BCAA supplements should be a top priority for all performance athletes and bodybuilders, especially for those high-intensity workout days.
That's because amino acids are pivotal, not just in enhancing physical performance and muscle growth but also in promoting mental well-being, particularly in mood regulation and bolstering cognitive function.
I've tested out over 80 different products as a personal trainer and found that many BCAA supplements don't deliver on many of these basic promises. The problem usually comes down to the wrong ratio, dosage, and quality. It's difficult to tell this by just looking at the label.
So, as a personal trainer, I've researched and tested many amino acid supplements to bring you products with great success stories among users.
This list of the best amino acid supplements curated after several months of testing and research should give you some great options to help with muscle growth.
The Best Amino Acid Supplements
- Best Overall Amino Acid Supplement: Transparent Labs
- Cheapest Amino Acid Supplement: Life Extension
- Best Amino Acid Supplement for Skin and Hair Health: Double Wood
- Best Tasting Amino Acid Supplement: Jacked Factory
- Best Amino Acid Supplement for Bodybuilders: Huge Supplements Huge BCAA
- Best Vegan-Friendly Amino Acid Supplement: Thorne Amino Complex
- Best Amino Acid Supplement for Energy Boost: XTEND Original BCAA Powder
- Best Amino Acid Supplement for Muscle Recovery: Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA
- Best Unflavored Amino Acid Supplement: Naked BCAAs Amino Acids Powder
Our Top Products (December 2023)
1 - Transparent Labs - BCAA Glutamine (Best Overall)
This Transparent Labs product stands out from other BCAA supplements because it has some added L-glutamine, which has been shown to support muscle recovery and reduce muscle wasting .
I've been using this amino acid supplement for a couple of years now and it has consistently helped me achieve my muscle growth objectives. I've also noticed that I experience less prolonged muscle soreness after my workouts compared to when I didn't use it.
In my personal research into BCAA supplements, I discovered that the ratio of 2:1:1 (Leucine: Isoleucine: Valine) which Transparent Labs uses in their BCAA supplement is the best combination for optimal muscle protein synthesis based on scientific studies .
And with some great flavor options, many users have commented that it mixes easily with cold water for a refreshing drink.
- Supplement Facts: Calories: 10, Carbs: 2g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 8g
- The BCAA powder has the recommended ratio for protein synthesis
- Added L-glutamine has shown positive results with users regarding recovery times
- Great selection of tasty flavors that mix easily in a shaker
- Free shipping is only available for orders over $150
2 - Double Wood Supplements Essential Amino Acids (Best for Skin and Hair Health)
Double Wood Essential Amino acids supplement is one of the BCAA supplements that I've tried myself. I must confess, that my initial expectations were centered around achieving heightened pumps and increased endurance, both of which I experienced. However, the most unexpected and pleasantly surprising outcome was the noticeable improvement in skin elasticity and hair strength during the same period of usage.
Most of my test group subjects also experienced the same benefits; increased endurance during intense workouts and skin and hair health improvements.
We also like that the capsules are small and easily swallowed without getting stuck in their throat.
But if you're a vegan or vegetarian athlete, then you want to avoid these, as the capsules contain some gelatin.
- Supplement Facts: Calories 4, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: EAA, Dosage: 1g
- Contains all nine essential amino acids to kickstart protein synthesis
- The capsules are easy to swallow
- Many positive comments that it seems to help reduce fatigue
- The capsules contain gelatin and won't suit all diets
3 - Jacked Factory BCAA Supplement Powder (Best Tasting)
Jacked Factory is one of my favorite supplement companies. I'm particularly fond of the flavored ones because of their delightful taste. It was like a well-deserved treat following an intense workout session. I couldn't help but anticipate enjoying it after my workouts.
When it comes to the results, It doesn't disappoint either; the 6g of amino acids in a very clean formula helped me reduce muscle soreness quite a lot.
The company also claims that fermented BCAAs are a better source for your body, but I couldn't find supporting scientific evidence.
And while the flavors seem to be natural, I noticed a few people recommend avoiding the unflavored amino acid supplement.
- Supplement Facts: Calories: 24, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 6g
- Provides a higher than average dose of BCAAs in each scoop
- Based on fermented BCAAs that may be absorbed faster
- Many positive comments online about the taste and texture
- The unflavored version does not taste good with just water
4 - Life Extension Branched Chain Amino Acids (Cheapest Option)
I've found Life Extension Branched Chain Amino Acids supplement an ideal option for people who need to take BCAA supplements while they are on the go like me. It comes in small capsules. You won't need to mix it up before you hit the gym, and it's easier to carry around.
Users have also said that splitting the 4 capsule dose before and after training seemed to provide a boost of energy and faster recovery. Just keep in mind that the dosage is lower than the above options.
- Supplement Facts: Calories: 10, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 2.4g
- It comes in a capsule form, making it more convenient for taking on the go
- It's easy to split the dosage before and after exercising
- Certified gluten-free and non-GMO make it a clean and simple BCAA supplementation
- It doesn't provide a high enough dose for performance athletes
5 - Huge Supplements Huge BCAA (Best for Bodybuilders)
This is a BCAA Supplement that we found a lot of bodybuilders recommending because it has 8g of BCAAs and 5g of glutamine.
