8 Best BCAA Supplements in 2018 for Muscle Growth (UPDATED)

Mihai Voinea
Medically reviewed by Mihai Voinea Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) — Research analysis by Alex Eriksson

To build lean muscle growth and prevent skeletal muscle breakdown from intense training, the best BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) supplement can be beneficial. Amino acids for muscle growth include leucine, valine and isoleucine.

While these can be found in natural foods and in protein powders, they are usually found in much smaller amounts than in pro BCAA supplements.

bcaa powder

BCAA powders are free of calories and suitable to use for maintaining muscle while dieting or preventing muscle breakdown while fasting

To optimize the muscle building effects of these amino acids (better known as branched amino acids or BCAAs), you may opt to take BCAA supplements instead.



muscle food

A Quick Look at the Best BCAA Supplements

Scivation Xtend BCAAs

​This powder contains ideal BCAA ratios, with added beneficial compounds such as glutamine and citrulline. Citrulline is an non essential amino acid that can help blood flow and is great for extra pump during workouts.

BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 2:1:1​

​This is a 100% pure amino acid BCAA supplement. It delivers a large concentration of BCAAs for greater gains.

Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules

​These easy-to-take capsules make BCAA supplementation more convenient. There is no unpleasant bitterness commonly associated with use of BCAA's in  powder form.

BSN AMINO X

​This is another BCAA supplement that delivers a large concentration of branched-chain amino acid supplementation. It does not contain any stimulants such as caffeine, making it good to take during any time of the day.

BPI Sports Best BCAA Powder

What sets this product apart is its oligopeptide-enzymatic technology. The BCAAs are available to the tissues in bonded form for greater bioavailability. This may be considered as among the best amino acids if your goal is to get greater gains.

Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy

This BCAA supplement is unique from the rest due to its free-form, micronized amino acids. It has caffeine in it, obtained from natural sources, i.e., green coffee and green tea extracts.

Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA 5000mg Powder

This supplement comes is instantized form, which means that it instantly dissolves in liquids without forming any clumps.

Sheer BCAA Branched Chain Amino Acids Supplement, Muscle Building Post Workout

This BCAA supplement may help in stimulating protein synthesis more efficiently. This may help reduce fatigue and speed up muscle building and muscle repair.


Reviews Of The Best BCAA Supplements

Picture

Product

Brand

Ingredients

Rating

Scivation, Xtend BCAAs

Scivation

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
  • L-Glutamine
  • Citrulline Malate
  • Electrolyte Blend
BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 2:1:1

BulkSupplements

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules

Optimum Nutrition

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Microcrystalline Cellulose
  • Gelatin
BSN AMINO X

BSN Sports

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
  • L-Citrulline
  • L-Alanine
  • Taurine
BPI Sports Best BCAA Powder

BPI Sports

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
  • CLA
  • Agmatine
  • Maltodextrin
Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy

Optimum Nutrition

  • ​L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
  • Beta-Alanine
  • Caffeine (from green tea)
  • Green tea extract
  • Green coffee extract
Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Powder

Optimum Nutrition

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine
Sheer BCAA Branched Chain Amino Acids Supplement, Muscle Building Post Workout

Sheer Strength Labs

  • L-Leucine
  • L-Isoleucine
  • L-Valine

Get a large amount of BCAAs, at 7 grams per serving. The ratio of the 3 vital amino acids (leucine isoleucine and valine) is at the ideal 2:1:1, which numerous studies have demonstrated to be the most effective.

Scivation, Xtend BCAAs

Each serving has the following:

  • 3.5 grams of leucine, which works by stimulating synthesis of muscle whey protein
  • 1.75 grams L-isoleucine
  • 1.75 grams L-valine

This blend also has the following added ingredients for additional  benefits:

  • 2.5 grams of L-glutamine
  • 1 gram of citrulline malate

These compounds help muscle tissues perform better, and for longer. They improve muscle performance, endurance, and strength. This formulation can help you get more out of each workout session.

A blend of electrolytes is also added. Electrolytes keep the body well hydrated and aids recovery, especially during intense training sessions.

The BCAAs in this supplement work as intra workout catalysts. These trigger certain processes that aid to build muscle and prevent breakdown.

Things We Liked

  • Zero sugar & carbohydrates
  • Low calorie (5 calories per serving)
  • Added electrolytes
  • Citrulline for better pump
  • Many flavours

Things We Didn't Like

  • Artificial Sweeteners (However, there is a version available without (RAW), but the taste is somewhat bitter)
BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 2 1 1

This supplement contains 100% pure powdered BCAAs. Purity is lab-tested and guaranteed.

