The 7 Best BCAA Powders (+ 4 Proven Benefits)

Next to protein powder, BCAA powder is one of the most popular workout supplements. And where there’s a lot of demand, there are a lot of options.

Just doing a search for “BCAA” on Amazon brings up thousands of results. So how can you be sure you’re getting the best BCAA powder for your goals?

Rest easy—we’ve scoured the market and examined hundreds of products to bring you the 12 best BCAA supplements.

In this guide:

Quick Glance: 3 of 7
Rich Piana 5% Nutrition All Day You May 10:1:1 BCAA Post Workout Muscle & Joint Recovery Drink Supplement Powder, Essential Amino Acids, Creatine, Sugar-Free, 16.4 oz, 30 Servings (Watermelon)Best for Men: All Day You May BCAA & Recovery Drink

“Packed with amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and electrolytes, this is a great pre, mid, and post-workout supplement.”
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Modern BCAA+ The Better BCAA Amino Acids Supplements - Post Workout Muscle Recovery Powder Supplement Drink with Amino Acids - 30 Servings, Fruit PunchBest for Women: Modern BCAA+ Zero-Calorie Drink

“This light and fruity BCAA powder contains no sugar and no added calories.”
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MHP, BCAA-XL Energy Ultra BCAA with Extra Leucine 10:1:1 BCAA Ratio, Watermelon, 10.6 OunceBest Pre-Workout: MHP – BCAA-XL Energy Ultra

“This BCAA pre-workout contains just the right amount of natural caffeine to rev up your engine.”
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Our Criteria:

  • 4:1:1 ratio and above
    • Research has shown that leucine (the first number) is the most important BCAA. Most BCAA supplements are sold in a 2:1:1 ratio. That’s too low to be among the best BCAA powders.
  • Under $3 USD per ounce (28.3 grams)
    • Depending on your body weight, that’s about a dollar per daily serving. We keep it affordable.
  • No sugar or aspartame

The 7 Best BCAA Powders

Best BCAA for Men

All Day You May BCAA & Recovery Drink

  • 10:1:1 ratio
  • + beta alanine
  • + electrolytes

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), 3 more essential amino acids, 7 nonessential amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, electrolytes

This is one of the best BCAA powders for men looking to pack on some muscle. That 10:1:1 ratio means it’s loaded with leucine, the BCAA mostly responsible for triggering muscle growth.

This powder gives your body the building blocks it needs to create new muscle tissue. Beyond the 3 BCAAs, it also contains 10 additional amino acids.

And if you’re wanting better workouts, you’re in luck. This BCAA powder is packed with creatine and beta-alanine, which have been shown to increase strength and endurance, respectively.1Effects of creatine supplementation and three days of resistance training on muscle strength, power output, and neuromuscular function.2Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis.

Finally, for some extra post-workout nourishment, this BCAA supplement is packed with hydrating electrolytes. If you’re a heavy sweater or like to hit the sauna after the gym, it’s important to replenish those minerals.

BOTTOM LINE

Packed with amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and electrolytes, this is a great pre, mid, and post-workout supplement.

Best BCAA for Women

Modern BCAA+ Zero-Calorie Drink

  • 8:1:1 ratio
  • + electrolytes
  • Zero added calories

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), 5 more amino acids, electrolytes

For ladies trying to get toned and trim, this is a great BCAA supplement. It’s lean and clean, with amino acids and electrolytes as the only key ingredients.

As a bonus, this BCAA powder contains no additional calories.* Every one of its fruity flavors is sugar free, so you can drink this post-workout treat guilt-free.

*BCAAs themselves do contain usually 4.6 calories per gram, but these aren’t included in nutritional facts due to regulations.

BOTTOM LINE

This light and fruity BCAA powder contains no sugar and no added calories.

Best Vegan BCAA

Sasha Fitness – Vegan BCAA Blend

  • 4:1:1 ratio
  • 100% vegan
  • + glutamine

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), glutamine, HMB, carnitine

It can be tough to find 100% vegan BCAA—especially one with a leucine ratio of 4:1:1 or above. Luckily, we found the perfect match.

