Having enough BCAAs in your diet is proven to increase fat loss, improve athletic performance, maximize muscle growth, and decrease recovery time, regardless of your gender.
If a supplement company wants to market to specific genders, that’s fine. Just don’t let marketing tactics be the reason you buy their product. Go for quality, not hype. Your body deserves it.
BCAAs are the building blocks for protein synthesis.
The three essential BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Out of the three essential BCAAs, leucine has the biggest impact on muscle growth and fat loss.
They’re ‘essential’ because they aren’t produced anywhere in the body.
If you don't eat them, you don’t have them.
And you need them to perform, recover, and get the results you want.
Women who use BCAA supplements report experiencing less soreness and shorter recovery times.
BCAAs have benefits that go way beyond the weight room, including roles in the immune system and brain function.
Researchers have tested BCAAs for use treating burn victims, trauma, and sepsis patients. (R)
Endurance athletes run low on BCAAs during long workouts. A quality BCAA supplement reduces fatigue in the central nervous system and keeps them feeling fresh.
For vegetarians and vegans, a BCAA supplement is a must have.
This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans who are on a low carb, high fat diet, are doing intermittent fasting, or are trying to stay in ketosis.
Meat is the best source of BCAAs, and without it, it can be difficult to get enough of them.
Although there’s a minuscule amount of BCAAs in foods like seeds, soy, and alkaline veggies like watercress, their BCAA content is nothing compared to meat.
Because of the composition of BCAAs your body can easily digest them.
That’s great because you can only get them from what you ingest. Leucine, in particular, is critical for protein synthesis. (R)
In one study, conducted by the American Society for Nutrition, taking leucine alone lead to more muscle growth than a complete mixture of BCAAs.
Not to talk bad about valine and isoleucine, but in the same study taking valine and isoleucine alone did not affect muscle growth.
This is not to say that valine and isoleucine aren’t valuable nutrients, it just goes to show how important leucine is as a supporting cofactor. (R)
BCAAs also inhibit the breakdown of muscle cells, and when combined with weight lifting trigger a key muscle-building pathway called mTOR.
ATP is the energy currency of your cells, and BCAAs work to maintain their levels during intense glycogen-depleting exercise.
Isoleucine facilitates cellular glucose uptake, which helps the body use energy.
For people on the ketogenic diet, supplementing with a low-carb protein powder before your workout along with BCAAs provides a well-rounded fuel source for faster recovery times.
Leucine aids fat oxidization, which is great for fat loss.
If you don’t have enough BCAAs when you hit the gym, you risk cannibalizing your muscle tissue.
In the absence of BCAAs, your body will break muscle down in search of the nutrients it needs.
When you take leucine before a workout, you burn fat, not muscle, and for most of us, that’s the goal.
Nutritionist Donald Layman, Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, had this to say about leucine and weight loss in an interview with WebMD:
"In studying exercise and how muscle develops, we found that leucine has a particularly unique effect in that it spares muscle proteins during weight loss, so you only lose the fat and not the muscle.” (R)
Research shows that BCAA supplements are especially effective at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when combined with the amino acid Taurine. (R)
When you work out hard, you’re the sorest 24-72 hours afterward. With the right dose of BCAAs and taurine, you don't have to feel miserably sore.
Taurine is an amino acid that, unlike BCAAs, is created naturally in the body.
It’s also an anti-inflammatory and does a tremendous job of reducing oxidative stress. (R)
When combined with BCAAs, taurine can reduce muscle soreness in three key ways.
Why not just make some homemade beef jerky instead of taking a supplement?
Protein takes a lot of energy to process, and you need to eat additional fiber to help digest it.
BCAA powder is more efficient to digest. Plus, who wants to work out after eating a bunch of protein?
I'd rather drink a BCAA shake real quick.
It’s lighter on my stomach, and after a workout, my appetite is too suppressed to consider eating a bunch of protein.
Don’t megadose on BCAAs.
Taking BCAA supplements can deplete your body of B vitamins if you aren’t careful.
You need B-vitamins to break down and process BCAAs.
If you’re taking BCAA supplements regularly, make sure you’re getting enough B-vitamins in your diet.
You can deplete yourself of vitamin B6, pantothenic acid (B5), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and thiamin (B1) with normal doses of BCAAs over time.
Vitamin B deficiencies can lead to a variety of complications that you’d rather avoid, including decreased energy, anxiety, and poor metabolism.
Make sure to compensate with vitamin B supplements and plenty of vitamin B-rich foods like leafy greens, broccoli, lentils, oranges, bell peppers, beets, cantaloupe, parsley, and asparagus.
No one wants to be low on serotonin.
BCAA supplements can help correct amino acid imbalances as part of a comprehensive amino acid therapy.
