Three of the best BCAA supplements: NOW BCAA Powder, Life Extension BCAA Capsules, and Vital Proteins Recovery PowderShare on Pinterest

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Branched-chain amino acids, more commonly known as BCAAs, include the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAAs differ from other amino acids because they have a branched structure and are the only amino acids broken down in skeletal muscle. They’re considered essential because you must consume them through your diet (1).

Athletes and gym-goers commonly take BCAA supplements to enhance performance, reduce soreness, and prevent muscle fatigue (1).

While more research is needed, some studies suggest that BCAA supplements may be beneficial for people who don’t consume enough protein in their diet, older adults, and those with certain liver diseases, like cirrhosis, which is characterized by liver scarring. (2, 3).

While BCAAs aren’t necessary for everyone, they might be helpful for certain people, including athletes. If you’re interested in trying a BCAA supplement, we rounded up the 10 best.

Many products are on the market, which may leave you wondering which are best. This article lists BCAA supplements that meet the following criteria:

  • Quality: BCAA supplements are produced in facilities that adhere to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs). They’re also tested for purity and accuracy, ideally by a third-party organization.
  • Ingredients: BCAA supplements are free of artificial additives, including sweeteners, colorings, and flavors.
  • Reputation: BCAA supplement products are trusted by healthcare professionals like doctors and dietitians.
  • Vetting: The BCAA supplements on our list have been vetted to ensure that they align with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. You can read more about our vetting process.

A note on price

General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.

Generally, prices range from $0.35–1.83 per serving, or $14.62–$55.00 per container, though this may vary depending on where you shop.

Serving sizes are generally 1–2 scoops for powdered supplements and 2–4 pills for capsule supplements.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $0.50 per serving
  • $$ = $0.50–$1.00 per serving
  • $$$ = over $1.00 per serving

Best overall BCAA supplement

Thorne Amino Complex

Price: $$$

This product is packed with essential amino acids, including the three BCAAs.

It’s sweetened with stevia and gets its color from fruit and vegetable juice. Thorne Amino Complex comes in lemon and berry flavors.

Thorne is a supplement manufacturer that’s widely trusted and recommended by healthcare professionals — and for good reason.

This product is NSF Certified for Sport, which is a third-party testing certificate verifying that it’s free from over 270 substances banned by major athletic organizations. This certificate is recognized by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and Major League Baseball.

Thorne also adheres to CGMPs, which are regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that ensure safe supplement manufacturing and processing (4).

What’s more, Thorne was given an A rating from the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA), an Australian regulatory agency that sets strict requirements for supplement manufacturing.

Thorne Amino Complex is free of gluten, soy, and dairy. However, the manufacturer doesn’t disclose whether the ingredients are sourced from animal products, so the supplement isn’t suitable for people following a vegan diet.

Thorne Amino Complex at a glance

Who it’s best for: competitive athletes and people looking for a rigorously tested, more natural BCAA powder

Who should skip it: people who prefer an unflavored powder or follow a vegan diet

Certifications:

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • TGA rated
  • CGMP certified

Pros: NSF Certified for Sport, zero added sugar

Cons: expensive

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1-scoop (7.7-gram) serving:

  • Calories: 25
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 1.25 grams
    • Isoleucine: 625 mg
    • Valine: 625 mg

Best BCAA supplement with L-glutamine

Designs for Health BCAA Powder with L-glutamine

Price: $$$

This product combines the three BCAAs with L-glutamine, an amino acid that’s concentrated in muscle tissue and may help reduce muscle tissue breakdown when taken as a supplement (5).

Designs for Health BCAA Powder with L-glutamine is sweetened with stevia and has a natural orange flavor. It’s also free of gluten, soy, and artificial sweeteners.

The company is also CGMP certified and adheres to strict standards throughout the manufacturing process to ensure quality, accuracy, and purity.

However, it’s important to note that Designs for Health’s products are not third-party tested.

Designs for Health BCAA Powder with L-glutamine at a glance

Who it’s best for: people looking for a minimal-ingredient BCAA product with the added benefits of L-glutamine

Who should skip it: people who prefer third-party tested products and competitive athletes, since it’s not certified for sport

Certifications: CGMP certified

Pros: contains glutamine, no added sugar

Cons: not third-party tested, expensive

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1-scoop (9-gram) serving:

  • Calories: 0
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 2.5 grams
    • Isoleucine: 1.2 grams
    • Valine: 1.2 grams

Best pre-workout BCAA powder

Klean Athlete BCAA + Peak ATP

Price: $$$

This powder from Klean Athlete combines BCAAs with Peak ATP, a form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is a compound that provides your cells with energy. Some research indicates that ATP may help improve exercise performance when taken as a supplement. As such, this product is meant to be taken 30 minutes before a workout (6).

