Best BCAA Supplements 2014
Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs as they are more commonly referred to, have become quite a hot commodity in the bodybuilding world in recent years as research let us know how the three amino acids in this category help with muscle retention and protein synthesis. Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine slow down muscle breakdown during workout and speed up muscle growth while you recover, bringing about much better muscle gains in the long term. Of the three BCAAs, Leucine is of special importance because of its unique role in activating mTOR, the protein responsible in humans for regulating further protein synthesis. BCAAs are the only amino acids that will be used by the body as energy source and during strength training muscle tissue is broken down to get the BCAAs when muscles run out of glycogen. That is why taking BCAA supplements during exercise helps maintain your existing muscles. BCAAs will also delay fatigue by slowing down the release of serotonin, a hormone that creates the feeling of relaxation. This means a BCAA supplement will help you perform better in whatever exercise you are involved in. To make things even better, research suggests BCAAs could actually precipitate fat loss. In short, it is completely justified to say that BCAAs will get you to train harder, burn more fat and build more muscle.
Whatever your specific reason be for seeking the best bcaa supplement, this review is intended to be a key guide in finding the bcaa product that best answers your needs. In this page you will find some of the best selling bcaa powders and capsules with candid reviews about the pros and cons of each product.
How to Choose the Best BCAA Supplement
Source of Amino Acids: If something is labeled whey or casein protein it has to be derived from milk. If something is labeled egg protein, it's made of eggs. Things are different when you are buying amino acids. The problem with the amino acids is, because they are such basic building blocks found in every living thing, they can be derived from anything that has once been part of a living organism including duck feathers and human hair. Indeed, every now and then we hear rumors of amino acids of Chinese origin and they are derived from stuff you would not want to eat. That is why in this review, the source of amino acids will be given much priority when assessing each supplement.
Additives: Branched Chain Amino Acids are known not to be the best flavored stuff on their own so most BCAA powders contain a lot of additives to mask the taste. Still, I believe one of the traits of the best BCAA supplement is to have as few unnatural additives as possible.
Powder or Capsules: BCAA supplements are found as powder and capsules and personally, I would go for the capsules because I find them much easier to use. With capsules or softgels, you do not need a shaker, you do not have to wait and you do not have to bear the bland taste of the powder. That applies of course, if you are not one of those people who have difficulty swallowing pills. It should also be remembered that capsules are on average twice as expensive as powders. But these supplements are very cheap anyway and there shouldn't be much difference between paying 10 $ and paying 20 $. In any case, most brands have both powder and caps and what you buy depends on your preferences.
Amino Acid Ratio: The question of the best ratio of the branched chain amino acids found in the supplement remains quite controversial. Concerning scientifically recommended daily requirements, you have to get two units of Leucine for every one unit of Isoleucine and every one unit of Valine. But, since the Leucine is known to have more profound functions in muscle anabolism, some people prefer a higher leucine ratio. Personally, I have sifted through both real and bro science resources without reaching a definite answer about the best bcaa ratio. I have to conclude that the default ratio is leucine:isoleucine:valine = 2:1:1 but depending on your personal goals you may be interested in a higher leucine content.
Cost: Finally, the price is a factor you have to take into account when choosing the best BCAA supplement. Because the cost of each product is prone to change, it is not possible to give exact comparisons but rough calculations on the relative cost of the products can be made by taking into consideration the amount of amino acids in each product.
USP Labs Modern BCAA +
USP Labs' BCAA powder is the best seller of BCAA market and it owes the popularity to its much publicized branched-chain amino acid ratio that is 8:1:1. However, doing some reasearch, it is seen that the product may not be as it is advertised.
Everyone says the powder is easy to mix and tastes well so it does deserve credit for that but there is no info about the source of the amino acids. As for the price, it appears competitive at first and could be called OK if this powder was pure BCAA but it apparently is not.
The big problem with USP Labs' BCAA is that we do not know what ratio of the blend is actually BCAA. Product specs on the container says it is a propriety blend with leucine, isoleucine and valine with the ratio 8:1:1 plus an unknown amount of other amino acids. What it does not reveal is the actual amount of BCAAs in one serving of the powder. People have been asking USP Labs about the amino acid content of the supplement in question but the company says it is propriety and if they reveal the exact ratio, it will be immediately copied by other brands. Now, there are two explanations. Either they have really invented some ground-breaking and classified formula or this product is packed with cheap non-BCAA amino acids with little Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. If the second explanation is correct, then USP Labs Modern BCAA+ is not worth the money you pay it and you will not be getting enough of the BCAAs your muscles need to grow bigger.
There are also BCAA pills available by the same brand. The pills have the same propriety blend in them but they don't seem to sell very well.
In conclusion, it is a fact that people are rushing to the supplement stores to get this product and many end up happy with it but until the actual BCAA content is verified, I cannot recommend Modern BCAA+. Those impressed by the high leucine ratio can take a look at the Inner Armour reviewed below.
MET-Rx Hardcore BCAA
As of 2014, MET-Rx softgels are the best selling BCAA pills in the market and the primary reason for this appears to be their very advantageous price. They are all right as they don't have any non-natural additives other than titanium dioxide and reportedly they are easy to swallow. The amino acid ratio is 12:5:5 so the leucine content is also somewhat higher than the rest. Again, we do not know the source of amino acids but since they are so cheap that could be tolerated. Softgels can be a useful option for people who want BCAA pills and are on a low budget.
MET-Rx BCAAs are also available in powder form but it does sell even a fraction of the softgel version. I am not surprised because the container has only 46 servings, each of which gives you 5 grams of BCAA, making MET-Rx one of the costliest BCAA powders. Also, the Leucine ratio is the powder is the least of all BCAA supplements I've seen so far with a ratio of 9:6:5. Furthermore, the powder also bears lots of additives. Stick with the pills if you are buying MET-Rx.