This vegan BCAA powder is lean and clean, with no added sugar or junk. Each one of these fruity flavors contains only 5 extra calories beyond the BCAAs themselves.

This powder is also packed with a few workout-boosting goodies. For example, the mixed-in carnitine can lead to a boost in available muscular fuel (ATP).3Effect of L-carnitine on glycogen synthesis and ATP production in cultured hepatocytes of the newborn rat.

All factors considered, this is one of the best vegan BCCA powders on the market.

BOTTOM LINE

This 100% vegan BCAA powder is packed with amino acids and ATP-boosting carnitine.

Best Budget BCAA

Inner Armour – 12:1:1 BCAA

  • 12:1:1 ratio
  • + glutamine
  • Zero added calories

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), glutamine

If you’re looking for a bargain, you’re in luck. This is the best budget BCAA powder we could find.

This BCAA powder is a great value, both per serving and per bucket. Since it’s so inexpensive, you can try any of the fruity flavors without much of an investment.

As a bonus, this BCAA supplement also has a super high leucine content. With a ratio of 12:1:1, this is a great mix for promoting muscle growth.

BOTTOM LINE

With a low cost-per-serving, low overall price, and super high leucine content, you can’t go wrong with this powder.

Best BCAA Pre-Workout

MHP – BCAA-XL Energy Ultra

  • 10:1:1 ratio
  • Natural caffeine
  • High leucine content

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, yerba mate

BCAAs are a great pre-workout supplement as-is. Throw a little caffeine in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic workout.

Each 10-gram scoop of this BCAA pre-workout is packed with 115 milligrams of natural caffeine. That’s a little more than a mug of coffee, which is just enough to get you pumped at the gym.

As a bonus, this powder is super high in leucine content with a ratio of 10:1:1. You’ll only want to drink this before or during workouts, so it’s good that it’s packed with more of this muscle-building amino acid.

BOTTOM LINE

This BCAA pre-workout contains just the right amount of natural caffeine to rev up your engine.

Best Budget BCAA Pre-Workout

MuscleTech – Pre-Workout and Recovery BCAA

  • 4:1:1 ratio
  • + taurine
  • + electrolytes

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine), betaine, taurine, tart cherry concentrate, electrolytes

If you’re on a tighter budget, this BCAA pre-workout is a great option. At a 4:1:1 ratio, it’s lower in leucine than the previous pick, but it’s a good bit cheaper per serving.

Each serving also packs a 1.25-gram dose of the amino acid betaine. In a 6-week study on intermediate athletes, taking betaine led to an increase in muscle mass and power.4Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone

This powder also contains 1 gram of the amino acid taurine per scoop. Research indicates that taurine can help boost endurance and reduce fatigue.5Effects of dietary supplementation of taurine, carnitine or glutamine on endurance exercise performance and fatigue parameters in athletes.

Finally, each scoop also boasts a healthy dose of electrolytes to keep you hydrated. It’s a great supplement for supporting intense workouts.

BOTTOM LINE

This budget-friendly BCAA pre-workout is a great value.

Best BCAA Capsules

MuscleTech – Platinum BCAA Capsules

Sale
  • 8:1:1 ratio
  • 1 gram per caplet
  • Quick release

Key Ingredients: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine)

Plain BCAA powder doesn’t taste great to some people. For them, a capsule or tablet is much easier to swallow.

If you don’t want to make your own, these are some of the best BCAA capsules you can get your hands on. They’re packed with 8:1:1 BCAAs, supplying plenty of muscle-building leucine.

But we have to mention this: BCAA capsules do not get you the most bang per buck. Price-per-gram, even these inexpensive BCAA capsules are quite a bit spendier than most BCAA powders.

If you’re on a tighter budget, we recommend making your own BCAA capsules with a capsule filling machine, some empty capsules, and one of the BCAA powders above.

But if money isn’t an issue, then these are some of the best BCAA capsules you’ll find.

BOTTOM LINE

These leucine-packed BCAA capsules are some of the best on the market.


BCAA Powder: What Is It?

BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acid. The name comes from the compound’s branching structure.

To understand why BCAAs are important, we need to understand a few basic details about how the body builds it’s structural tissues.

