BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids – a type of building block for proteins.
They are a popular form of supplementation, and today we’re discussing what they are used for and looking at some of the different brands on the market.
However, before we delve into the details, let us first point out that supplements won’t do anything for you if your diet and approach to exercise aren’t appropriate for your goals – and consistently-executed.
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Best BCAA Supplements
|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|
Basically, supplements don’t work if you don’t work hard with the basics of diet and exercise. It’s worth taking the time to research the best diet and training for your muscle-building needs before trying any kind of supplement.
The first thing you need to know about BCAAs is that they’re not scientifically proven to build or maintain muscle.
They may be useful for supporting your fitness journey, but they’re part of a muscle-building lifestyle; they don’t actively produce muscle or maintain it, just like how so-called ‘fat burners’ don’t literally burn body fat.
It’s entirely possible to get enough BCAAs from your diet – they’re found in many high-quality protein sources.
There’s nothing to suggest that supplementation is necessary (if you tried hard enough, you wouldn’t require protein powder in your diet either) – but like with many’s favourite protein shakes, people find BCAA supplements to be useful for their goals and needs.
What are BCAA Supplements?
Branched Chain Amino Acids are a very specific group of three amino acids – Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are types of essential amino acids. These are compounds that your body can’t produce internally, meaning that they are required from dietary sources, whether in the form of food or supplements.
There are nine essential amino acids, of which three are branched chain. This makes them a sub-group, which can get confusing!
BCAAs make up a significant portion of your body’s overall proteins, and together account for 40 per cent of your daily amino acid needs.
Why Do People Take BCAA Supplements?
The popularity of BCAAs is undeniable, with a big industry built around their sale. There are numerous health claims made around these products – centred on their supposed ability to help support your fitness and bodybuilding goals.
Leucine is said to be the ‘most important BCAA’ and the amino acid most involved in helping to reinforce training goals.
Isoleucine is said to support your gym goals, along with other specific benefits.
Valine is suggested to support your exercise goals.
A protein-rich diet of beef, chicken, soy proteins, eggs, fish, brown rice, lentils and more may provide all the BCAAs you need.
That said, many bodybuilders, athletes and other gym goers like to supplement with BCAA to further boost their BCAA intake.
BCAAs are typically sold in a ratio of 2:1:1, intended to mimic the ratio found in the human body.
It’s important to note that taking any supplement is unlikely to produce results if your training isn’t conducive to muscle gains.
You can’t just change diet and expect significant muscle changes – muscle and strength gains are the result of consistent, effective training and recovery.
Supplements can, however, help to support a hard-working diet and exercise plan.
In case you didn’t know, some of the best pre workout supplements also use BCAA as part of their ingredients formulas.
What to Look For in a BCAA Supplement
• Brand reputation – The company you’re buying from should influence your decision on the product you spend your money on. The higher quality brand, the better your peace of mind and assurances around what you’re putting into your body. There are definitely brands worth avoiding in the fitness space due to controversies and historical problems.
The idea is to find a brand that has consistently positive customer experience – which you can see from the reviews and customer reports on their products. We always recommend doing your own research…even though we’re offering our opinion on these products.
• Dosages and ratios – The correct levels of key compounds should be present in any product you’re considering spending your money on.
When using BCAAs, the usual approach is to focus on an intake of 3g BCAA content or higher, with a ratio of 2:1:1 or greater (for Leucine).
This imitates the natural ratio of these compounds. There are no hard and fast guidelines for these products since there’s no scientific consensus on their use or requirement.
• Clean formula and label – No matter what the intended goals of any supplement – or your own fitness goals – quality and freedom from useless filler or allergens is important.
It’s a way of ensuring you get the most from supplements without side effects. The clean formula approach – freedom from all manner of useless, and sometimes harmful, compounds – is an important bonus to look for.
This can make a regular product good, and excessive presence of these compounds may well dissuade you from a product’s use. Good clean-label design is a great way of improving your intake quality and controlling your overall control of your diet.
Our Choice of the Best BCAA Supplements in 2020
So, without further ado, it’s now time to take a close look at our pick of the three best BCAA supplements on sale right now.
1) Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
Product website: www.performancelab.com
The Performance Lab SPORT BCAA has earned our number one spot due to the quality and dosing of ingredients. It’s a premium product without any filler or nonsense.
The ratio of Leucine to Isoleucine to Valine is 2:1:1, offering a nature-determined ratio.
The Performance Lab brand is backed by Opti-Nutra, which has a strong brand reputation.
Other products in the SPORT line include both pre- and post-workouts, as well as a Fat Burner and T-Booster. These are all vegan-friendly and are designed to be combined for more-comprehensive support.
The Key Points about Performance Lab SPORT BCAA:
Under the clean label approach, Opti-Nutra pledges that the product is entirely free from common allergens, gluten, soy, GMO ingredients, and is entirely vegan.
