Best BCAA Branch Chain Amino Acids for Men and Women 2019

Whether you are a novice athlete or someone who has been lifting or competing for years, chances are good that you are familiar with branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs. Depending on who you listen to, BCAAs may sound like a godsend or just like another supplement. While we will get into the details of how to supplement BCAAs shortly, it is important to first cover what they are and how they may help you progress in your athletic pursuits. 

What Are the BCAAs?

If you have been exercising (and in particular, if you have been lifting weights) for any length of time, chances are good that you have heard the phrase "branched chain amino acids" or seen the abbreviation BCAAs. Many people will see the phrase "amino acids" and think "protein." This is a completely logical connection to make--amino acids are, indeed, the building blocks of proteins. And understanding the connection between protein and amino acids is core to understanding how muscle is built. 

When you consume protein trough your diet, whether that protein is through animal or plant sources, the proteins in food are broken down by your body. Your body breaks proteins into amino acids, and these amino acids are then used to synthesize muscle tissue.

But the term "BCAA" refers to a specific type of amino acids--those with a branched chain. They are as follows:
  • leucine
  • isoleucine
  • valine

While all three are important, leucine is arguably the most critical when it comes to muscle protein synthesis. In several studies, people who supplemented with leucine post-workout (in addition to consuming protein and carbohydrates) experienced greater muscle growth. This is because leucine activates a complex known as mTOR, and this complex accelerates protein syntesis in the body. This translates to increased muscle growth.

Because leucine is the most crucial BCAA for protein syntesis, most high-quality supplements will have more leucine than isoleucine or valine. Many experts recommend consuming BCAAs in a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio.

Depending on the manufacturer, some supplements will not include information on ratios of included amino acids. For optimal muscle growth and recovery, it's helpful to know the BCAA ratio of the product you choose.

BCAA Benefits

You already know why taking in enough dietary protein is important, but why are BCAAs vital? These are the only protein building blocks that are not degraded in the liver. When you take BCAAs, they move quickly into your bloodstream, meaning that they ensure there are enough building blocks in your bloodstream to ensure that muscle repair will happen as needed. 

However, this is where the plot thickens. You may have realized that you have appreciable muscle mass (or maybe someone you know has appreciable muscle mass), and that mass has been achieved without taking BCAAs as a supplement. In theory, it is possible to get all the protein (and all the BCAAs) you need through diet. However, as we will discover soon, timing of nutrients is often important, and the right BCAA supplement can help you ensure you constantly have enough of the right amino acids in your system to ensure maximal muscle synthesis.

Most of the research around BCAAs is focused on improved protein synthesis (and therefore, on improving muscle growth). However, this supplement is also helpful for fat loss. If you've ever done bulking and cutting cycles, you likely know the challenge of maintaining muscle mass while cutting fat. Because BCAAs provide amino acids but have few to no no calories, they offer you a way to maintain the muscle you have while eating at a calorie deficit.

When to Take BCAAs

As noted earlier, part of why BCAAs are important is the fact that they can help you maintain optimal concentrations of the right proteins in your bloodstream. For optimal protein synthesis and muscle growth, you want to make sure your body has a constant supply of BCAAs. For this reason, many athletes choose to supplement with BCAAs during their workout or immediately after. 

However, much of muscle protein synthesis--the process of rebuilding muscle after a workout--happens while you sleep. For this reason, taking BCAAs before bed may also be a good idea. Essentially, between dietary protein and the BCAA supplements you take, you want to ensure that your body always has building blocks of protein available.

Are There Any BCAA Side Effects?

Because BCAAs themselves are found naturally in the diet, the molecules themselves do not have any side effects. However, because different BCAA supplements contain other ingredients, it is possible to experience side effects from them. For instance, if you are allergic to red dyes or other dyes used in powdered drinks, a colored BCAA supplement may not work for you.

Similarly, while many BCAA supplements just contain BCAAs, others have additional ingredients, including stimulants. While some exercisers prefer a stimulant in their BCAA mixture, too many stimulants may cause dizziness, increased heart rate, and other undesirable side effects. If you are concerned about side effects, be sure to check the label of any BCAA supplement you're considering.

How We Rank BCAA Supplements

Before we examine the top five BCAA supplements for men and women, it's important to clarify how we rank these supplements. In considering which products to recommend, we have used these factors:
  • BCAA ratios
  • Other ingredients
  • Overall value
  • Flavor and mixability

As noted above, the ratio of BCAAs in a supplement is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a supplement. If the manufacturer does not list ratios, this may mean that leucine, isoleucine, and valine are included in less than optimal ratios.

"Other ingredients" may sound like a broad category, but it is an important consideration. Since some formulations have stimulants or other workout supplements added, not every BCAA formulation will be ideal for everyone. 

Overall value is an important consideration as well. This is where we evaluate a given supplement to ensure that you're getting a quality product for the price. For instance, less expensive BCAA supplements may not always be able to compete with pricier mixes, but when cost is a consideration, it's possible to find a middle ground when it comes to quality and budget.