Each serving of BulkSupplements Pure BCAA is 1500 mg. Having one of the lowest prices on the market, this BCAA supplement provides a lot of value and is the best choice if you are on a slim budget.

How to Use:

Mix 1,500 mg (roughly about ¾ teaspoon) of BulkSupplements Pure powder in liquid. Mix well before drinking. Take 3 times per day.

You may opt to take more often or in larger servings. Be prepared for the bitter taste if you want to use more powder in each drink. The bitterness will be more difficult to mask even when mixed with other drink flavours if using more scoops per serving.

The best time to take this BCAA drink is during workouts. ​For optimum benefit of bcaa, take BulkSupplements 30 minutes before any exercise.

Things We Liked

  • No fillers
  • Non-GMO product

Things We Didn't Like

  • Unpleasant taste, especially if take in more concentrated dosages

Each capsule delivers the ideal 2:1:1 ratio of the vital BCAAs leucine isoleucine and valine. These will protect the muscles from catabolism (breakdown) when you perform intense training. These amino acids also help build more lean muscle and  enhances recovery after each endurance exercise session.

Taking these capsules during  strength training exercises may help kick start muscle protein synthesis. This is a vital process in muscle building.

Optimum Nutrition BCAA Capsules

Each capsule contains 1000 mg of BCAAs, in the 2:1:1 ratio. It also contains magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose and gelatin.​

How to Take:

The recommended time to take this pre-workout supplement is between meals, before any workout or after training (30-45 minutes before or after).

Take 2 capsules daily.

Things We Liked

  • Easy to swallow capsules
  • No unpleasant taste from the BCAA contents, unlike with powdered BCAAs

Things We Didn't Like

  • Bioavailability is not as high and fast acting as when taking BCAAs in liquid or powder form
BSN AMINO X

Each serving of BSN Amino X contains 10 grams of the important amino acids for muscle building and recovery. The BCAAs come in the ideal 2:1:1 ratio.

This product also contains L-citrulline, L-alanine and taurine. All great additions to bring the benefits of this BCAA supplement to the next level.

This is a caffeine-free product (stimulant-free). You can take this anytime whether day or night.

The powder easily mixes with any liquid. There are no clumps that can destroy the smooth taste.

How to Use:

Combine 1 level scoop of BSN Amino X with 6-8 oz. cold water or any preferred liquid such as a post-workout nutrition (post-workout protein) or gainer shake. Stir to mix well. Take 2 servings each day.

Things We Liked

  • Good taste, available in 5 different flavours
  • Easily mixes, no clumps

Things We Didn't Like

  • Pressure can build up while mixing the powder (open blender when mixing)

This supplement from BPI features a cutting edge performance formula. This is designed to aid in building muscle and increasing strength. The formula may also help body fat loss and support muscle recovery/healing from muscle soreness.

BPI Sports Best BCAA Powder

BPI Sports BCAA is created through a revolutionary process called oligopeptide-enzymatic technology. This process bonds the 3 main BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine, forming oligopeptides. In this form, the BCAAs may act as improved transport vehicles for enhanced metabolism, increased bioavailability and improved onset period of effects. This may translate to seeing results sooner than from using other BCAA products.

This product is a good addition to bodybuilding programs. Most of these programs include periods with a calorie-deficit diet, which may end you  up losing more muscle mass rather than building it. By taking BCAA during workouts, muscles gained are protected.

This powder also contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). This ingredient helps burn belly fat. The energy produced may be used by the body to fuel muscle strength during resistance training. This makes it one of the best intra workout supplements. CLA will also increase your testosterone levels.

Things We Liked

  • Uses a new type of  flavoring technology that give this drink better taste
  • No added sugars

Things We Didn't Like

  • Pricey
Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy

This BCAA supplement contains 56 grams of free-form, micronized branch chain amino acids, with the addition of beta-alanine. Micronized amino acids are easier for the body to absorb.

It also comes with 100 mg caffeine obtained from green tea. This supplement contains both green coffee and green tea extracts which will aid in burning fat while also maintaining muscle.

How to Take:

One serving uses 2 scoops of powder. Each serving has about 5 to 10 calories and 100 mg caffeine. Mix the powder in water or any liquid of your choice. You may add more scoops if you want to increase the strength of the drink and provide my caffeine energy.

