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Level up Your Nutrition With the Best BCAA Powders
Discover these essential building blocks for your supplement routine and lay the groundwork for massive training gains this year.
There are a handful of supplement varieties that have become commonplace on any countertop or within any cabinet of the loyal gym-goer. Protein is a hearty, muscle-building staple designed to boost your macro intake. Pre-workout is a popular supplement as well, serving as a great energy source for rallying through even the toughest workouts. In the middle of these two nutrition heavyweights is another supplement category that should be known by all: Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs as they're generally dubbed, can provide a litany of possible benefits to the dedicated enthusiast, but there are some instances where just eating a well-balanced diet might be the best option for your needs. With years of supplementation experience under our belt and a good understanding of how certain products should affect performance, we've scoured the shelves to determine the best BCAA powders for any training routine. Before we dive into the roundup of our top picks, though, let's get a little background on these health-inspired building blocks.
BEST OVERALL BCAA POWDEREVLution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder Read More
BEST UPGRADE BCAA POWDERSwolverine BCAA 2:1:1 + Electrolytes Read More
BEST BUDGET BCAA POWDERXTEND Original BCAA Powder Read More
BEST BCAA POWDER FOR HYDRATIONVital Performance Recover Read More
BEST VEGAN BCAA POWDERNaked Nutrition Naked BCAAs Read More
What Are BCAAs?
BCAAs are composed of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, taking their name from their branched chemical structure which differs from other common amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which play heavily in muscle, bone and overall health. What makes these "essential" is the fact that our bodies cannot create them, therefore, they must be consumed through your diet, whether that be through proper nutrition or supplementation.
Typically, you'll see BCAA powders with a ratio on the label. This indicates the ratio between each BCAA in the mixture. Because leucine has a higher oxidation rate, this will generally be the larger number in the listed ratio. While there are some that differ, a good rule of thumb is to choose a BCAA powder with a 2:1:1 ratio, meaning the supplement contains two parts leucine to every one part isoleucine and valine.
What Are the Benefits of BCAA Powders?
As stated previously, BCAAs have a number of potential positives going for them. Because they play such a pivotal role in protein synthesis, they carry a number of suspected benefits, including:
- Improved muscle growth
- Boosted muscle retention
- Lessened fatigue
- Increased recovery time
Naturally, however, every supplement's performance is subjective, meaning the results you read about might not be felt in your experience. For example, a 2018 study found that those consuming a high-protein diet saw little to no post-workout enhancement when supplementing with BCAAs. This is why paying close attention to your normal diet and nutritional goals is important before deciding to take these supplements.
The Relationship Between BCAAs and Your Diet
While BCAAs cannot be constructed by our bodies, this doesn't mean that supplementation is the only way to consume them. Despite the popularity of this supplement category, you're more than capable of ingesting healthy amounts of BCAAs through a well-regimented diet plan. If you're eating meals that contain a good dose of protein, you might not need to supplement with BCAAs. But for those that aren't as strict with their daily portions — or for those that want a strong foundation between meals for muscle-boosting qualities — BCAA powders can be an easy, effective way to maximize your training results with a few rattles of a shaker cup.
How We Tested
With decades spent in the gym pursuing our ideal physique, we've had plenty of experience with BCAA powders through the years. This list was compiled from those findings, as well as testing a fresh assortment of brands new to the scene. We highlighted how we felt when using each BCAA powder while also noting key components, such as easy-to-read nutritional facts, key additives, and, above all else, taste.
Editor's Note: The prices listed below indicate packages containing 30 servings unless otherwise noted.
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