplements can make a big difference to your results.
If you are serious about getting in shape and boosting your performance at the gym, you have probably already upped your protein intake. Protein is the key, right?
Yes, getting enough protein is essential if you want to build muscle, lose weight, or seriously boost your athletic performance. But why is protein so important?
One of the main reasons why you need a lot of protein is that it is rich in the essential amino acids that your body needs to build and maintain muscles. But whether you are downing raw eggs or drinking protein shakes, you probably aren’t getting quite enough of some of the essential amino acids that you need. Specifically, BCAAs.
The BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, make up 35-40 percent of all the amino acids in your body, and they are essential for muscle performance. While you need between 10-20 grams of BCAAS per day to transform your body, a standard daily serving of whey protein will provide you with less than 5 grams of BCAAs.
So, if you are serious about transforming your body, it is time to add some more BCAAs to the mix with BCAA supplements. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into BCAAs, what exactly they are, and why you need them. Then we’ll also look at some of the best BCAA supplements on the market and how to integrate them into your diet for the best results.
What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
Twenty different amino acids make up the thousands of different proteins that exist within the human body. While our body produces some of these amino acids itself, others can only be obtained through diet. These nine amino acids are called the “essential amino acids” because it is essential that we eat them.
Within this group of nine amino acids, there is another sub-group of three amino acids called branched-chain amino acids, or just BCAAs. They are called this because of the nature of their chemical structure, which is different from the other amino acids.
BCAAs are the most important amino acids because they make up 35-40% of all the amino acids in our body, so our bodies certainly feel it when they are lacking.
In addition to this, BCAAs are broken down in the muscles themselves, rather than in the liver, which has led researchers to conclude that they play a special role in muscle development and performance.
The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which all play different roles in the body.
Leucine – is essential for protein synthesis, which supports the building of muscles, and also fosters tissue regeneration and metabolism.
Isoleucine – Is critical for muscle growth, protein metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, and blood sugar regulation.
Valine – helps stimulate muscle growth and generation and is also essential to the production of energy.
Benefits of BCAAs
So, what benefits do BCAAs actually give you when you are trying to transform your body?
Stimulate Muscle Production
BCAAs activate a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is essential for the process of building new muscle.
Increase Muscle Endurance
These amino acids both protect and fuel muscles, which will allow them to work harder and for longer. They can also help delay mental and physical fatigue. This also allows for more intense exercise that produces better results.
BCAAs have been shown to reduce the length and severity of muscle soreness post-workout, letting you regenerate and build new muscle quicker, and get back in the gym sooner.
Prevent Muscle Wastage
BCAAs can also help prevent the breakdown of muscles for energy, helping you hang onto the gains you make.
BCAAs encourage your body to burn fat for energy during workouts which can help you shed unwanted fat.
Manage Blood Sugar
These amino acids also play a role in the regulation of blood sugar levels. They can help to preserve the liver and muscle sugar stores, and stimulate cells to take in sugar from the bloodstream.
Overall, these benefits mean that you can work harder at the gym, build muscle with greater ease, recover more quickly, and stop your body from burning muscle for energy it needs fuel. This can help you build stronger muscles, lose weight through fat burning, and push through performance plateaus as you find the extra energy needed.
Creatine is another supplement that can significantly boost your performance. Read more about creatine here.
Best BCAA Supplements
Iron Labs Nutrition BCAA Powder
If all you want is a powerful BCAA boost without any bells and whistles, you won’t find anything stronger than Iron Labs Nutrition’s BCAA powder.
They recommend taking a 9-gram half scoop as a regular serving or an 18-gram full scoop as an extreme serving. A regular serving contains a whopping 6,250mg of leucine, 625mg of isoleucine, and 625mg of valine. It is designed for anyone looking to make big muscle gains quickly.
The drink, which comes in a tasty berry flavour, also contains pantothenic acid and magnesium for an additional boost. These help you turn the BCAAs into the energy needed more quickly, which makes this a great pre-workout supplement.
- Regular or Extreme serving
- 6,250mg of leucine
- 625mg of isoleucine, 625mg valine
- £5.66 per 100 grams
Iron Labs Nutrition Store BCAA 5000
If you want to get as many BCAAs into your system as quickly as possible and as easily as possible, you will appreciate these maximum strength BCAA tablets.
Iron Labs Nutrition recommends a daily dose of five tablets, which will give you 2,500mg of leucine, 1,250mg of isoleucine, and 1,250mg of valine. This makes it one of the highest dosages available on the market.
- 2,500mg leucine
- 1,250mg isoleucine
- 1,250 valine
- £0.08 per tablet
Mutant BCAA 9.7 Supplement Powder with Micronized Amino Acid
As well as providing you with 7.2 grams of BCAAs, with a 2:1:1 distribution in favour of leucine, it also provides you with a 250mg electrolyte boost, and what the manufacturer describes as a “support blend”, containing taurine, glycine, glutamine, arginine, and tyrosine, all designed to boost your performance.
