Home Nutrition What are BCAA Supplements, When to Take, Which is Best with Reviews

What are BCAA Supplements, When to Take, Which is Best with Reviews

Posted by admin in Nutrition Category. Reviewed and Updated: 8 July, 2019

Is there any necessity to take BCAA? Let’s clarify.

If you or your friends are doing some sports, you have definitely heard about BCAA supplements. The adequate questions are: “what is BCAA supplement?,” “how do BCAAs influence our body?,” and “who needs to take this supplement?” These are the most common inquiries concerning taking natural BCAAs and facts about them. Let’s answer them.

What Are BCAA Supplements?

BCAAs is an abrreviation for branched-chain amino acids. Our muscle mass consists of about 12% amino acids (1/3 of all essential muscle aminos, as stated in the research by Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, J Nutr. 2004 Jun). They are ordinarily administered to reduce fatigue and make muscles grow faster. Their essentiality means that our bodies do not produce them.

Non-essential amino acids are produced in our body if nutrition is proper. The only adequate source of essential amino acids are foods of animal origin (plant foods also contain them but in lesser quantities). Muscles need them to stay sustained.

The importance of BCAAs doesn’t mean that their external intake (in form of pills, powder, caps, fluids, concentrates, etc.) is mandatory. Add this supplement into your nutrition list if you train hard or just plan to burn fat. People without such targets can benefit only from balanced nutrition. The list of BCAA natural sources includes:

  • Milk
  • Chicken breast
  • Soy
  • Canned tuna
  • Salmon
  • Turkey breasts
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Baked beans
  • Beef
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pumpkins seeds
  • Lima beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Cashew nuts
  • Lentils
  • Corn

What’s the Difference Between Protein, Amino Acids, and BCAAs?

Protein, along with carbs and fat, belongs to the three main macronutrients. Protein is used by our bodies to build muscles and other tissues. This macronutrient is essential for both human and animal living organisms.

Amino acids (or simply “aminos”) are organic compounds, the building blocks of protein. After protein appears in your body through food, it’s broken down into aminos, which are used for growing muscles and other tissues, repairing them, etc. Commercially available products are typically made from protein.

Branched-chain aminos are represented by the triad of substances which aren’t synthesized by our bodies. Their main function is to encourage the body to produce insulin, which turns the sugar we consume into the energy. In addition, BCAAs extend the nitrogen to cells, which plays a significant role in forming muscles, required for survival and for looking like a total babe.

So, BCAAs are crucial for the development and proper functioning of our body.

Gym rats need to consume enough quantities of protein to build muscles and help them recover. BCAAs can serve as a good supplementary means to the diet. They have some super effects:

  • Lessen exercise-induced catabolism (Negro M., Giardina S, J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Sep)
  • Prevent muscle wasting (Louard RJ, Barrett EJ, Gelfand RA, Clin Sci (Lond), 1990 Nov)
  • Stimulate leptin rate surging in the blood plasma (Lynch CJ, Gern B, Lloyd C et al., Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Sep)
  • Intensify fat burning and cutting (Jim Stoppani, Timothy Scheett, James Pena, Chuck Rudolph, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009)
  • Enhance the functioning of immunity (Calder PC, J Nutr. 2006 Jan)
  • Diminish delayed onset muscle soreness (Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y et al., Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Jun)
  • Reduce fatigue after exercising (Wiśnik P, Chmura J, Ziemba AW, Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011 Dec)
  • Offer protection against liver cancer in folks with liver cirrhosis (Muto Y, Sato S, Watanabe A, Moriwaki H, Hepatol Res. 2006 Jul)

You Already Take Protein Supplements, Do You Need BCAA Too?

This question is rather reasonable. If a person takes much protein, including whey concentrate (isolate, hydrolysate) which contains amino acids, there is no need to take amino acids separately.

However, BCAAs are considered more beneficial, because they are directly used in the musculature and are calorie free. Athletes, especially pro bodybuilders, highly appreciate the power of BCAAs. They take this supplement either before or after their training, which helps them to perform and recover better. Protein doesn’t allow them to have such results.

When to take BCAAs? There’s a recommendation to do it before, during, or after the training. If your training is intensive, you waste glucose, glycogen, and other nutrients stores. BCAAs refill all depleted nutrients, which allow your body to function more productively. With the help of BCAAs, the protein keeps synthesizing and you can recover from the stress your training caused almost immediately. It sounds especially attractive for keen bodybuilders who wish for massive muscles.

