Branched chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs, are a great way to improve your recovery after a tough training session, and they might even help you lose weight, too.
These qualities make them especially attractive to women. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that branched chain amino acids are only for bodybuilders.
A good BCAA supplement can help you get toned, perform better in endurance exercise, and gain muscular strength. They might even help boost the functioning of your immune system.
Want to take your gym sessions to the next level? Our research team took an in-depth look at the best branched chain amino acid supplements for women and came up with the best ten.
Last updated: January 9, 2023
BCAA supplements considered: 30
Hours of research: 42
Experts reviewed: 8
Scientific papers referenced: 14
1. Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine
Is it too much to want it all from your BCAA? Transparent Labs suggests it isn’t with BCAA + Glutamine.
Simply put, BCAA + Glutamine has everything you need from the right sources in the right amounts.
A whopping 8 grams of vegan-friendly fermented branch chain amino acids. An extra 5 grams of l-glutamine to aid recovery, reduce soreness, and negate BCAA metabolism. A gram of coconut water powder to aid hydration.
Available in 5 delicious, all-natural, naturally sweetened flavors you can’t go wrong. This is our top pick for reducing soreness and promoting muscle recovery in women.
2. Kaged Muscle Fermented BCAA Powder
Kaged Muscle sells a highly pure and scientifically advanced branched chain amino acid formulation. It’s very simple, with just four ingredients (and three of them are BCAAs).
The main innovation in this product is the fermented nature of the branched chain amino acids, which makes them easier for your body to process and digest. In other words, you get a greater benefit from the same dose of BCAAs.
Aside from leucine, valine, and isoleucine (provided at a 2:1:1 ratio), the only other ingredient is sunflower lecithin, which helps prevent clumping when you mix it into a protein shake. It’s simply a great pick.
3. Optimum Nutrition BCAA Caps
If you hate the taste of BCAA powder, Optimum Nutrition offers the best solution with its mega-sized BCAA capsules. Each capsule has 500 mg of branched chain amino acids in a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio, and the only other ingredients are cellulose, magnesium stearate, and gelatin.
That last ingredient will be a turn-off for strict vegetarians, and it definitely isn’t the right solution if you need a large amount of BCAAs, but as far as capsule-based BCAA supplements, this one is the best.
4. Nutricost BCAA
When it comes to simple and straightforward, Nutricost has it covered.
This supplement has only three ingredients, and they are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, in a 2:1:1 ratio. It’s not the cutting edge of supplement innovation, but if all you need are branched chain amino acids with no frills, this is the best choice.
5. Type Zero Clean Vegan BCAA
If plant-based amino acids are important, and you want some extra ingredients to support both workout performance and workout recovery, check out Type Zero Clean Vegan BCAA.
In addition to a 2:1:1 blend of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, you get a mix of electrolytes, arginine, and acetyl-L-carnitine for peak performance.
6. BPI Sports Best BCAA
BPI Sports Best BCAA is what you might consider a “maximalist” branched chain amino acid supplement. Its branched chain amino acid ingredients are pre-processed with enzymes to improve absorption, and it also includes several power and endurance boosting supplements as well.
This makes it a solid choice for an all-around pre-workout supplement, but less well-suited for supplying branched chain amino acids after your workout has finished.
7. EVL Amino Energy
EVL focuses on BCAAs as a pre and intra-workout supplement, augmenting this 2:1:1 BCAA blend with B vitamins, beta-alanine, and caffeine to throttle up workout performance. These extra ingredients make it well-suited for workouts, but less so for recovery or weight loss.
8. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder
SciVation make a BCAA that provides leucine, valine, and isoleucine at a 1:1:1 ratio, alongside L-glutamine for better muscle recovery after tough workouts.
In addition it includes an electrolyte mix and some B vitamins, but the problem with this supplement is its excess of dyes, colorants, and synthetic flavors. Especially if you are sensitive to these ingredients, you’ll want to seek out something else.
9. Her Aminos by NLA for Her
NLA for Her has retooled its amino acid blend to focus on the thermogenic effects of BCAAs. This blend is not for everyone, as it pairs branched chain amino acids with a hefty dose of caffeine alongside green tea, green coffee, and theobromine.
It’s a potent weight loss-focused BCAA, but the ingredients list is a bit too bloated to compete with the top-ranked products on our list.
10. Nature’s Design BCAA
Nature’s Design is a capsule-based branched chain amino acid supplement, which is good news for women who don’t like the taste of powder-based BCAAs, but it falls short of some of its competitors due to an excess of fillers and bulking agents in the capsules, in addition to the small number of servings per bottle.
Best overall BCAAs for women: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine
Transparent Labs makes a BCAA supplement that’s great both for female athletes and for women just trying to lose weight. You get the fat-burning effects of amino acids, plus the muscle-recovery effects of glutamine, all in one package.
Best BCAAs for women over 40: Kaged Muscle Fermented BCAA Powder
Women over 40 need to focus more on maintaining muscle mass with a simple, high-dose BCAA supplement. Kaged Muscle delivers on that front with an easy-to-mix BCAA powder.
Best BCAAs for women trying to lose weight: Kaged Muscle Fermented BCAA Powder
Kaged Muscle is a high-dose, high-bioavailability source of BCAAs that’s great if you want to leverage the thermogenic and appetite-suppressant properties of BCAAs for weight loss.
Best BCAAs for female athletes: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine
The combo of glutamine and BCAAs make Transparent Labs really shine when it comes to athletes who are training hard. Both BCAAs and glutamine contribute to muscle recovery, meaning this supplement is great for working out harder and recovering better afterwards.