Klean Athlete products are produced in facilities that are NSF-CGMP registered and ISO certified.

The BCAA powder specifically is also NSF Certified for Sport, making it a great choice for athletes. It’s also vegan-friendly, GMO-free, gluten-free, and is made without artificial colorings and flavorings.

The powder has a natural orange flavor and is sweetened with xylitol, monk fruit, and stevia.

Klean Athlete BCAA + Peak ATP at a glance

Who it’s best for: competitive athletes or someone looking for a pre-workout BCAA supplement that may help boost energy and improve performance

Who should skip it: people looking for an unflavored powder or people who are sensitive to xylitol (7)

Certifications:

  • CGMP certified by NFS
  • ISO certified
  • NSF Certified for Sport

Pros: NSF Certified for Sport, no added sugar

Cons: expensive

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1-scoop (8.6-gram) serving:

  • Calories: 10
  • Carbs: 2.5 grams
  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 2 grams
    • Isoleucine: 1 gram
    • Valine: 1 gram

Best BCCA supplement for hydration

Vital Proteins Vital Performance Recovery Powder

Price: $$$

In addition to BCAAs, Vital Performance Recovery Powder provides 20 grams of collagen, all 9 essential amino acids, and electrolytes, which can help boost hydration (8).

Taurine is also included, which may help improve endurance, but the research on this is a bit mixed and inconclusive (9, 10).

Vital Performance Recovery Powder contains vitamin C and some B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which is important for the breakdown of amino acids in your body (11).

Also included is L-glutamine, which may help reduce muscle breakdown (12).

According to the label, this powder contains 8 grams total of essential amino acids (EAAs), but the specific amounts of each BCAA are not listed.

The powder is NSF Certified for Sport and free of artificial sweeteners, dairy, gluten, and soy. It’s sweetened with monk fruit extract and comes in a guava lime, lemon grape, or watermelon berry flavor.

According to the company, all Vital Proteins products are third-party tested for evidence of heavy metals and microbiological components. However, the names of the testing organizations are not disclosed.

Vital Performance Recovery Powder at a glance

Who it’s best for: someone looking for a supplement that combines BCAAs along with electrolytes for added hydration

Who should skip it: people following a vegan diet, since it contains animal collagen peptides

Certifications:

  • third-party tested
  • NSF Certified for Sport

Pros: NSF Certified for Sport

Cons: expensive

Vegan-friendly: no

Nutrition facts per 2-scoop (38-gram) serving:

  • Calories: 100
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • EAAs: 8 grams

Best affordable BCAA supplement

NOW Sports Branched-Chain Amino Acid Powder

Price: $

This unflavored product contains only BCAAs and is free of gluten, soy, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish. It’s also vegan-friendly.

NOW Sports Branched-Chain Amino Acid powder is Informed Sport certified, meaning that every batch is independently tested for banned substances before being sold.

NOW is also certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), a nonprofit organization that ensures good manufacturing practices.

NOW Sports Branched-Chain Amino Acid Powder at a glance

Who it’s best for: someone who is looking for an affordable or unflavored BCAA supplement

Who should skip it: people who prefer a flavored powder

Certifications:

  • UL certified
  • Informed Sport certified
  • CGMP certified

Pros: Informed Sport certified, UL certified, zero added sugar, affordable

Cons: unflavored

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1.5 teaspoons (5.2-gram) serving:

  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 2.3 grams
    • Isoleucine: 1.1 grams
    • Valine: 1.1 grams

Best unflavored BCAA supplement

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Powder

Price: $$

Pure Encapsulations BCAA powder is an unsweetened, unflavored supplement that only contains BCAAs. The powder is also gluten-free, GMO-free, and vegetarian.

The company is CGMP certified and exceeds the standards of the United States Pharmacopeia, an independent organization that sets standards for supplement manufacturing.

Plus, all of the company’s supplement ingredients are tested for purity by independent laboratories.

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Powder at a glance

Who it’s best for: someone looking for an unflavored BCAA powder that’s third-party tested

Who should skip it: people who prefer a flavored powder

Certifications:

  • ingredients are third-party tested
  • CGMP certified

Pros: third-party tested, zero added sugar

Cons: a bit pricey

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1-scoop (3.3-gram) serving:

  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 1.5 grams
    • Isoleucine: 750 mg
    • Valine: 750 mg

Best vegan BCAA supplement

Naked BCAAs

Price: $

Naked BCAAs powder contains just the three BCAAs and sunflower lecithin — nothing else.

