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Ranking the best BCAAs of 2023

Written by John Davis

Last updated: November 1, 2022

Many people take branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) before and after workouts because these special amino acids can help build muscle, improve recovery, and repair muscle damage following tough workouts.

Because of these benefits, BCAAs have become a “staple” for athletes and weight trainers for putting on muscle and for getting optimal recovery after challenging training sessions.

We’ve reviewed the scientific evidence on the benefits of BCAAs and used this evidence to rank the top BCAA supplements on the market.

(Women can check out our BCAA for women rankings, too)

Why You Should Trust Us

    Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance
our top picks for BCAAs
  1. Best overall: Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
  2. Best for cutting: BulkSupplements Pure BCAA
  3. Best for bulking: Battle Ready Fuel BCAA Powder
  4. Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder
  5. MusclePharm 3:1:2


Last updated: November 1, 2022
BCAA supplements considered: 19
Hours of research: 42
Experts reviewed: 5
Scientific papers referenced: 14

1. Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
  • Helps to boost performance, initiate muscle growth, and help you fight fatigue
  • Vegan-friendly, GMO, and gluten-free
  • The 2:1:1 mix is perfect whether performance or recovery is your goal
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2. BulkSupplements Pure BCAA
  • Only has three ingredients - leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which we use to build muscle
  • There are no sugar, flavoring, preservatives, or stabilizers
  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise, and supports the liver
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3. Battle Ready Fuel BCAA Powder
  • It helps fuel your muscles with double the Leucine for truly EXPLOSIVE muscle growth
  • The entire formulation is designed to help keep the body in growth mode
  • Vegan-friendly naturally flavored, and designed to directly support the biological processes of muscle gain
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4. Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder
  • Most well-known resources on strength training
  • Can be mixed into a protein shake
  • Boasts a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine
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5. MusclePharm 3:1:2
  • Employs a 3:1:2 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine
  • Uses natural substances like beet root powder or spirulina powder
  • Contains 95% branched-chain amino acids by weight
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6. Sheer Strength Labs BCAA
  • One of the best capsule options on the market
  • Boast a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine: valine ratio, and no extraneous ingredients
  • Helps rebuild and recover muscles faster
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7. Dymatize Nutrition BCAA Complex 2200
  • A simple powder whose only contents are leucine, isoleucine, and valine
  • Its 2:1:1 ratio of the three branched-chain amino acids is a safe industry standard
  • Helps in promoting muscle regeneration and recovery
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8. Cellucor Alpha Amino BCAAs
  • Contains leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio
  • It is sugar-free and is packed with flavors
  • Contributes to muscle strength and recovery
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9. Met-Rx BCAA
  • Comes in capsules only
  • Helps support muscle synthesis
  • Convenient if you’re tired of measuring scoops or hate the mildly astringent taste
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10. Bodytech BCAA
  • Offers another no-nonsense branched-chain amino acid formulation
  • Has a small amount of soy lecithin added as an emulsifier to prevent sediment in your water bottle
  • No flavoring, no stabilizers, and no artificial ingredients
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1. Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

Click here for the lowest price

For ultimate workout recovery capabilities, Transparent Labs is the way to go. It uses the innovative combination of branched chain amino acids and glutamine, an alpha-amino acid which has its own wide-ranging recovery-boosting capabilities.

This combo is perfectly suited for serious athletes undergoing intensive training. The 2:1:1 ratio of fermented BCAAs is enhanced with coconut water for added electrolytes and vitamin C for anti-inflammatory power.

If you want the most potent BCAA-based workout recovery supplement out there, Transparent Labs easily comes out on top.

2. BulkSupplements Pure BCAA

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The BCAA offering from BulkSupplements is about as simple and straightforward as they come.

There are only three ingredients: leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the three branched chain amino acids that we use to build muscle.

There’s no sugar, flavoring, preservatives, or stabilizers to worry about it.  The supplement comes with 750 mg of leucine, 375 mg of isoleucine, and 375 mg of valine per serving, for a branched chain amino acid ratio of 2:1:1.

According to lab testing, Bulk Supplements Pure BCAA contains 96% amino acids, and is not contaminated with any significant amounts of heavy metals or prohibited ingredients.

The absence of any fillers, stabilizers, emulsifiers, sweeteners, or flavoring agents make Bulk Supplements BCAA a great choice if you want absolute control over what you’re putting in your body.

3. Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder

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One of the flagship products of the internet’s most well-known resources on strength training, Optimum Nutrition’s branched chain amino acid supplement boasts a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

The amino acid content is very high, with over 98% of the product containing BCAAs by weight.

The only other ingredients, aside from leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are a blend of soybean oil and lecithin, as well as silicon dioxide.  The oil and lecithin blend helps to emulsify the solution when mixed into a protein shake, so it’s good if you plan to mix BCAAs with other supplements into a shake.

4. MusclePharm Essentials BCAAs

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The branched chain amino acid offering from MusclePharm employs a 3:1:2 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

MusclePharm’s leucine, isoleucine, and valine content is accurate, and the product contains 95% branched chain amino acids by weight.