Lastly, flavor and mixability is also something we look at. The vast majority of BCAAs come as flavored drink mixes that can be shaken up in a blender bottle. While flavor may not sound like a crucial consideration, its important that a supplement you take daily is easy to prepare and at least somewhat pleasant to drink. If you have an existing pre-workout or other drink you prefer to take during your workout, you might prefer an unflavored version of a BCAA supplement. 

Now that we have reviewed the benefits of BCAAs and what to expect when taking them, we will go over the top five BCAA supplements for men and the top five for women.

The Best BCAAs for Men

Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine

Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine

Transparaent Labs, as the name suggests, is known for labeling transparency. This supplement contains the optimal 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs, and it also includes the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine is known for its ability to drastically reduce post-workout soreness and to speed recovery. This formulation also includes coconut water extract to support hydration. It is sweetened with stevia to keep carbohydrate content to a minimum, and it comes in a few enticing flavors: strawberry lemonade, blue raz, green apple, and sour grape.

Pros

  • Ideal 2:1:1 BCAA ratio
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Includes glutamine and coconut water extract

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Some hydration benefits, but not as many as some other formulations

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each container has 30 12.7-gram servings.
  • Price: One 30-serving bag is $39. While this may seem somewhat pricey, you can save money by purchasing multiple bags at one. When you purchase two bags for $68, you save $10 off the total price. And when you purchase three bags for $87, you save $30 off the total price.

Final Thoughts: This high-quality supplement with minimal ingredients is a good choice for men looking for optimal BCAA supplementation.

Cellucor COR-Performance Beta-BCAA

Cellucor COR-Performance Beta-BCAA

This is an amino acid formulation that also includes several extras. While leucine, isoleucine, and valine are included in the optimal 2:1:1 ratio, this supplement includes other performance-boosting aminos like taurine and L-arginine. It also includes an electrolyte blend for balanced hydration. Cellucor is known for manufacturing affordable yet effective supplements, and this mix is no exception. It comes in several flavors, including fruit punch, watermelon, lemon-lime, and mixed berry.

Pros

  • Optimal ratio of BCAAs
  • Very affordable
  • Excellent hydration support
  • Extra amino acids for maximum performance benefits

Cons

  • Includes dyes, which may not be ideal for all
  • The sweetener used is sucralose, which may cause problems for some users

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each container has 30 12.7-gram servings.
  • Price: For a 30-serving tub, the price is $24.99.

Final Thoughts: This is a versatile, affordable all-in-one workout support supplement.

BPI Sports Best BCAA

BPI Sports Best BCAA

BPI Sports is a respected brand in the fitness community, and its new formulation of Best BCAA has some advantages over the older formulation. Namely, while it includes the optimal 2:1:1 BCAA ratio as it did before, it also includes the powerful performance support, L-carnitine. This molecule is a mitochondrial catalyst, meaning that it stimulates the mitochondria--the parts of the cell that manufacture energy. L-carnitine has been shown to support fat loss and improved performance, making it a valuable addition to BPI's BCAA formula. For men who like to take BCAAs before and during workouts, this is an especially good choice. It also comes in exciting flavors, including snow cone, blue raz, fruit punch, cherry lime, and watermelon ice.

Pros

  • Optimal BCAA ratio
  • L-carnitine supports fat loss and performance
  • Lots of exciting flavors

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Included dyes may not be ideal for those with allergies

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 25 11-gram servings.
  • Price: For each 25-serving tub, the cost is $29.99.

Final Thoughts: This new and improved formula is ideal for men who are going through a cutting cycle, as the addition of L-carnitine may help support fat loss while eating at a deficit.

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA

Nearly anyone with fitness experience will be familiar with Optimum Nutrition, a manufacturer known for affordable yet high-quality products. The Gold Standard BCAA blend contains potassium, sodium, and magnesium for electrolyte support, and it also contains five grams of BCAAs. However, this formula does not list the ratios of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It contains rhodiola extract to support endurance, and it comes in several flavors, including cranberry lemonade, watermelon, fruit punch, and strawberry kiwi.

Pros

  • Strong electrolyte support
  • Contains 5g of BCAAs
  • Many flavor options

Cons

  • BCAA ratio is not listed
  • Somewhat expensive

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 28 10-gram servings.
  • Price: Each tub is $29.99.

Final Thoughts: While this popular supplement does a lot of things right, it is somewhat expensive given the fact that the BCAA ratio is not included on the label.

MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2

MusclePharm BCAA 3:1:2

Like Cellucor, MusclePharm is well known for making affordable yet effective products and supplements. This is a somewhat unusual formulation, as it has a 3:1:2 ratio of BCAAs. Thus, it may be a good choice for those who want a departure from typical BCAA formulations. And since it has 6 grams of total BCAAs, you still receive enough of each one. This is one of the most affordable BCAA formulas around, and it comes in an unflavored version for those who want to mix it with existing pre-workout or other drinks. It also is available in watermelon, lemon lime, and blue raspberry.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • More total BCAAs than many other supplements
  • Comes in an unflavored version

Cons

  • May not be ideal for those who want a lot of extras
  • Unusual BCAA ratio may be a deterrent for some

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 7.8-gram servings.
  • Price: At $14.99 for a 30-serving tub, this is one of the most affordable BCAA supplements out there.

Final Thoughts: This no-frills supplement is ideal for those who want to build muscle on a budget.

The Best BCAAs for Women

COR-Performance Beta-BCAA by Cellucor

Cellucor COR-Performance Beta-BCAA

For many female fitness enthusiasts, cutting fat while maintaining muscle poses a real challenge. Physiologically speaking, it tends to be difficult for women to lose fat while building muscle, and the right supplements can help. That's part of why Cellucor's BCAA formula is a great choice for women. It includes the ideal BCAA ratio, but it also includes electrolyte support and performance support in the form of additional essential amino acids. Plus, it comes in several delicious flavors and is quite affordable.

Pros

  • Ideal 2:1:1 BCAA ratio
  • Hydration support
  • Extra amino acids for improved performance

Cons

  • Does not come in an unflavored version
  • Dyes may not be ideal for all users

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 12.7-gram servings.
  • Price: Each 30-serving tub costs $24.99.

Final Thoughts: This is a strong all-around BCAA supplement, and its additional ingredients make it a smart choice for women who want to lose fat while gaining muscle.

IdealLean BCAAs For Women

IdealLean BCAAs For Women

As noted earlier, BCAAs are often an excellent tool for fat loss. This is especially true of the IdealLean BCAA blend. While this manufacturer is not very well-known in the fitness world, this is a high-quality, 2:1:1 BCAA blend that emphasizes fat loss. It includes a blend of B vitamins for energy and overall health, and it also contains a specialized fat-loss blend to support losing fat while maintaining muscle mass.

It also contains glutaine and citrulline to reduce soreness, speed recovery time, and get the most out of your workout. It comes in strawberry kiwi flavor, and it also includes coconut water powder for hydration.

Pros

  • Optimal 2:1:1 BCAA ratio
  • Plenty of extra ingredients support fat loss and energy

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Only comes in one flavor

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 10.56-gram servings.
  • Price: Each 30-serving tub costs $34.99.

Final Thoughts: This is a high-quality blend ideal for women looking to keep energy levels high while losing fat and maintaining muscle.

Ghost Amino

Ghost Amino

This eye-catching product is designed to support both performance and hydration. It is free of sugars and includes coconut water powder for hydration support. It includes the ideal ratio of BCAAs, but it also contains a wealth of other essential amino acids. This combination makes it ideal for those looking to maintain energy and hydration levels. In fact, the manufacturer itself states that Ghost Aminos can be used at work or at parties in order to help support alertness. This supplement comes in blue raspberry or fruit punch.

Pros

  • Ideal amino ratio
  • Comes with additional amino acids
  • Good hydration support

Cons

  • Is one of the more expensive BCAA powders
  • Not much flavor variety

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 one-scoop servings.
  • Price: Each 30-serving tub costs $39.99.

Final Thoughts: While it is a quality product with excellent hydration and amino support, this is one of the more expensive BCAA supplements available.

Staunch BCAA +Hydration

Staunch BCAA +Hydration

For women who want extra support when it comes to muscle building and maintenance, Staunch offers a high-quality supplement. While this product has the ideal 2:1:1 ratio, it has seven grams of BCAAs. By contrast, most BCAA supplements have five grams of BCAAs.

This supplement also includes coconut water powder for optimal hydration. This addition makes it ideal for taking during a workout. It also comes in a refreshing white grape flavor.

Pros

  • Ideal 2:1:1 BCAA ratio
  • Contains 7g total BCAAs
  • Hydration support

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Not a lot of flavor variety

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 10.9-gram servings.
  • Price: Each tub costs $34.

Final Thoughts: This is a high-quality formula with extra BCAAs, making it ideal for those who want extra support when it comes to muscle maintenance and gain.

GYM VIXEN BCAA

GYM VIXEN BCAA

This formula is designed for women who have a special interest in muscle gain. It includes the usual 2:1:1 BCAA ratio, but it also includes alpha-hydroxyisocaproic acid, or HICA, which has been shown to support muscle gain. This formula also includes a hydration complex and a full six grams of BCAAs. It comes in green apple and watermelon flavors.

Pros

  • Ideal BCAA ratio
  • Includes more BCAA than many supplements
  • Uncommon and effective ingredients

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Not a significant amount of flavor variety

Conclusion

  • Servings: Each tub contains 30 one-scoop servings.
  • Price: Each tub costs $29.95.

Final Thoughts: This is an unusual formula, but between the six grams of BCAA and the inclusion of HICA, it is a great choice for women looking to build muscle.

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