Naked products are tested by a third-party lab in the US.

Naked BCAAs powder is certified vegan and gluten-free. It’s also free from soy and GMOs.

Naked BCAAs

Who it’s best for: people following a vegan diet or anyone looking for a supplement with minimal ingredients

Who should skip it: people interested in a flavored product or a supplement containing additional ingredients, such as electrolytes

Certifications:

  • third-party tested
  • certified vegan
  • certified gluten-free

Pros: third-party tested, affordable

Cons: unflavored

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 1-scoop (5-gram) serving:

  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 2.5 grams
    • Isoleucine: 1.25 grams
    • Valine: 1.25 grams

Best BCAA capsules

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules

Price: $$

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules contain only the three BCAAs in capsules made of water and cellulose, a substance found in plant cells.

However, the amounts of each BCAA are lower than in our top BCAA capsules pick. That said, these capsules differ from Life Extension’s because they’re vegan-friendly.

Plus, you only need to take two capsules daily instead of four.

As mentioned above, Pure Encapsulations is CGMP certified, and its products are independently tested for quality.

Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules at a glance

Who it’s best for: people who prefer pills to powdered supplements and are following a gluten-free or vegan diet

Who should skip: anyone who experiences difficulty swallowing capsules

Certifications:

  • certified gluten-free
  • ingredients are third-party tested
  • CGMP certified

Pros: third-party tested

Cons: a bit pricey

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 2-capsule serving:

  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 600 mg
    • Isoleucine: 300 mg
    • Valine: 300 mg

Best BCAA capsules runner-up

Life Extension BCAA Capsules

Price: $$

Life Extension BCAA capsules are a good option for people who dislike the taste of supplement powders or who prefer the convenience of pill-form supplements.

The supplement features vegetable cellulose capsules containing just the three BCAAs. It’s also gluten-free and non-GMO verified.

However, while the outer coating is vegetarian-friendly, the company doesn’t disclose whether the nutrients inside are derived from animal products.

Therefore, the supplement may not be suitable for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Life Extension is CGMP certified and all products are rigorously tested to ensure quality.

Life Extension BCAA Capsules

Who it’s best for: someone who dislikes supplement powders or simply prefers the convenience of capsules

Who should skip it: people who experience difficulty swallowing capsules

Certifications:

  • CGMP certified
  • non-GMO verified

Pros: affordable, easy to take

Cons: not third-party tested

Vegan-friendly: unknown

Nutrition facts per 4-capsule serving:

  • BCAAs:
    • Leucine: 1.2 grams
    • Isoleucine: 600 mg
    • Valine: 600 mg

Best affordable BCAA capsules

NOW Sports Branched-Chain Amino Acid Capsules

Price: $

In addition to its BCAA powder, NOW Sports offers BCAAs in capsule form.

The capsules contain the three BCAAs, along with a vegetarian capsule made from hypromellose and stearic acid, a fatty acid used as a binder in nutritional supplements.

Like NOW’s BCAA powder, its BCAA capsules are Informed Sport certified and vegan-friendly.

NOW Sports BCAA Capsules

Who it’s best for: people who don’t enjoy powdered supplements and are looking for an affordable capsule alternative

Who should skip it: anyone who has difficulty swallowing capsules

Certifications:

  • UL certified
  • CGMP certified
  • Informed Sport certified

Pros: Informed Sport certified

Cons: large dose required

Vegan-friendly: yes

Nutrition facts per 4-capsule serving:

  • Total BCAAs: 2.6 grams

Here’s a quick look at how our picks compare:

Thorne Amino ComplexDesigns for Health BCAA Powder with L-glutamineKlean Athlete BCAA + Peak ATPVital Proteins Vital Performance Recovery PowderNOW Sports BCAA PowderPure Encapsulations BCAA PowderNaked BCAAsPure Encapsulations BCAA CapsulesLife Extension BCAA CapsulesNOW Sports BCAA Capsules
Price per serving$1.43$1.95$1.79$3.90$0.38$0.76$0.35$0.54$0.67$0.38
Typepowderpowderpowderpowderpowderpowderpowdercapsulescapsulescapsules
Available flavors• lemon
• berry
orangeorange• guava lime
• lemon grape
• watermelon berry
unflavoredunflavoredunflavoredunflavoredunflavoredunflavored
Leucine1.25 g2.5 g2 gnot disclosed (8 g total EAAS)2.3 g1.5 g2.5 g0.6 g1.2 gnot disclosed (2.6 g total BCAAs)
Isoleucine625 mg1.2 g1 gnot disclosed1.1 g0.75 g1.25 g0.3 g0.6 gnot disclosed
Valine625 mg1.2 g1 gnot disclosed1.1 g0.75 g1.25 g0.3 g0.6 gnot disclosed
Other ingredientsEAAsL-glutaminepeak ATP• collagen
• vitamin C
• B vitamins
• taurine
• L-glutamine
Sweetenersteviastevia• xylitol
• monk fruit
• stevia
monk fruit
Safe for sportyesnoyesyesyesnonononoyes

Note that safe for sport products include those that are NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport certified.