For coloring agents, MusclePharm uses natural substances like beet root powder or spirulina powder, which is a nice to see—lots of lesser supplements today will just mix in some red #40 and call it a day.

5. Optimum Nutrition BCAA Caps

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In addition to its powder-form BCAA supplement, Optimum Nutrition also makes a capsule BCAA supplement that’s well-suited for people who don’t want to deal with the mess of measuring out your own BCAA dosage in a powder-form supplement.

Though it shares many of the downsides of other capsule-form BCAA supplements (namely, the smaller dosage and some additional binders and stabilizers) it’s one of the best capsule-based BCAAs out there.

6. Sheer Strength Labs BCAA

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The BCAA capsules sold by Sheer Strength labs are one of the best capsule option on the market.

These boast a 2:1:1 leucine:isoleucine:valine ratio, and no extraneous ingredients—other than those three, all that’s in the product is gelatin (which makes up the capsule itself) and magnesium stearate, which binds the branched chain amino acid powder together and prevents it from sticking.

The purity and simplicity of Sheer Strength Labs BCAA make it an attractive pick if capsules are what you’re looking for.

7. Thorne Amino Complex

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Thorne packages the three branched chain amino acids alongside the nine essential amino acids for a more comprehensive recovery supplement.

It’s a good niche pick if you want to make sure you’ve got full-spectrum coverage of all essential amino acids, though most users would be better-served by the

8. Cellucor Alpha Amino BCAAs

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Cellucor Alpha Amino contains leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio, but has some drawbacks compared to other products on the market.  First, it has a lot of extra ingredients, some of them active, and some of them not.

The supplement contains flavoring and coloring agents, including citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, silicon dioxide, the noncaloric sweetener sucralose, and red #40.

If you know that you are looking for a blend of BCAAs with other ingredients like beta alanine and HICA, you might think about giving Cellucor BCAA a shot, but there are other products on the market that offer better purity, more value, and more stringent quality control. 

9. Met-Rx BCAA

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Unlike most of the other supplements on this list, Met-Rx BCAA comes in capsules only: convenient if you’re tired of  measuring scoops or hate the mildly astringent taste of BCAA powder, but less flexible when it comes to dosage.

The one perk you’ll find here is the presence of vitamin B6, which may help support muscle synthesis. However, this isn’t enough to offset its dosage and purity disadvantages compared to the other capsule-based options on the market.

10. Bodytech BCAA

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Bodytech offers another no-nonsense branched chain amino acid formulation.  Leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio, with a small amount of soy lecithin added as an emulsifier to prevent sediment in your water bottle. No flavoring, no stabilizers, and no artificial ingredients.

While these are all good, Bodytech doesn’t really offer anything to stand out from the crowd, landing at the bottom of the rankings

Category winners

Best BCAAs overall: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

With a comprehensive, recovery-oriented blend that augments BCAAs already-formidable recovery capabilities with glutamine and vitamin C, Transparent Labs is our top overall pick for those who want to use BCAAs to maximize their recovery and strength gains

Best BCAAs for bulking: BulkSupplements Pure BCAAs

BCAAs help with muscle synthesis, so you can expect to be taking a lot when you are gaining mass. Fortunately, the ultra-pure powder-form BCAAs from BulkSupplements are easy to incorporate into your mass gainer or protein shake of choice for accelerated muscle mass gains. 

Best BCAAs for recovery and soreness: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

Sore and beat-up muscles need the right nutrients to recover and grow stronger. Transparent Labs combines BCAAs with glutamine to promote both muscle repair and new muscle synthesis, so it’s the best option for recovering after a hard gym session. 

Best BCAAs for cutting: BulkSupplements Pure BCAA

For the perfect cut, you want to fine-tune all of your macro and micronutrients—BulkSupplements is the perfect fit on this front. With zero additives and the ideal balance of branched chain amino acids, it’s our favorite for cutting.

Best BCAAs for weight loss: MusclePharm Essentials BCAA

BCAAs contribute to thermogenesis and appetite suppression, making them great to incorporate into a weight loss routine. But how to make it easy? MusclePharm has the perfect answer with their BCAA powder. The taste makes it easy to blend up with water for a low calorie way to maintain muscle mass when dieting.

Best BCAAs for women: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

Transparent Labs has everything you want if you’re a woman who’s serious about fitness: the right balance of each branched chain amino acid, plus glutamine for better recovery and less soreness even after the toughest workouts. 

Who should buy BCAAs?

Taking a branched chain amino acid supplement can be a big help for a few specific groups:

People who want bigger muscle gains from strength training. BCAAs are the building blocks of muscle tissue, so they can help boost your recovery after a workout. BCAAs can lead to greater gains in both muscular strength and muscular size.

Athletes looking to recover after extremely tough training sessionsBCAAs help prevent muscular damage in particularly tough training sessions. Research shows that a BCAA supplement can reduce soreness and the decrements in strength and performance that follow a heavy eccentric lifting protocol.

For all of these reasons, BCAAs are key ingredients in many pre-workout, post-workout and intra-workout supplements, but a BCAA can be useful on its own as well. 

Athletes who are cutting weight. BCAAs can also be very useful if you are trying to get a concentrated dose of muscle-repairing compounds while keeping your overall caloric intake low.