Amino acids are compounds used by the body to build most of its structures. Without them, the body couldn’t build muscle, tendons, and other tissues.

These amino acids are broken down into two categories: nonessential and essential. In short, essential amino acids are those that the body can’t create, and therefore must come from dietary sources.

That dietary source is proteins, which are made entirely of amino acids. Any complete protein source (such as egg white protein) delivers all essential amino acids.

Sometimes it can be advantageous to supplement amino acids directly. This is where BCAA powder comes in handy.

Thee Three BCAAs

There are three BCAAs used by the body. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Most BCAA powders will list the ratio of these three in that order, like 2:1:1 or 4:1:1.

Leucine

Research indicates that leucine is the most important BCAA. As such, the best BCAA powders have a higher ratio of leucine to the other two.

To clarify, studies have shown that taking leucine alone compared to a complete mixture of BCAAs leads to similar results.

There are a few factors that can explain this.

First off, leucine is the primary BCAA that triggers muscle protein synthesis. Put simply, leucine acts as a signal that tells the body to start building more muscle.6Chapter 17 – Branched-Chain Amino Acids (Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine) and Skeletal Muscle

As discussed below, studies have demonstrated that BCAA powder can help reduce exhaustion during exercise. Research seems to show that leucine is also primarily responsible for this effect.

Isoleucine

For example, one study examined the effects of leucine alone compared to a BCAA mixture in rats. The rats were given leucine, BCAAs, or placebo before engaging in swimming exercise.7Distinct effects of leucine or a mixture of the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) supplementation on resistance to fatigue, and muscle and liver-glycogen degradation, in trained rats.

The study found that leucine alone may be even more effective at reducing exercise fatigue compared to a complete mixture of BCAAs.

However, that doesn’t mean that other two BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) are worthless.

For example, one human study examined the effects of BCAAs compared to leucine alone following resistance exercise. Subjects took BCAAs, leucine, or a placebo, then engaged in resistance training.8The effects of oral BCAAs and leucine supplementation combined with an acute lower-body resistance exercise on mTOR and 4E-BP1 activation in humans: preliminary findings

Valine

Two hours after exercise, the BCAA and leucine groups showed similar levels of activation of a protein associated with muscle growth (4E-BP1). However, six hours after exercise, the BCAA group demonstrated much higher levels of activation.

Taking all of this into account, leucine appears to be the most important BCAA for exercise performance and short-term muscle growth. However, taking all three BCAAs together leads to the most long-term muscle growth.

Benefits of BCAA Powder

We’ve mentioned a few benefits of BCAA powder. Let’s dive into more detail.

  • Boosted Workout Performance

Research has shown that BCAAs can help boost endurance by reducing fatigue while exercising.

A 2011 study showed that taking BCAAs before endurance exercise can can improve fatigue resistance. Those who took BCAAs were able to exercise longer before exhaustion.9Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.

Another notable study examined the effects of BCAA supplementation on long-distance runners. Subjects were given BCAAs while running a marathon or a 30-kilometer race and were compared to the other runners.10Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise–effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids.

The study found that those who took BCAAs perceived less physical effort. In addition, lower-performance athletes actually improved their marathon times.

These findings suggest that short-term BCAA supplementation can help increase mental and physical endurance performance.

However, endurance isn’t the only performance factor that BCAAs can improve.

One notable study examined the effects of BCAAs on sprint training performed two days in a row. One group of athletes was given BCAAs before exercise and the other was given a placebo.11Branched-Chain Amino Acids and Arginine Improve Performance in Two Consecutive Days of Simulated Handball Games in Male and Female Athletes: A Randomized Trial

The study found that the BCAA group performed significantly better on the second straight day of training. (The groups performed similarly on the first day, as expected.)

These findings suggest that BCAA supplementation may improve performance of workouts completed without rest days in between.

BCAAs may help to boost endurance, reduce fatigue, and increase workout performance when not fully rested.
  • Increased Muscle Growth

Beyond workout performance, BCAAs have been shown to increase muscle mass in the long term.

Most notably, research has shown that taking BCAAs after resistance exercises significantly increases muscle production (that is, muscle protein synthesis).