How Much You Should Take? The Caloric Content of BCAA

There are standards concerning the amount of protein’s daily intake, but there are no official guidelines about daily amino and other similar nutrients. The authors of training programs established recommendations concerning BCAA consuming, but they are not universal. This task requires individual attention.

Many specialists advise taking BCAAs daily. As to BCAAs’ caloric capacity, this supplement is calorie free. However, to make this supplement tasty, many manufacturers add sugar and other sweetening agents, which give BCAAs a caloric value. The main advantage of BCAAs is that they have zero calories.

The Possibility of Side Effects

BCAAs can cause side effects too. Some side effects may include nausea or headaches. However, the cases of their occurrence are very rare. Anyway, consult your doctor before taking this supplement, especially in cases of pregnancy or breastfeeding.

To sum up, BCAAs are more than safe supplements. In most cases, you will experience positive effects and in very rare cases severe side effects may be encountered.

When to Take BCAA Supplements?


We’ve already touched on this, however, there is no universal attitude towards it. Some suggest taking this supplement with a meal, some say when the stomach is empty, and others swear by taking it first thing in the morning.

As for coaches and nutritionists, they also advise taking BCAAs during training—before and after working out. If you have a workout off day, take them between meals.

Anyway, the regimen of consuming BCAAs is flexible and the time of taking this supplement probably doesn’t have much significant impact on how it affects the body. It’s flexible unless you combine it with another supplement. Then strict prescriptions should be followed.

Best BCAA Supplements in 2019

  • Scivation Xtend: this is a powerful blend of BCAAs (7 grams), B group vitamins, and electrolyte substances. Due to the high electrolyte content, Xtend BCAAs are a good solution for prolonged workouts.
  • Elemental BCAA + G: the producers of these BCAAs (Elemental) have used pure ingredients of pharmaceutical quality. In addition to branched aminos, BCAA + G contains glutamine. Therefore, it’s a good solution for taking after a workout, because glutamine is a powerful amino acid that facilitates muscle recovery.
  • EHP Labs Beyond BCAA: this product is a complex solution containing several component matrixes. It consists of a B-vitamins matrix, muscle recovery blend, and electrolyte complex. Therefore, we can consider it an intra-workout product.
  • Optimum Pro BCAA Powder: these BCAAs from the world-famous sports nutrition manufacturer contain 8 grams of branched aminos and 5 gram of semi-essential amino acid glutamine. Additionally, this best BCAA supplement contains phyto substances that help athletes increase immune system activity.
  • Cellucor Beta BCAA: this supplement is considered one of the bestsellers among pre-workout products (powder supplements). In addition to the powerful BCAA complex, it contains 6 grams of citrulline, which increases muscle pump and delivery of necessary nutrients to muscle tissues during training.
  • USP Labs Modern BCAA Watermelon: this product has a pleasant taste and features extra ingredients, including electrolytes, beta alanine, glycine, lysine hydrochloride, L-alanine-L-glutamine. The micronized form allows for effective absorption. It does not contain sugars and artificially synthesized dyes. Natural and synthetic flavors are used. In addition to watermelon, the following tastes are marketed: green apple, melon, mango orange, berry burst, cherry limeade, pineapple strawberry, peach tea, blue raspberry, grape bubblegum, unflavored, pink lemon squash, and fruit punch.

Where to buy BCAAs? Sports supplement cyber stores or “brick-and-mortar” outlets are good options. The most renowned web stores include Bodybuilding.com and Target. Vegans and vegetarians may find vegan supplements in the market. Among them are Myprotein Vegan BCAA 4:1:1 Powder, Clean Machine Unflavored BCAA, Elevate Nutrition Plant-Based Vegan BCAA, Truth Nutrition Fermented Vegan Protein Powder, Vivo Life Plant Based BCAA & Coconut Water, and Natural Vegan BCAA + Glutamine by 1Up Nutrition.

Real BCAA Supplement Reviews

We’ve found some reviews of users concerning BCAA Supplements:

  • “I permanently use BCAA supps. They have forceful effects: boost packing on pounds, decrease catabolic processes, raise mood and motivation before training (when combining with pre-workout products).” Tyler, Columbus, Ohio
  • “BCAA is a good supplement. They’re a little bitter, though. I started taking the powdered form two months ago—results pleased me, even my friends wanted to try. I’m delighted. I’ve bought them in India.” Pratesh, Astoria, New York
  • “I am happy with BCAAs. I started training in a gym about three months ago and saw brilliant progress without supps but figured I would try this stuff to see if I could get better results. I have definitely looked leaner and feel less muscle soreness (DOMS) after my training sesh.” Ken, Houston, Texas