As a result, this shouldn't just help with faster training recovery but also reduce muscle fatigue during training .
I also liked that it mixes fast and easily with water, so you don't end up with a clumpy mess, and most of the powder stuck to your shaker.
- Supplement Facts: Calories: 58, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 8g
- Provides a large dose of glutamine that seems to work well for faster recovery
- The BCAA powder mixes very easily with water leaving no clumps
- A broad range of other essential amino acids seems to trigger protein synthesis better
- It contains some sucralose that some people find too sweet and artificial
6 - Thorne Amino Complex (Best Vegan-Friendly)
Having tried this BCAA powder in the trial period myself, I found that it truly offers all the essential amino acids for optimum muscle recovery .
And unlike other BCAA supplements, this one is certified vegan with plant ingredients only.
One thing that stood out for me was that the natural lemon flavor was not too bitter. And because there are no artificial sweeteners, you also don't get an awful aftertaste.
Just make sure you're aware of the lower dose than average, as bodybuilders will probably need to take more than one scoop.
- Supplement Facts: Calories 25, Carbs: 1g, Fat: 0g, Type: EAA, Dosage: 4g
- It contains 11 different amino acids for broader muscle support
- Uses only natural flavors for a more pleasant taste
- One of the few certified vegan-friendly options
- High-performance athletes and bodybuilders probably need a higher dose
7 - XTEND Original BCAA Powder (Best for Energy Boost)
This is another one of the BCAA supplements that performance athletes tend to buy as it doesn't just have a high branched-chain amino acid dose but also delivers glutamine and citrulline.
My clients’ experience has been that they get better pumps during training and the amino acid profile helped them bulk up more muscle mass .
I just wish they stopped using artificial ingredients as they really aren't needed.
- Supplement Facts: Calories 0, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 7g
- Added L-citrulline should help provide some better pumps
- Contains some added vitamin B to support energy levels
- Positive comments online about the flavors being tasty
- Contains some artificial ingredients for color and flavor
8 - Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Capsules (Best for Muscle Recovery)
This Optimum Nutrition BCAA Supplement is another one based on capsules, and the super-sized tub is ideal for bodybuilders who need to take large doses and tailor those to daily needs.
I would also agree with the many comments online that once I found my ideal dosage, my muscles didn't seem anywhere near as sore after training.
Just keep in mind that the Optimum Nutrition capsules contain gelatin, and as a vegan, you'd have to pick a different product.
- Supplement Facts: Calories 4, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 1g
- Comes in a large tub with 400 capsules for serious bulking phases
- The small capsules make it very easy to adjust the dosage to personal needs
- Users from many different sports have said they felt much less muscle pain
- It contains some gelatin making it unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians
9 - Naked BCAAs Amino Acids Powder (Best Unflavored)
The final one of our best amino acid supplements is this Naked BCAA powder.
While it might not have the strongest dose or the largest amino acid range, the company has created a clean and pure supplement with only BCAAs and no additives.
I also liked that it comes as a large tub with 100 servings, as that would be enough for several months of bulking.
The one thing I'd like to see, though, is a few more flavor options to make it a bit more interesting.
- Supplement Facts: Calories 20, Carbs: 0g, Fat: 0g, Type: BCAA, Dosage: 5g
- It's a pure branched-chain amino acid powder with no unnecessary additives
- Comes in a large enough tub to cover 100 standard servings
- The unflavored powder is ideal for mixing with other drinks or smoothies
- It would be great to have some more flavor options available
10 - The Aminoco - Perform
Top of our list of best amino acid supplements is this one from Aminoco.
The unique thing I noticed was the added L-citrulline and creatine which lack in certain products, seem to help to boost my performance at the gym.
Caffeine should also keep you motivated and focused on training.
And because it has a good ratio of BCAAs and all the amino acids needed for muscle growth, many users have commented that muscle soreness didn't last as long as normal.
- Supplement Facts: Calories: 10, Carbs: 2g, Fat: 0g, Type: EAA, Dosage: 3.8g
- Claims to provide a scientifically tested combination of essential amino acids
- May provide better physical performance when taken as a pre-workout supplement
- The added caffeine seems to help you stay focused and motivated for longer
- It comes with good subscription discounts for a competitive price
- It would be nice to have more flavor options
Our Selection and Testing Process
At Total Shape, we pride ourselves on rigorous testing and research before recommending products to our readers.
In my career as a personal trainer, I've personally tested over 80 different amino acid products, so I know what to look for in terms of ratios, dosages, and quality.
For this review, we began by researching the most effective and popular BCAA supplements out there. By ordering them anonymously, we were able to avoid bias, plus it gave us a delivery experience akin to a regular buyer.
We then spent months researching, testing, and analyzing the supplements with a group of clients and fitness experts.
Our list is not just based on tests, we also considered success stories and feedback from actual users to gauge the real-world effectiveness of these supplements.
Finally, we shortlisted our list to the ten with the highest score in efficacy, safety, and quality.
BCAA Supplements Buyer's Guide
There are several things we researched for all of the above BCAA supplements. And to make sure you get the right product for your needs, these are things to focus on.