High levels of BCAAs, when combined with a low carb diet, can prevent tryptophan from entering the brain.
Try eating some starchy vegetables, beans, or fruit in the evening, at least on days that you’ve worked out hard.
Eating carbs with dinner or having some before bed will prevent you from becoming deficient in serotonin.
BCAAs are essential to getting the results you want in the gym, whether that's trimming down or bulking up.
If your goal is to look like a male bodybuilder, you’re going to need a lot more weapons in your arsenal than a quality BCAA supplement.
No need to worry about accidentally turning into the incredible hulk.
Guy or girl, your appropriate BCAA dose depends on your weight.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine and the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) set Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for essential amino acids in 2002.
The RDA for leucine for adults 19 years and older is 42 mg/kg of body weight per day; iso-leucine is 19 mg/kg/day, and valine is 4 mg/kg/day.
According to the same guidelines, if you already eat the RDA for total protein (0.8 g/kg/day) then you meet the RDA for BCAAs. (R)
Keep in mind that the harder you exercise, the more essential nutrients your body needs.
Follow the recommended guidelines on the packaging of whatever BCAA product you purchase.
Mega-dosing on BCAAs can result in vitamin B depletion if unaccounted for.
The truth is that the best BCAA for men and women are the same regardless of gender.
We’re not talking about taking hormones here.
BCAAs are essential nutritional building blocks that everyone needs.
Children of all sexes need BCAAs as they grow, and adulthood is no different.
It’s nothing more than a marketing ploy if the label is pink and has a woman on it, although it still can be a great product either way.
The point is, you shouldn’t shy away from buying a BCAA supplement that has a manly label or a girly label, and you shouldn’t buy a lower-quality product just because they marketed it to you demographic.
Be cautious of brands that push the ‘made for her’ agenda.
The best BCAA for men and women provides adequate leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Because of how critical leucine is to the formula, we only recommend products that have a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine-to-isoleucine-to-valine.
Supplements with B vitamins and taurine get bonus points. B vitamins are essential because BCAA intake depletes you of B vitamins.
Taurine aids in fat loss. Based off of those criteria, we’ve picked out some of the best BCAAs for men and women.
Active Alliance Nutrition's (AAN) BCAA powder is sourced entirely from plant-based protein for better absorption. Beware of products that have mega-doses of BCAAs in each serving.
Most of that is just going to get peed out and takes energy in the process. Plant-based BCAA powders are proven to have a higher absorption rate than animal-based products.
Their product tastes incredible. This could be thanks to the fermentation process the ingredients go through and the lack of chemicals. Animal-based products oftentimes taste bad because of the chemicals used in processing.
AAN has done a great job delivering a 100% vegan BCAA supplement with an optimal 2:1:1 ratio of leuciene:isoleucine:valine.
Truth's BCAA Glutamine product is 100% plant-sourced and vegan.
Not many people know that a lot of a lot of companies source their BCAAs from beef parts and chicken feathers.
What would you rather have in your body? Glutamine is proven to aid in protein synthesis.
Naturally sweetened, zero carbs, high BCAA dose, what more could you ask for?
Clean Machine is in the same class as AAN products.
Their BCAAs are sourced from fermented corn and taste great naturally.
It's made with dehydrated coconut water to keep you hydrated and replace the electrolytes lost during you workout.
Most BCAA products use soy lecithin to keep the powder from clumping in liquid. Clean Machine uses sunflower lecithin instead, making this product soy free.
It also comes in a fruit punch flavor that is also free of carbs and sugars.
2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs, with majority leucine, just like the doctor ordered.
Did I mention it's non-GMO?
This is a quality no-frills product, which is something I like.
Most supplement companies have the habit of over-branding their products.
They use so many exaggerated statements, catchy slogans, and over-the-top logos that it makes my head spin.
Serving Size: 1500 mg
Leucine... 750 mg
Isoleucine... 375 mg
Valine... 375 mg
It also makes me more suspicious of what's inside their package. What are they trying so hard for?
Are they hiding poor quality behind all that marketing?
They let quality-sourced ingredients speak for themselves in a classic 2:1:1 ratio.
Optimum Nutrition is one of the original top-selling BCAA producers.
They're the first company to 'instantize' their BCAA powders, a fancy way of saying that the powder stays evenly dispersed in liquid rather than clumping and settling at the bottom.
Their BCAA powder is also available in capsules if you prefer popping a pill. No BS marketing, just quality branch chain aminos offered at a reasonable price.
BCAAs are a great way to increase energy during workouts, speed muscle gain, decrease soreness and recovery time, and improve fat loss.
Just make sure to get enough vitamin B.
And while you're at it eat carbs in the evening and whole protein sources to complete your body's ideal amino acid profile.
Check out our article on the most common and important amino acid in the body for Cellular repair.