The powder is also micronized, which means that it is better integrated into your liquid of choice for faster and more effective absorption into your muscles.
Choose from a variety of flavours to find one that you love, including iced tea, blue raspberry, green apple, and roadside lemonade.
- BCAAs (2:1:1)
- Electrolytes and support blend added
- £4.99 per 100 grams
Olimp Labs BCAA Explode Recovery and Energy Supplement
This is another super-strength supplement for anyone looking to make big strength gains with the help of BCAAs. A standard 10-gram portion contains 3,000mg of leucine, 1,500mg of isoleucine, and 1,500mg of valine.
This recipe also contains a nice dose of vitamin B6, all in a formula designed to be extra soluble, so you don’t get any unpleasant clumps while powering down your supplement.
- 3,000mg leucine
- 1,500mg isoleucine
- 1,5000mh valine
- $5.46 per 100 grams
BPI Sports Best BCAA Supplement
This BCAA supplement from BPI comes in a delicious passionfruit flavour, and every 10gram serving contains 2,500mg of leucine, 1,250mg of isoleucine, and 1,250mg of valine.
This particular supplement also uses Oligopeptide Enzymatic Technology to ensure that the amino acids are transported to the muscles where they are needed more quickly. This makes BPI an ideal supplement to take pre-workout.
- 2,500mg leucine
- 1,250mg isoleucine
- 1,250mg valine
- £8.28 per 100 grams
Bulk Pure Branched Chain Amino Acid Tablets
The Bulk company, known for its quality but simple supplements, also makes a BCAA tablet containing 1,000mg of BCAA per tablet (2:1:1 in favour of leucine), so you can take between one and five tablets per day to get the BCAAs that you need.
They suggest loading up 10-20 minutes before an exercise session or directly afterwards for the best results.
- 500mg leucine
- 250mg isoleucine
- 250mg valine
- £10.99 per 100 grams
Applied Nutrition BCAA Powder BCAA Supplement
Choose from a number of great flavours with this strength BCAA formula from Applied Nutrition. Fruit Burst, Icy Blue Raz, and Orange & Mango are among our favourites. A single 14g serving contains 3,600mg of leucine, 1,800mg of isoleucine, and 1,800mg of valine.
There is also 3,000mg of the amino acid glutamine, which supports digestion and immunity, and 1,000mg of Citrulline, which can help fight muscle weakness and fatigue.
- 3,600mg of leucine, 1,800mg of isoleucine, and 1,800mg of valine
- 3,000mg of Glutamine
- 1,000mg of Citrulline
- £4.44 per 100 grams
How to Consume BCAAs?
As you look through our list of the best BCAA supplements, you will see that the doses vary pretty significantly. How many BCAAs do you actually need in your diet?
Studies suggest that the daily recommended dose of BCAAs for women is about 9 grams and for men is about 12 grams. But if you are a serious athlete or looking to significantly transform your body, just like with protein, you are going to want quite a bit more.
Sports nutritionists recommend a daily intake of between 10 and 20 grams of BCAAs per day for athletes, depending on the specific results that you are looking for.
You can safely take up to 35 grams per day, though there are no serious side effects associated with BCAA intake.
BCAAs can be taken either before or after a workout in either pill or powdered form. Powdered is often considered superior because when it is mixed with water it floods the muscles more quickly.
Looking for a matching protein powder? Read our guide to protein powders here.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. They are vital for many functions in the human body, but are particularly associated with muscle creation and repair.
What are BCAA supplement?
BCAA supplements provide a high dose of the three BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, usually at a 2:1:1 ratio. Some brands will also contain additional ingredients designed to let you absorb the BCAAs more quickly or to aid recovery.
Should I take BCAA powder or pills?
BCAA powder and pills contain the same essential ingredients, though powders are generally considered better as mixing the supplement with water allows it to reach the muscles faster. But pills are still a legitimate, and undoubtedly convenient, way to get your BCAAs.
Are there any side effects to BCAAs?
BCAAs taken in daily doses up to 35grams do not generally produce side effects, unless you have a pre-existing condition that might make you susceptible. But BCAAs taken in very high doses can cause side effects such as fatigue, loss of coordination, nausea, headaches, and increased insulin resistance.
While your daily protein shake will be making a big difference to your results in the gym, you might still not be getting enough BCAAs to push through any plateau that you might be facing.
Taking between 10 and 20 grams of BCAAs per day can enhance muscle growth, speed up recovery, help your body to burn fat, and protect you from burning hard-earned muscle for energy.
The easiest way to get the BCAAs that you need to transform your body is in the form of a supplement, which can either be added to your protein shake mix or taken separately as desired.
BCAAs offer one more way to get the edge when it comes to performance.
- 5 Proved Benefits of BCAAs – Healthline
- BCAAs: Everything you need to know – Men’s Health
- BCAA Benefits and Reasons You Should Take Them Today – GU Energy
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids: Uses and Risks – WebMD
Last update on 2021-05-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API