BCAAs, short for ‘branched chain amino acids’, are a popular form of fitness supplement.
They’re the units that make up protein and BCAAs are three ‘essential’ amino acids (which means your body can’t make them, so you need to get them from diet).
Today we’re going to talk about what BCAAs can do for you and the best BCAA supplements for women specifically. After all, we all have different needs and goals, and we’ll discuss what to look for.
We’re also going to discuss our three favorite BCAA products, from the premium Performance Lab SPORT BCAA to Bulk Powders and MyProtein’s no-frill offerings.
As with all of our supplement content, it’s important to remember that sticking to a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise should always be your first mission before thinking of trying any new products.
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Our Pick: The Best BCAA Supplements for Women
|Performance Lab SPORT BCAA||★★★★★||• Our Top Pick • Cleanest Quality • Vegan Friendly • Ships Worldwide||Buy Now|
|Bulk Powders BCAA||★★★★☆||• Budget Option • UK / Europe Only • Vegetarian Friendly||Buy Now|
|Myprotein Essential BCAA||★★★★☆||• Uses Vitamin B6 • Reputable Brand • Lower Price||Buy Now|
What are BCAAs?
Let’s start with the basics. BCAAs are a type of amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and they’re one of the key nutrients in foods.
Different amino acids have different effects in the body, which makes them an interesting consideration when determining how food affects your body and your brain.
BCAAs are a group of three ‘essential’ amino acids, meaning that your body can’t produce them or convert other compounds into them. This means that you need to get BCAAs from your diet.
This leaves you with the option of getting them from foods – like eggs – or from supplementation. There are benefits to each, but obviously real foods provide more calories and less BCAA per gram, so supplementation is also an option.
Remember, however, that supplementation is not an alternative to an effective diet. You should prioritise lifestyle changes ahead of just trying to supplement your way through a bad diet and poor exercise regime.
It’s also worth noting that the research around BCAAs and their effects are not definitive. Nutritional science is often unclear, and the effects of BCAA supplements have not been confirmed, so it’s up to you to do the research and decide for yourself whether they fit your health and fitness goals.
Who takes BCAAs and why?
So, why are BCAAs so popular amongst bodybuilders and other physique/performance enthusiasts?
Firstly, the fact they’re essential in the diet means they’re worth paying attention to. Combatting the possibility of deficiency is crucial – especially if you’re performing intense exercise and have more significant overall dietary needs.
Your diet should preferentially provide high-quality essential amino acids, of which BCAAs are a good example. They’re available widely, but if you want to supplement without the additional calories of extra food, this is a good choice (e.g. when dieting to lose fat).
BCAA supplements tend to be popular amongst athletes and physique enthusiasts. There are a few reasons for this:
• They have higher overall dietary demand for calories, proteins, and amino acids
• They want to produce rapid recovery between workouts (often more than once per day)
• They’re interested in optimal performance on top of good dietary/lifestyle habits, so supplementation is about individual response
• Eating more food isn’t always the answer when your calorie intake is tightly controlled
These beliefs aren’t proven – but BCAA supplements still remain as a popular product for those looking for support of their health and fitness goals.
Men and women have significantly different metabolisms. Something as simple as the X chromosome itself produces differences in the way that the body handles food, energy, and the overall storage process.
For example, the way that amino acid intake affects insulin resistance in men and women is thought to be different, though this isn’t proven.
Many women also often prefer to choose supplements that are vegan friendly and that do not contain any artificial sweeteners or additives.
For this reason, the supplements featured on this list come in tablet form and are suitable for vegans or vegetarians (check each individual product to be sure).
What to look for in a BCAA supplement
• Brand – The brand of a supplement is a vote for the overall quality of their products, as well as being a ‘red flag’ in some other cases. A supplement brand should do two things for you before you consider their product:
First, it needs to be assured against significant negative press – no FDA scandals, for example. After this, it needs to provide a background for the product you’re buying, whether that’s customer reviews or feedback regarding the customer service.
The brand affects the product and your expectations. A bad brand is a problem, while a good brand is a vote towards quality and peace of mind – essential when you’re putting their products in your body!
• Dosages / Ratios – The actual amount of product and the way they’re ratioed is a key factor. What you’re getting in the supplement is a significant factor for how good it is likely to be.
When it comes to BCAAs, the key factor should be leucine. This is the BCAA that is most likely to support your training goals.
You want at least 2:1:1 when it comes to BCAAs (Leucine: Isoleucine: Valine). This ensures that you’re getting at least a nature-identical ratio. This is the concentration found in the body and if your supplement is below this level, it’s fair to be concerned about the dosages you’re paying for!