If you’re interested in taking a BCAA supplement, there are a few things to consider while you’re shopping for a product.

  • Quality: When shopping for a BCAA supplement, purchase supplements only from trusted brands that adhere to safety and quality standards, such as third-party testing and those that follow CGMPs established by the FDA.
  • Dose: Dosing of BCAAs depends on many factors, including what you’re taking the BCAAs for and your body weight. Most supplements contain between 3 and 10 grams of total BCAAs per serving and can be taken multiple times per day. If you’re unsure about proper dosage or timing, it’s best to consult a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition or your doctor if you’re taking BCAAs for a health condition.
  • Ingredients: Some BCAA supplements contain added sugars, gluten, soy, and artificial sweeteners. Be sure to read ingredient lists if you want to avoid any of these.
  • Form: Consider the type of BCAA supplement that works best for you. For example, powders are a good choice if you have a hard time swallowing pills.

BCAA supplements are generally considered safe. However, it’s best to check with a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement, especially if you have a health condition.

Some people, including those with health conditions that interfere with the breakdown of BCAAs like maple syrup urine disease, should avoid taking BCAA supplements (13).

Additionally, BCAA supplements are not recommended for people who are pregnant or nursing.

As with many supplements, you may be wondering about the benefits of taking BCAAs, as well as how effective they are. Below are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about BCAAs.

What are branched-chain amino acids good for?

While most studies suggest that BCAAs are unlikely to improve exercise performance or muscle growth, they have been shown to decrease muscle soreness when taken before or after a workout (3, 14, 15, 16).

They may also have benefits outside of exercise performance, such as for cognitive and liver health and for improving cancer-induced cachexia. However, these benefits are still being studied and more solid evidence is needed (17, 18, 19).

Do branched-chain amino acids really work?

Studies suggest that BCAAs may be beneficial for certain populations, such as athletes and people with some liver conditions, like cirrhosis (20).

Keep in mind that dosing and frequency change depending on what the BCAA supplement is being used for. For example, an athlete taking a BCAA supplement to support performance and recovery may require a different daily dose than someone using a BCAA supplement to improve a liver condition.

This is why it’s always best to get advice from a healthcare professional to make sure you’re using BCAA supplements effectively and appropriately.

Lastly, keep in mind that BCAA supplements aren’t necessary for everyone. BCAAs are found naturally in food sources of protein, and most people get enough through a well-balanced diet (21).

What are the side effects of taking BCAA supplements? Are they safe?

In general, BCAA supplements are safe for healthy individuals to take and have not been shown to cause serious side effects.

However, some individuals should not take BCAA supplements, including people who are pregnant or nursing or people with maple syrup urine disease, a condition in which the body is unable to break down BCAAs (22).

It’s always a good idea to run any new supplements by a healthcare professional before starting, especially if you’re taking medications.

When is the best time to take BCAA supplements?

For athletes, it’s usually recommended to take BCAAs shortly before or after a workout, though there is no set time on when to take them.

Studies suggest that BCAA levels peak around 30 minutes after ingestion and drop to their initial level after 180 minutes (23).

If a healthcare professional recommends a BCAA supplement for a health condition, be sure to follow their dosing instructions.

Should you take BCAA supplements every day?

Research suggests that it’s safe for most people to take BCAAs daily for extended periods (24).

However, for most people, taking BCAAs every day isn’t necessary. If you have questions regarding the safety of BCAA supplements and whether or not you should be taking them daily, talk with a trusted healthcare professional.

Do BCAAs contain calories?

Studies show that BCAAs contain around 4.65 calories per gram. However, the calorie content is not always listed on supplement labels due to different regulations regarding the calorie content of whole proteins and individual amino acids (3).

BCAAs supplements are popular among those looking to boost exercise performance.

Many types are available, including capsules and flavored or unflavored powders. You’ll also want to consider factors, such as ingredient quality, testing, and cost before purchasing.

BCAA supplements may not be safe for all people, so be sure to talk with a healthcare professional before taking any of the products listed above.