Best women’s BCAAs for protein shakes and smoothies: Kaged Muscle Fermented BCAA Powder
If you want to add a BCAA boost to your usual protein shake, Kaged Muscle is a fantastic way to do it. Its BCAAs are fermented for optimal absorption, and a small amount of emulsifier makes it blend well with protein powder into shakes or smoothies.
Best capsule-form BCAAs for women: Optimum Nutrition BCAA Caps
If mixing powder is too much of a headache, go for Optimum Nutrition BCAA Caps. These capsules offer 500 mg of the three essential branched-chain amino acids, in a 2:1:1 ratio—no messy powder and protein shaker cleanup to worry about.
Who should buy BCAAs for women?
Women can benefit from branched chain amino acids if they are increase muscular strength, boost post-workout recovery, or drop body fat while maintaining lean body mass. Here’s why.
Women who want to increasing strength. BCAAs make up three of the nine essential amino acids.
Since amino acids are the building blocks for pretty much all of the structures in your body, women who are physically active require higher levels of BCAAs than sedentary women in order to build or maintain muscle strength.
Women who want to recover better after workouts. BCAAs have been heavily studied for their ability to kick-start muscular repair.
Some research indicates that taking a BCAA right before working out can prevent muscle damage or speed recovery after particularly tough training sessions.
Women who want to shed excess body fat. BCAAs play important regulatory roles in core biological processes like insulin regulation.
This is the avenue through which BCAAs might help play a role in weight loss: protein in general is known to be useful for weight loss, as it helps increase feelings of satiety and fullness, while requiring more calories to break down.
This increase in thermogenesis after consuming protein powder is partially attributable to the caloric expenditures that’s needed to break down the chemical bonds in BCAAs.
How we ranked
The market for BCAAs for women is surprisingly broad, so to formulate our rankings, we parsed out the BCAA options for women into powder-based supplements and capsule-based supplements, since both of these forms have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s how we ranked products in each category:
A focus on quality BCAAs. We eliminated anything whose primary focus wasn’t the branched chain amino acids.
More general protein-focused products, even those that were enriched with BCAAs, were dropped.
All three essential BCAAs. We also eliminated anything that didn’t include all three of the branched chain amino acids: leucine, valine, and isoleucine.
Taste and purity mattered most for powder-based BCAAs. Among the remaining products, we rated the powder-based BCAA products on their taste as well as purity.
In a powder-based supplement, flavoring is great, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the purity and efficacy of the supplement.
No bloated ingredient lists. BCAA powders for women that had too much flavoring, coloring agents, and sweeteners were eliminated.
Purity and capsule composition mattered for pill-based BCAAs. We applied similar purity criteria to the capsule-based BCAAs for women.
Flavor obviously is not an important factor in the quality of a capsule based supplement, so we put an even stronger emphasis on purity for these supplements. As a result, fewer capsule-based products made the final rankings.
We had a slight preference for capsules made out of cellulose as opposed to gelatin, as women who are vegetarians and vegans often take BCAA supplements—meat, eggs, and dairy are common dietary sources of BCAAs.
Optimal BCAA ratio. Finally, we analyzed the balance of branched chain amino acids, with a strong preference for products that provided a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio, as this is a research-backed strategy for optimal BCAA delivery.
Bonus for perks like highly bioavailable BCAAs. We also boosted the scores of products that had extra perks, like the fermented BCAAs provided by Kaged Muscle Fermented BCAA Powder or the glutamine, conjugated linoleic acid, and carnitine provided by Pretty Fit BCAA Burn.
Q: When should women take BCAAs?
A: The timing of a BCAA supplement depends on your overall goals. Are you trying to boost workout recovery? In this case, you want to take your BCAA supplement as soon as possible after your workout.
Are you trying to prevent soreness from a difficult training session? If so, you should take your BCAA supplement right before your workout.
On the other hand, if you are looking to lose weight, the best option is to spread your dosage out throughout the day.
The difference between taking BCAAs for weight loss and taking BCAAs for workout benefits is that you are taking advantage of fundamentally different properties of the amino acids.
Q: What do BCAAs do for women?
A: Women in particular can benefit from BCAAs on two fronts. First, because of their vastly lower levels of testosterone, women can have a harder time building and maintaining muscle mass.
Improve strength and get toned. If a woman is trying to get toned or get stronger, a BCAA can help shore up this drawback, since the branched chain amino acids in BCAA supplements are used directly by your body to build stronger muscles.
Drop excess body fat. Second, women also have a harder time keeping their energy expenditure high enough to drop body fat. BCAAs, thanks to the increase in caloric expenditure they generate during digestion, can help address this issue as well.
Q: Should you take powder or pill based BCAAs?
A: For most women, powders are the right call–good ones taste great, and can be mixed up with plain water to serve as a pre-workout or a low-calorie recovery drink. Given the optimal dosage of BCAAs (five to ten grams), a powder is also easier than taking lots of capsules.
However, if you’re traveling, or just don’t want to bother with the mess of powder-based supplements, capsules can be a good solution.
- Intra-workout supplements
- Fat burners for women
- Protein powder for women
- Pre-workout supplement
- Post-workout supplement
Branched chain amino acids are great for improving performance in endurance workouts, increasing strength gains, and fighting off soreness and poor performance after a tough workout.
Women will especially like the blood sugar stabilizing effect that BCAAs seem to have when you are on a restricted diet, since this will help improve your mood, reduce food cravings, and keep you feeling good during exercise.
A BCAA supplement could even improve your immune function, helping fight off infection. If all of these are goals you’d like to achieve, a branched chain amino acid supplement might be exactly what you need.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 BCAAs for women recommendation, click here.