One study examined the effects of post-workout BCAAs compared to a placebo. Researchers found that muscle protein synthesis was 22% higher 30 minutes after the workout for the BCAA group.12Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans

And that boosted muscle growth really adds up over time.

We refer again to one of the studies cited above. After 8 weeks of resistance training while supplementing 14 grams of BCAAs daily, subjects experienced significantly more muscle mass gain compared to a group taking 28 grams of whey daily.13Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss

All factors considered, while dietary protein sources do contain some level of BCAAs, supplementing BCAA powder directly can significantly increase lean mass gains.

Supplementing BCAAs can promote post-workout muscle growth.
  • Increased Strength

Since regular BCAA supplementation can increase muscle growth, it would make sense that it could increase strength. And that’s exactly what the science shows.

Fort example, one study compared the effects of taking 14 grams of BCAAs daily against 28 grams of whey protein in trained men. After 8 weeks of resistance training, the BCAA group demonstrated significantly greater squat and bench 10-rep maximums.14Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss

While these strength gains are significant, it should be noted that BCAAs have not been shown to boost short-term strength.

To clarify, if a well-rested person were to take BCAAs before a workout, research has not shown that their maximum strength would be any greater than it would have been otherwise.*

Rather, the strength-boosting effects of BCAAs appear to be the result of increased muscle growth in the long run.

*As mentioned above, daily BCAA supplementation can help with increasing workout performance on consecutive days.

BCAA powder seems to promote strength gains more than whey or placebo.
  • Decreased Muscle Breakdown and Soreness

Research has shown that BCAAs can help with reducing muscle breakdown associated with exercise.

One notable study examined the effects of BCAAs on muscle damage markers following intense endurance exercise.15Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances

The study found that taking BCAAs before endurance exercise can indeed reduce levels of these muscle-eating enzymes. This suggests that BCAAs may reduce muscle damage caused by endurance exercise.

And the same is true for resistance exercise.

One analysis of 11 studies found that taking BCAAs can help reduce muscle damage from resistance exercise. The researchers noted that this effect is greatest when BCAAs are taken before exercising.16Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review

And it’s not just muscle breakdown that BCAAs can mitigate. Studies also show that they can help with soreness.

One notable study examined BCAAs effects on recovery following exercise. The researchers found that compared to a placebo group, those who took BCAAs reported feeling less sore 2 and 3 days after working out.17Effect of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation on Recovery Following Acute Eccentric Exercise

All things considered, BCAA supplementation may help reduce soreness and promote recovery.

Taking BCAA powder can help reduce muscle damage and soreness.

BCAA Dosage

There is currently no officially recommended BCAA dosage.

Most BCAA research has used dosages of 100 to 200 milligrams of BCAAs per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s roughly 45 to 90 milligrams per pound.

Here’s a breakdown:

Bodyweight100 mg/kg150 mg/kg200 mg/kg
50 kg / 110 lb5 g BCAA7.5 g BCAA10 g BCAA
60 kg / 132 lb6 g BCAA9 g BCAA12 g BCAA
70 kg / 154 lb7 g BCAA10.5 g BCAA14 g BCAA
80 kg / 176 lb8 g BCAA12 g BCAA16 g BCAA

If you’re measuring by volume, such as with a teaspoon, your preferred dosage will depend on your specific BCAA supplement.

For supplements that are pure BCAA powder, 1 US tablespoon will usually equal roughly 5 grams of BCAAs. Make sure to read the label, as this can vary by a lot.

When to Take BCAA

For most goals, it’s ideal to take BCAA powder before or during exercise.

As discussed above, taking BCAAs before or during an endurance workout can improve performance and reduce fatigue.

Similarly, research has shown that taking BCAAs before or during a workout can reduce muscle breakdown. In addition to promoting long-term muscle growth, this can also reduce soreness.

There are a few benefits that seem to rely less on dosage timing, such as long-term strength and muscle mass gains. However, there isn’t much research examining these effects with different dosage timings.

Taking into account all research on BCAA supplements, they seem to be most beneficial when regularly taken before or during exercise.

Protein Shakes vs. BCAAs

Since the three BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are essential amino acids, they can be found in any complete protein source. Most protein powders, such as whey, casein, egg white, and more, are complete proteins.