• Clean label / Formula – Supplements aren’t inherently regulated. This means that there are a lot of poorly certified or unregulated supplements on the market.
A clean label is the opposite of this: it shows transparency, avoids proprietary blends, and goes out of the way to prove the quality of the products.
This includes freedom from common allergens, soy, GMOs, “off-label ingredients”, illicit compounds, and other problems.
It’s simple: a high-quality product from a high-quality brand puts your needs and wellbeing first. If a brand isn’t concerned for your wellbeing and results, you’re just a way of making money – integrity and genuine concern are important!
• Does it fit your goal? – This is obviously the most important point and we’ve already mentioned it.
There are many reasons you might want to use a BCAA supplement, but the design of the product and the ingredients/ratios need to match your goals. The use patterns of elite athletes, bodybuilders, and health and fitness lovers are all different.
Finding a product aligned with your goals – and a brand / product that targets them – is key to getting the most from your cash.
• Tablets or Powder? – Do you want a BCAA tablet or powder?
They’re both available on the market and they have different pros and cons. The powder allows you more control over dose but comes at a significant cost to convenience. For example, you probably can’t carry BCAA powder in your gym bag. In contrast, a tablet or capsule is quick and easy to take and carry with you.
Equally, if you’re experimenting with your dosages or building your own workout drink then you would benefit from a powder.
The important part is figuring out how you’re going to use a BCAA supplement and which fits your needs most effectively.
Best BCAAs for Women in 2020
So, with the introductions out of the way, it’s time to start checking out our pick of the best BCAA supplements for women on sale right now.
1) Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
Product website: www.performancelab.com
The Performance Lab BCAA supplement is our number one choice for how well it does the basics.
It’s a product that provides a nature-identical source and ratio of BCAAs. This ensures the most natural possible product and uses whole-food processes wherever possible.
On top of this, the commitment to transparency and a clean label is fantastic. On top of the assurances mentioned above (an FDA approved manufacturer, allergen-free, etc.), it is also entirely vegan and produced responsibly.
This product also comes from Opti-Nutra which means that you’re assured of a product that is considered, produced in line with independent research, and genuinely designed to support your fitness goals.
Overall, these are the most important aspects of any supplement: great quality product, high-integrity brand, and the peace of mind that you’re getting what you came for! A great choice.
To find out more and buy now: www.performancelab.com
2) Bulk Powders BCAA
Product website: www.bulkpowders.com
This is a more economy product than the Performance Lab BCAA: it does everything you want it to do without the higher-end assurances that you’d get from Performance Lab.
The Bulk Powders BCAA is a convenient capsule-based supplement with a healthy balance of the key BCAAs. It might be a good choice if you’re not sure on BCAAs and want to see the effects for yourself before investing heavily.
They’re also a good choice for brand reputation, with Bulk Powders being reliable for effective but no-frills products. If this sounds like your goal, then this is a good product despite its price point.
Individual capsules are weaker than Performance Lab, but the overall ratio is still 2:1:1 which is the crucial aspect (since you just take as many capsules as appropriate for your intended dose/goals).
To find out more and buy now: www.bulkpowders.com
3) MyProtein Essential BCAA
Product website: www.myprotein.com
MyProtein’s Essential BCAA is a close competitor with Bulk Powders’ BCAA for the top economy BCAA supplement. The price points are comparable, as well as having a range from 90 to 270 capsules per container. Bulk buying can be a good way of saving cash on your BCAA supplements.
We really like the inclusion of vitamin B6 in this product, which is known to contribute to normal glucose metabolism and thus energy. This is a nice bonus, but it does mean you’re taking a few capsules just to meet proper BCAA intake.
Overall, this competes with the Bulk Powders product well but clearly has a separate niche to the Performance Lab product, being an economy focused BCAA supplement.
For more information and to buy now: www.myprotein.com
Wrapping Things Up – Our Final Thoughts
There are many popular uses for a BCAA supplement, but it’s always important to opt for integrity and quality.
A BCAA supplement could be a great choice for a high-performance diet in females and may support your fitness goals.
There are a few key factors to this (as we’ve discussed above), and you should always do your own research.
However, the Performance Lab SPORT BCAA supplement is our favorite for its commitment to quality, focus, and nature-identical nutrients.
As such, Performance Lab SPORT BCAA takes the top spot, but all three products on this list have something to recommend them.
Obviously, a BCAA supplement is no replacement for a good diet, but they work together well and if they fit your goals, they can be a great choice.