While a protein shake can be great for bulking up, BCAAs can be a real lifesaver if you are trying to count macros.

People who are on a keto diet. BCAAs are also great if you are trying to stay in ketosis, because even moderate amounts of protein can get converted back into carbohydrates, which will pull you out of a ketogenic state. BCAAs keep the protein macros to the bare minimum needed to rebuild muscle.

For most people, though, the greatest benefits of BCAAs are their ability to prevent muscle damage, boost muscle recovery, and assist with muscle strength and muscle mass gains. Taking a BCAA supplement before or after your gym session is a great way to take advantage of these benefits. 

How we ranked

Because there is a large amount of scientific research on using BCAAs to improve your workouts, we based our BCAA supplement on empirical criteria for quality:

Easy to take at an effective dosage. We specifically looked for supplements that made it easy to take a dose of three to six grams, two to three times per day.

These are the dosing protocols that are most commonly used in scientific research.

Balanced amino acid ratio. While a range of ratios have been used in both research and commercial products, we made sure the ratios were reasonable—anything from 1:1:1 to 4:1:1 was fine, but we cut anything that leaned too heavily towards one of the branched chain amino acids to the exclusion of others. 

Great taste and great purity. Next up, we looked at the non-amino acid ingredients. Some products deliver pure BCAAs with no flavors, which is great if you are a purist or if you are mixing your BCAAs into a green superfood drink or a protein shake.

However, if you are just mixing your BCAA powder into water, it can be better to have a sweetener and flavoring agent in the mix—however, you don’t necessarily want too much in the way of sugar. We had a strong preference for BCAA powders that use noncaloric sweeteners as opposed to sugar.

Quality powders or quality capsules. If plain BCAA powder isn’t your thing, another option is to take a capsule. Obviously, flavoring doesn’t apply for capsules. When evaluating capsule-based BCAAs, we rated vegan and vegetarian-friendly capsules based on cellulose slightly higher than standard gelatin-based capsules, but this wasn’t a major factor in determining the overall score of a product. 

As always, clean formulations free of binders, additives, and stabilizers. As always, we applied our usual strict criteria for purity, penalizing products that had too much in the way of binders, stabilizers, and bulking agents. 

After considering the dose, purity, taste, and delivery mechanism of each supplement, we sorted by scores and had our final rankings—the best options out there for BCAAs


Q: What are BCAAs? 

A: BCAA stands for “branched chain amino acid.” There are a total of 20 different amino acids that your body needs to function, but it can manufacture 11 of them on its own.

The other nine are “essential” amino acids, meaning that you must get them from your diet. Three of these essential nine amino acids have a special molecular structure, with a branched, tree-like structure. These three amino acids are called branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short.

The actual names of these three amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They play a number of roles in the body, but are particularly important for building and repairing muscle fibers. 

Q: What do BCAA supplements do? 

A: BCAA supplements are very popular among athletes and bodybuilders because they help your body build and repair muscle tissue, but without adding much in the way of calories to your diet.

They’re a very pure and concentrated way to deliver nutrients to your muscles, and often work in conjunction with other ingredients in a pre-workout, intra-workout, or post-workout supplement.

BCAAs are a little more advanced than a plain protein powder, though many people achieve good success using protein powder alone (since it does contain BCAAs as well as other amino acids).

Q: When should you take BCAAs? 

A: Many research studies concur: the best way to take BCAAs is by splitting up your daily dosage into two or three separate doses, taken throughout the day.

Take one dose in the morning, one dose either before, after, or during your workout, and one dose in the evening or perhaps even before bed. Each dose should be only a few grams.

BCAAs are absorbed pretty quickly by your body, so it’s important to spread out your dosage throughout the day to keep a steady supply of amino acids ready for your body. 

Q: Where do BCAAs come from? 

A: BCAAs are usually manufactured by isolating the branched chain amino acids from the other proteins in naturally occurring sources of amino acids like casein protein and whey protein.

Once purified, the branched chain amino acids can be powderized or pressed into capsules for use in a BCAA supplement. Often, manufacturers isolate each BCAA–leucine, isoleucine, and valine–independently, then blend them together in a specific ratio (though the precise optimal ratio is controversial).

Once these three amino acids are blended together at the appropriate ratios, you have the final product.

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Branched chain amino acids are a great way to boost your workout productivity.

Taking a BCAA supplement before or soon after your workout has two main benefits: first, it reduces the amount of muscle breakdown that occurs during your workout, which will help you avoid soreness after a tough workout, and prevent you from plateauing or losing ground on your fitness goals.

Additionally, it will help your body synthesize protein more effectively after your workout, which will improve your strength and muscle mass gains.

If you hit the gym on a regular basis and you’re aiming to get stronger and more muscular, you should probably add a BCAA supplement to your fitness program.

For BodyNutrition’s #1 BCAA recommendation, click here.


John Davis

John Davis is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer with over 7 years of experience researching the science of high performance athletics, long-term health, nutrition, and wellness. As a trained scientist, he digs deep into the medical, nutritional, and epidemiological literature to uncover the keys to healthy living through better nutrition.