It is produced in a “good manufacturing practices” (GMP) lab under FDA certification.
The capsules themselves are produced from probiotic plant food compounds, while the BCAAs themselves are manufactured from sunflower. This ensures a bioavailable, plant-based source for your BCAAs.
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA contains 3g of BCAAs per serving (four capsules), with 1500mg of Leucine. 750mg of Isoleucine and 750mg of Valine.
Here is the full ingredients list of Performance Lab SPORT BCAA:
A recommended dose is two to four capsules up to one hour before a workout, and the same again immediately after a workout.
BCAA supplements can be used as a pre- and post-workout supplement, but can also be taken intra-workout, so you can also take another 2-4 capsules midway during particularly intense training if desired.
We like Performance Lab SPORT BCAA for its simple, clean formula, as well as its omission of any banned substances and its natural bioavailable source of amino acids.
To find out more and buy now: www.performancelab.com
2) Bulk Powders BCAA Tablets
Product website: www.bulkpowders.com
Bulk Powders offer great budget products and has established itself as one of the leading manufacturers of supplements in the UK over the past decade or so.
The brand has won awards for some of its products, and this is just one reason we rate them as a manufacturer.
These BCAA tablets provide the same nature-mimicking ratio of 2:1:1 that we saw with Performance Lab, with each tablet containing 1g of BCAAs.
The Key Points about Bulk Powders BCAA Tablets:
A daily dose of Bulk Powders BCAA Tablets is five tablets – making a generous total of 5g of BCAAs daily.
They offer decent value for money and the tablets are suitable for vegetarians, though not for vegans.
While not as clean as Performance Lab SPORT BCAAs, Bulk Powders BCAA Tablets are gluten-free and GMO-free.
The value for money on Bulk Powders’ product is a key consideration, as it offers a way of getting good-quality products on a budget.
This does show up in some areas, as this supplement is not labelled as Vegan friendly on the official Bulk Powders website.
However, this is still a great product and the price of around 10.5p per tablet is a huge selling point that is in-line with Bulk Powders’ no-nonsense approach to supplements.
Here is the full ingredients label for the Bulk Powders BCAA Tablets:
These are suggested to be taken alongside a high-GI, fast-release carbohydrate which makes them appropriate for near workouts (both pre- and post).
To find out more and buy now: www.bulkpowders.com
3) Myprotein Essential BCAA
Product website: www.myprotein.com
Myprotein’s Essential BCAA supplement is a direct competitor to the Bulk Powders product, and aims for the same niche: a cheap, value-for-money solution to BCAAs.
This is clear from the equal content of key ingredients (of 1g BCAA) per tablet, as well as the price point. This product also provides additional vitamin B6.
The Key Points about Myprotein Essential BCAA:
One serving size equals four tablets, meaning 4g of BCAAs
Each serving contains 1.88mg of Vitamin B6, which helps to contribute to normal psychological function and immune function – both beneficial to overall health and mental health.
B6 also contributes to protein and glycogen metabolism and helps to reduce tiredness. This is a nice bonus, especially since the reasons people often take BCAA centre around processes linked to energy transfer and central fatigue.
It’s available in different sizes – 90 tablets or 270 tablets.
Side note for clarification: This product was previously called Myprotein BCAA Plus 1000mg Tablets.
Here is the full ingredients list of Myprotein Essential BCAA:
This is a great competitor to other products on this list – especially for the combination of BCAA and B vitamins – but it can’t quite match the quality of Performance Lab’s SPORT BCAA, or the pricing and reputation of Bulk Powders’ BCAA, hence its position third on the list.
This is still a good product, however, and if you’re looking for additional B vitamin support, it could be a great, cost-effective choice for your fitness and health goals.
For more information and to buy now: www.myprotein.com
Anything Else to Bear in Mind?
Diet still comes first. BCAAs are available in dietary sources as well as specific supplements, so you need to ensure that your diet is the main vehicle for achieving your goals.
Supplements will not help you reach your goals if you’re not dieting and training appropriately.
You should always consult a certified medical professional about the safety and suitability of BCAA supplements for your health and fitness goals before trying one for the first time.
If you have any conditions that would contraindicate your use of these supplements, be sure to put your doctor’s advice first.
Additionally, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking prescription medicines then it is crucial to consult a certified medical professional before trying any supplement like this.
Wrapping Things Up – Our Final Thoughts
The products on this list are chosen for their quality and are ranked by their adherence to good manufacturing and sales practice, as well as the source and quality of their ingredients.
The Performance Lab SPORT BCAA comes out top due to its focus on quality, transparency, and providing a supplementary dose of BCAAs – in the right ratio – without any filler. This is along with its flexibility to take the capsules as pre-, post- or even intra-workout supplements.
However, any of the products on this list can potentially help to support your training goals.
BCAAs can be taken alongside other supplements – such as Creatine – to further boost your fitness journey.