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The Best BCAA Supplements for Athletes

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In my post in the benefits and risks of BCAA supplements, I did a deep dive into why some people swear by BCAA supplements and also highlighted the potential risks and side effects of amino acid supplements. The bottom line is that BCAA supplements are pro-growth (in both good and bad ways) which is why they are popular with athletes and bodybuilders for muscle growth and repair.

In this post, I am assuming you’ve done the research and are now looking for a BCAA product you can trust as high quality. Since our analytics tell us you’re likely to be reading this on a mobile device and are therefore pressed for time, I am going to keep it short and sweet and jump right into the brands we like in the BCAA game.

Choosing a BCAA supplement

If you decide to use a BCAA supplement to support muscle growth and reduce muscle damage and soreness, you certainly have a lot of products to choose from. BCAA supplements come in powder and capsule forms, and many also contain additional nutrients, typically to support absorption and to help reduce DOMS. BCAA powders need to be mixed with water or a non-carbonated beverage and are best consumed during or immediately after a workout or training session. BCAA capsules can be taken with water during or after a workout. BCAA powders are typically more cost effective, offer more flexible dosing, and can be mixed with other supplements. The capsules can be more convenient, however, if you need to take BCAAs on the go.

When looking for a BCAA supplement, you’ll want to go with a high-quality brand that offers value for money, with no unnecessary added ingredients that provide lots of hype for little nutritional gain.

BCAA supplements on Amazon

Vega Clean Powder BCAAs Plus GlutaminePowder4 g BCAAs (large amino acid profile) plus glutamine
BCAA 3:1:2 from MusclePharmPowder3 g leucine, 2 g valine, and 1 g isoleucine
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAAPowder5 g BCAA blend (leucine, valine, isoleucine), 250 mg bakers yeast beta glucan, 200 mg Rhodiola extract
Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA CapsulesCapsule500 mg L-leucine, 250 mg L-isoleucine, and 250 mg L-valine
Nutricost BCAA Capsules 2:1:1Capsule500 mg L-leucine, 250 mg L-isoleucine, and 250 mg L-valine

Vega Clean Powder BCAAs Plus Glutamine

Vega Clean’s product has 4 g of BCAAs per serving and is completely plant-based, made from pea, hemp, alfalfa, and pumpkin. It also has no artificial colors and sweeteners (made with stevia extract) and is certified vegan. This powder is a great option for taking care of your muscles, with added benefits for digestion, immune function, and general antioxidant status thanks to the glutamine content.

BCAA 3:1:2 from MusclePharm

This no-nonsense MusclePharm BCAA supplement provides a whopping 6 grams of BCAAs in every serving (two scoops). This includes 3 g of leucine, 2 g of valine, and 1 g of isoleucine, with no sugar or sweeteners, at an affordable price. If you’re sensitive to soy, however, this product contains soy lecithin.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA

Optimum Nutrition offers a unique product that combines a good dose of BCAAs with vitamin C, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, and a meaningful amount of the adaptogenic herb Rhodiola rosea. Vitamin C helps to quash damaging free radicals that lead to muscle damage and soreness,1 the electrolyte minerals help you stay hydrated during and after a workout, and rhodiola helps your body to resist mental and physical stress to improve stamina, recovery, and your focus and attention. This supplement also features Wellmune® (a beta-glucan supplement derived from baker’s yeast) to support immune function (which declines immediately after a workout).2

These extras are likely worth it if your training goals are frequently disrupted by injuries and illness. This product does, unfortunately, contain some artificial colors and flavorings, however. Here’s hoping Optimum Nutrition responds to customer demand and changes this part of the formula in the future!

See also: The power of adaptogens: 7 health benefits of ashwagandha root

Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Capsules

If you prefer to take your BCAAs in capsule form over powder, this Optimum Nutrition product may be a good option for you. Two capsules taken first thing in the morning or 30 minutes before or after your workout have 500 mg of “micronized” L-leucine, 250 mg L-isoleucine, and 250 mg L-valine. The capsules also contain magnesium stearate, gelatin, and microcrystalline cellulose.

Nutricost BCAA Capsules 2:1:1

Another capsule option is from Nutricost, delivering the same ratio of BCAAs as the Optimum Nutrition Instantized capsule product and same additional ingredients.

Key takeaways

BCAA supplements can be helpful for some people, especially aiding in general post-workout recovery or even recovering from an injury. They have very few side effects, but people with kidney conditions should consult with their healthcare practitioner prior to trying a BCAA supplement.

Do you have a BCAA supplement you swear by? Let us know in the comments!

Dr. Aaron Gardner, BSc, MRes, PhD

Dr. Aaron Gardner, BSc, MRes, PhD is a life-scientist with a strong background in genetics and medical research, and the developing fields of personalized medicine and nutrition. Read his full bio here.

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