Things We Liked

  • Easily dissolves and mixes with water
  • More affordable than most BCAA drinks

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some people might feel too stimulated from the caffeine

This BCAA powder has been “instantized”. This process creates a powder that easily dissolves in liquid, even in cold water. The powder does not form into clumps or settle at the bottom of the glass, which is often the case with other BCAA products.

 Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Powder

Each serving of Optimum Nutrition BCAA Instantized Powder delivers 5000 mg of BCAAs. Prolonged endurance training will cause muscle catabolism. Amino acids may help protect muscle tissues from break down during endurance training. They may also help in promoting protein synthesis when taken during strength training.

How to Use:

Mix 1 scoop in 6-8 oz. of your preferred liquid such as protein shake, juice or water. Take before or during endurance training as intra workout supplements. You may also take this before or during a strength training exercise.

Things We Liked

  • Easily mixes in liquids
  • Stimulant-free

Things We Didn't Like

  • Unflavored version has a rather unpleasant bitter taste
Sheer BCAA Branched Chain Amino Acids Supplement, Muscle Building Post Workout

This BCAA supplement may help in stimulating protein synthesis more efficiently. This may help reduce central fatigue and speed up muscle recovery.

The formula may also aid in faster fat burning, but make sure you also stick to a good workout regimen for maximum results.

Sheer BCAAs comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.

How to Use:

Take 2 capsules each day as a dietary supplement.

Things We Liked

  • Convenient to take

Things We Didn't Like

  • Contains magnesium stearate, a filler that can slightly worsen absorption 

shake

What to Look for in the Best BCAA Supplement?

BCAAs are helpful in your quest to build more lean muscle. However, you have to be careful when choosing a BCAA product because not all will give the benefits you might want. Some products may be a waste of money because these do not contain the necessary qualities or ratios of amino acids in order to be effective.

The key qualities you must look for in the best BCAAs include:

Digestion & Absorption Qualities

Branch amino acids are not so easily absorbed by the body. You must look at the form that the BCAAs come in. Some amino acids will require longer digestion, which means that that they won’t be as efficient as others.

Added Enhancers

Some of the supplements have enhancers thrown in. Check what these are. Some use enhancers for weight loss or for greater energy enhancement and pump, such as citrulline and glutamine supplement. Some have electrolytes for greater muscle contraction and recovery, as well as water and electrolyte balance.

L-Leucine

This is the main amino acid you have to place more focus on when you choose your supplement. In fact, this should have the greatest percentage of all the ingredients in the supplement. A ratio of 2:1:1 is the best.

Grams Per Serving

Go for supplements that do not skimp on the important ingredients i.e. amino acids. Avoid supplements with lots of fillers.

Sugar

Stay away from sugar. It is tempting for manufacturers to add some sugar into their supplements to make it taste better. Pure amino acids are bitter and that will sometimes throw off a lot of users.

However, it is highly recommended to choose unflavored versions. The taste may not be that pleasant but at least you are better off in terms of health which is the main reason you are often taking the supplement to begin with. Sugar will overshadow many benefits you get from the supplement.

Some flavored varieties do not use sugars. Look closely at the labels and do some extra research to look up how the product is flavoured. That way, you can make sure you aren’t getting more than the sugar you expect to. Sugar comes in many forms and if you spot anything that ends in –ose in the label such as sucrose and fructose, it is probably sugar and best avoided.


Conclusion

Considering the features to look for, as well as the ingredients in the supplements in our list, we have determined the best amino acid supplement is Scivation XTEND.

Scivation, Xtend BCAAs

It delivers BCAAs in the ideal ratio of 2:1:1. This supplement requires a smaller serving size, which means fully packed and optimized servings. Moreover, it has excellent added enhancers, such as citrulline malate for better pump. This further improve the benefits that your muscles get when you train and during recovery. 

There is also the extra electrolyte blend that further support recovery from intense excercise. Electrolytes such as potassium are vital for effective muscle contractions. This electrolyte blend also helps restore and maintain electrolyte balance in the body.

All these features make XTEND the best BCAA supplement. It has amino acids for muscle growth and other beneficial substances that enable you to make the most out of your training.


Image credits: Amazon.com

author
Alex Eriksson (Research Analysis)

Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.

author
Mihai Voinea (Editor)

Mihai is a medical doctor and entrepreneur with a burning obsession for performance and health. Mihai is also an IronMan, ultramarathon runner, and co-founder of Marsilian, which owns two e-learning platforms for future medical students and doctors.





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