Optimum Nutrition BCAA
Optimum Nutrition is a well-known brand and its BCAA supplements seem to sell simply because of the brand name as I have not been able to find anything remarkable about them. The amino acid ratio is 2:1:1.
The instantized powder by Optimum Nutrition does not seem to be a very efficient choice as a BCAA supplement for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the most expensive BCAA powders you will find in the market. Second, only half of the powder is actually amino acids. A serving of 9.5 grams contains a total of 5 grams of BCAAs. The rest is 3 grams of carbohydrates and various additives. Buying the powder version of ON would be the costliest way to get your BCAAs. Finally, there are too many chemicals in the ingredients list including sucralose and FD&C Red 40, which is a red coloring agent also known as Allura Red. I do not understand how this powder has all the carbohydrate and still needs the artificial sweeteners.
Interestingly, the capsule version is not such a rip-off. Indeed, it is one of the more economic BCAA caps out there. The caps also have fewer additives so may be a feasible option. However, if looking for cheap BCAA pills, MET-Rx softgels displayed above seem to be a more economic choice.
NOW Foods Branch Chain Amino Acids
Now Foods supplements have no additives whatsoever and you will only getting BCAAs at a ratio of 2:1:1. That's a very good feature. The powder has a competitive price but the capsules are quite expensive.
The taste and mixability of the BCAA powder is poor. Yet, this is what you should expect to get when you are avoiding all the additives.
Now Foods is a supplement brand I really like because they produce some of the top protein powders at a competitive price and without unwholesome chemical additives . However, the BCAA supplement may not be the best thing Now company sells. In more than one place, I've read about Now Foods admitting the use of amino acids made from feathers and one of these places is Now Foods website. I hope the company clears this situation soon and moves over to better amino sources.
I would still recommend this BCAA just for the sake of it being a Now Foods product but NutraBio is offering amino acids with more trustworthy sources and at a slightly lower price. So, the advice is to check out the NutraBio BCAA review below before you make up your mind.
Inner Armour BCAA Peak
Inner Armour is an almost excellent choice for people who prioritize a high leucine ratio. This BCAA supplement features a unique amino acid ratio of 12:1:1. Plus it contains another amino acid called glutamine. Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid but it is most commonly found amino acid in the structure of muscle tissue so to get some of that while you are working out is sure to help you with the recovery. Anyway, the container has 30 servings and each serving has 7 g of BCAAs and 2.5 g of glutamine. This blend is sure to give you nice results concerning muscle mass and strength.
The most important feature that makes Inner Armour stand out is that its amino acids come from AllPure and Ajinomoto. These are two companies that produce pharmaceutical-grade amino acids from reliable sources so when you take the Inner Armour BCAA powder you will rest assured you are not eating hair or other inedible junk. The use of branded amino acids makes Inner Armour more than worth its price that is somewhat higher than the average bcaa powders.
The artificial sweeteners in BCAA Peak are sucralose and acesulfame-K. I don't really like these stuff but the use of high quality amino acids more than compensates for that. The powder also contains silica and potassium citrate. These two are benign subtances that are used to give the supplement a better texture. Finally, we come across beet root juice powder. This is a natural additive and it is there to give some taste.
The additives seem to have some good effects as the Inner Armour powder is reportedly easier to mix than the others and does taste sweet. The taste of isolated amino acids is not for everyone to bear but apparently Inner Armour has managed to disguise that taste.
All in all, I recommend Inner Armour BCAA Peak. It has a decent amount of leucine and it contains only All Pure and Ajipure amino acids and taste and texture is as good as it gets. The only minus is the presence of artificial sweeteners but that can be condoned in the light of all the pluses.
I was starting to lose hope in finding a flawless BCAA supplement when I came across this one. Offering an amino acid ratio of 2:1:1, NutraBio BCAA may be the epitome of BCAA supplements.
NutraBio is a lesser known supplement company but after doing some research, I found out that it may be one of the most trustworthy brands in the market. NutraBio has a reputation for producing high-quality and pure supplements from wholesome sources. They have a production facility in New Jersey that follows USDA regulations and has a GMP certificate. What you get from this company is manufactured in the United States under government supervision, not in some decrepit Chinese warehouse using waste material. They even have standards for the packaging of products and the ventilation of the facility. I am impressed.
The most important point about NutraBio BCAA is that it is vegetarian i.e. no feathers! So, together with Inner Armour, this is one of the two BCAA supplements in this review that offer amino acids from a trustworthy source. It is also the only BCAA product that I found to be OU kosher.
What makes things even better is that NutraBio's BCAA supplements have no additives. You will only be getting what you set out to get: Pure, high quality BCAAs that will enhance your muscle development without stuffing your system with weird chemicals.
Astonishingly, the NutraBio powder costs less than most other BCAA powders. The powder may be the most cost effective BCAA product out there. The caps are a little more expensive than average but with the high-quality they offer, the price is no more than it ought to be. In short, NutraBio BCAAs are well-priced.
People who use the powder report that it is not the easiest to mix and does not have the sweetest taste but I think this is a price that has to be paid to avoid all the additives because amino acids don't taste nice on their own. The capsules may be a better option to avoid the taste. I think swallowing a few vegetable capsules right before you start lifting would be the perfect way to get your BCAAs.
In short, I think NutraBio's BCAA supplements are excellent products that fill an important gap in the supplement market. They provide additive-free, high-quality amino acids derived from reliable sources and are one of the few BCAA supplements I confidently recommend to people who care about their health and want sustainable muscle gains.