Check For Essential Amino Acids
At the very least, you want to buy a product that contains the three branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. An extra dose of these at the right time just after training may help to speed up your recovery by boosting muscle protein synthesis .
But you should also consider supplements with a broader amino acid profile to supply all nine of the essential amino acids that you need to take through a healthy diet, as they all play a role in supporting muscle tissue development after resistance training .
The more of these that you can find on the label, the better your training recovery should be.
“Proteins are composed of amino acids, some of which your body can synthesize and others not. The nine you need yet cannot synthesize, and thus need to ingest, are called essential amino acids (EAAs).”
- Kamal Patel, Co-founder of Examine.com
Compare The Dosage
It's essential that you check the branched-chain amino acid supplement label to find out what the exact dosage is.
A cheap product might have a very low dosage that won't provide enough essential amino acids for a performance athlete going through regular and sustained exercise.
BCAA products should also ideally have a 2:1:1 ratio for leucine, isoleucine, and valine to help you avoid muscle breakdown and speed up recovery .
You should also check the BCAA label particularly when tailoring your amino acid intake according to your individual needs. Consider factors such as activity level, age, and specific health conditions to ensure the supplements support your unique physiological requirements for optimal benefits.
The best thing to do is write down the dosage of the products you're considering and use that to work out the per-gram cost.
More on that shortly.
Choose A Supplement Form
The next thing you have to consider is whether to pick a BCAA supplement in powder or capsule form.
They will both work the same way; it's just down to whether you have a personal preference or there's a convenience need.
I tend to have both in supply at home.
When I know I might be in a rush to get to the gym, I'll bring the capsules to swallow while I'm on the go.
But I also like taking BCAAs as a powder, as I can mix it with a pre-workout smoothie that I make in the mornings. This makes it easier for me to remember putting it in and starting my day right. If you're likely to forget drinking pills, choose BCAA powder supplements to avoid missing out on its benefits.
Find Out What The Flavor And Texture Are Like
You can have the best BCAA powder for ingredients, and it will completely let you down on flavor and texture. Unfortunately, some products either taste completely artificial or way too sweet.
Or they don't mix well, leaving you with a clumpy mess and half the powder stuck to the shaker. It still surprises me how many fitness supplements can’t get texture and flavor right.
The best BCAA supplements we recommend mix easily and don't have the terribly artificial candy flavor, so be careful with flavorings.
Avoid Artificial Ingredients
Another important way to determine if you're onto the best amino acid supplements is to look at all the ingredients listed on the nutrition label.
Some companies will hide things like artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors in a subsection where it's difficult to find.
These chemical substances have been linked to gut flora issues, and that can leave you with cramps, bloating, and even weight gain problems .
Ideally, you want the product to be as pure as possible with only a few binding agents like stearic acid listed.
“Artificial sweeteners can potentially turn healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome into harmful microbes and potentially cause serious health issues such as blood poisoning”
- Sara Rigby, PA Science, Writer at sciencefocus.com
Confirm If There Are Carbs And Sugar
During our testing and research, we found several products that had a lot of sugar and carbs. These are typically added to make a BCAA supplement taste great, but they really don't belong in a health and fitness supplement.
All of our best BCAA supplements contain just a few grams of carbs and no added sugar, which is particularly important for anyone on the ketogenic diet.
Those unnecessary carbs can also mess with your weight management for the average athlete and bodybuilder, so it's best to stay away from them.
Don't Let Price Be A Deciding Factor
If you just base your final decision on the price of a product, then you might be setting yourself up for losing money.
I mentioned above that you should write down the dosage of branched-chain amino acids and other ingredients.
You then multiply the grams per dose by the number of scoops or capsules.
The final step is to divide the price by the total grams of branched-chain amino acid in the tub, and you have a per gram price.
Now you're in a position to tell which product will work out cheaper.
Should You Take Amino Acids Every Day?
You should take certain amino acids every day if you’re not getting enough of them from food. You might struggle to get all the essential amino acids through your diet, which could cause skeletal muscle wasting problems.
Do Amino Acids Affect the Kidneys?
Yes, amino acids affect the kidneys. If you don't get enough of the essential ones, it can lead to kidney problems. Taking the right BCAA supplement may help you prevent that.
Can You Take Amino Acids if You Don’t Work Out?
You can take amino acids even if you don't work out. BCAA capsules or powder supplements don't just help you build muscle; they also help prevent muscle mass loss due to chronic diseases.
Can You Gain Weight with Amino Acids?
No, amino acids don't make you gain weight. When combined with a tough workout routine, they will help build up more muscle mass, and the resulting weight gain would be from the added muscles, not fat.
Which Amino Acid Supplement Should You Choose?
Out of all the products that I researched and tested in the past six months, the one that made it to the top of my list of best amino acid supplements is Transparent Labs BCAA.
It has a great formula that in addition to BCAAs contains L-citrulline and creatine, which have helped me several times in bulking phases to gain more lean muscle mass.
I also found that it gives me some extra strength, endurance, and focus during training. Ingredient quality and effectiveness are far superior to all others I tested.
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