The 10 Best BCAA Supplements
10. Optimum Nutrition Instantized
9. Muscle Pharm 3:1:2
8. Kaged Muscle In-Kaged
7. Natureganics Mega
6. BPI Sports Best Powder
5. Cellucor Alpha
4. BulkSupplements Pure
3. Dymatize Nutrition Complex
2. Sheer Strength Labs Post Workout
1. Scivation Xtend
What Are BCAAs?
If you've spent a ton of time in the gym recently, you may have heard people talking about BCAAs. Short for branched-chain amino acids, BCAAs are extremely popular among bodybuilders and amateur fitness buffs alike.
Of course, as with any other nutritional supplement, the science behind them can be extremely complex, so you're forgiven if you still don't know what they are or what they do. Hopefully, this guide will help clear up some of that confusion.
There are three primary BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are considered essential, which means that the body cannot make them on its own. That means you must get your necessary dosage through the foods that you eat — or the supplements you take. They're primarily found in high-protein foods, such as chicken, fish, and eggs.
One of their main purposes is to help the body synthesize the protein you ingest into energy. This is important, because you want your body to target your BCAAs when it needs a boost, not your muscles. If your body cannibalizes your muscles when its hungry, then that defeats the purpose of lifting weights in the first place.
This is especially important if you're dieting while working out. When you establish a calorie deficit, which is essential for losing weight, your body's primitive functions take over. What happens is that your metabolism, fearful of starvation, attempts to hold onto fat cells for as long as possible, and as a result your muscle mass can be broken down for fuel instead.
BCAAs, meanwhile, convince your body to create insulin to burn through your blood sugar and fat stores instead of your muscle mass. At the same time, they improve the rate at which your muscles absorb protein, helping them to repair and grow.
While BCAAs are an essential part of a healthy diet, that doesn't mean that taking them will instantly turn you into an Adonis. You still need to put in the work in the gym, but if you're not getting enough of the right amino acids — whether from your diet or from supplementation — you'll likely find that your workouts won't give you the results you crave.
That's a tough spot to be in; after all, the only time you want to be spinning your wheels in the gym is when you're using an ab roller.
Benefits Of BCAAs
Now that you know what BCAAs can do for you on a molecular level, it's time to talk about the benefits that you'll actually notice.
Coincidentally, one of the biggest benefits is something you might not notice: namely, muscle soreness. BCAAs help your body repair itself quickly so that you won't have to hobble around after a particularly intense workout. Not only will this improve your quality of life, but it can also turbocharge your gains, as you can get right back in the gym for another hardcore session.
That means you can be more efficient with your workouts, as you won't have to take longer rests between exercises to recover. You'll be able to push your muscles further than you would have previously, improving their performance, but you'll also find that you can get a great workout in less time. This can help open up your entire day, giving you more free time without having to sacrifice your results.
BCAAs can help outside the gym, as well. Studies have shown that one of the amino acids, leucine, can help you feel full for longer, reducing your calorie intake without making you feel like you're starving. It does this by regulating the hormone leptin, which stimulates the body's hunger response.
Not only that, but leucine may also help your body burn fat. It does this in part by helping with muscle growth. Your muscles need lots of fuel — in the form of fat — to maintain their size, so the more lean tissue you have, the higher your metabolism will be.
Of course, if you like feeling sore and hungry, or if you're just really attached to your belly fat, then take BCAAs at your own risk.
Getting The Most Out Of Your BCAAs
Let's get one thing straight: while supplements are an excellent way to boost your BCAA intake, they should, ahem, supplement your diet. That means you should figure out an eating plan first, and then worry about adding to that later.
A high-protein diet is your best bet to maximize your BCAA intake. This means lots of lean meats like chicken, beef, and fish, as well as plenty of veggies. While BCAAs can help your body burn sugar in your bloodstream, you'll want to minimize how much is there in the first place — meaning lay off the simple carbs.
You don't have to rely exclusively on animal proteins, either — vegetarians can still get their BCAAs through nuts, yogurt, brown rice, quinoa, and more. In fact, even carnivores should occasionally rely on nuts or vegetables to get their fix, as chowing down on all that meat can wreak havoc on your cholesterol.
To get the results you want, you should take your BCAA supplement before or during a workout. However, if you pair it with a high-quality whey protein, you'll see even better results. Why? Because BCAAs flood your muscles with protein, helping you to train longer — but leaving you with a protein deficit. Drinking a shake can refill your body's protein stores, ensuring your muscles have a steady supply of nutrients to fuel their growth.
If you've always wanted a lean, shredded physique, then BCAAs can help you achieve your goals without starving yourself or living in the gym. It's all about giving your muscles proper, targeted nutrition, and that starts with a healthy diet full of branched-chain amino acids.