This means that most post-workout protein shakes contain some amount of all three BCAAs. Because of this, it’s common to hear claims that supplementing BCAAs is redundant or ineffective.

So, is it pointless to take BCAAs if you drink protein shakes?

In short, no. BCAAs have some science-backed advantages over protein shakes, such as whey.

For example, take one of the studies referenced above. For 8 weeks, 36 trained men took either 14 grams of BCAAs, 28 grams of protein, or 28 grams of carbohydrates daily while following a resistance training program.18Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss

Compared to the whey group, the BCAA group gained significantly more lean mass, lost significantly more fat, and increased their squat and bench strength significantly more. And this was despite the fact that the BCAA group took only 14 grams daily compared to the whey group’s 28 grams.

Findings like these suggest that BCAA supplementation beyond normal dietary protein intake can be beneficial.

However, it is important to note that taking BCAAs without any other dietary protein source is not advantageous.

BCAAs stimulate muscle growth (primarily caused by leucine) and provide some of the building blocks to do so. However, the body needs sufficient amounts of all 8* essential amino acids to effectively build tissue.19Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans

If someone were to take BCAAs as their only protein source, their strength and lean gains would be significantly decreased compared to someone taking BCAAs as a supplement to a protein-rich diet. The body needs those building blocks.

*Adults need 8 amino acids, while infants need 9. It is unlikely that any reader is an infant.


Summary

Taking BCAAs can help with boosting workout performance, muscle mass, and strength. They can also help with reducing soreness and increasing performance while not fully rested.

Most athletes, whether focusing on endurance or strength, can benefit from BCAA supplements.

Now, equipped with the information from this guide, you should be able to choose the best BCAA powder, dosage, and timing strategies for your goals.

Overview: Best BCAA Powders
Rich Piana 5% Nutrition All Day You May 10:1:1 BCAA Post Workout Muscle & Joint Recovery Drink Supplement Powder, Essential Amino Acids, Creatine, Sugar-Free, 16.4 oz, 30 Servings (Watermelon)Best for Men: All Day You May BCAA & Recovery Drink

“Packed with amino acids, creatine, beta-alanine, and electrolytes, this is a great pre, mid, and post-workout supplement.”
Check Price
Modern BCAA+ The Better BCAA Amino Acids Supplements - Post Workout Muscle Recovery Powder Supplement Drink with Amino Acids - 30 Servings, Fruit PunchBest for Women: Modern BCAA+ Zero-Calorie Drink

“This light and fruity BCAA powder contains no sugar and no added calories.”
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Sascha Fitness BCAA 4:1:1 + Glutamine, HMB, L-Carnitine, HICA | Powerful and Instant Powder Blend with Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) for Pre, Intra and Post-Workout (Natural Mango Coconut Flavor)Best Vegan Pick: Sasha Fitness – Vegan BCAA Blend

“This 100% vegan BCAA powder is packed with amino acids and ATP-boosting carnitine.”
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Inner Armour BCAA Peak, Watermelon, 354 GramsBudget Pick: Inner Armour – 12:1:1 BCAA

“With a low cost-per-serving, low overall price, and super high leucine content, you can’t go wrong with this powder.”
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MHP, BCAA-XL Energy Ultra BCAA with Extra Leucine 10:1:1 BCAA Ratio, Watermelon, 10.6 OunceBest Pre-Workout: MHP – BCAA-XL Energy Ultra

“This BCAA pre-workout contains just the right amount of natural caffeine to rev up your engine.”
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MuscleTech Myobuild BCAA Amino Acids Supplement, Muscle Building and Recovery Formula with Betaine & Electrolytes, Fruit Punch Blast, 45 Servings (416g), 14.68 OunceBudget Pre-Workout: MuscleTech – Pre-Workout and Recovery BCAA

“This budget-friendly BCAA pre-workout is a great value.”
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MuscleTech Platinum BCAA Pill, 8:1:1 BCAA Formula, 1000mg of BCAA per Caplet, 200 CapletsBest Capsules: MuscleTech – Platinum BCAA Capsules

“These leucine-packed BCAA capsules are some of the best on the market.”
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