Best BCAA Supplement Buyers Guide with 2019’s Top 10

So many BCAA supplements… only so many you can try! PricePlow’s got you covered in this guide. However…

You might not want to be here… (are you looking for a full EAA?!)

This list is for BCAA supplements. As time has gone one, we’ve seen that full-spectrum EAA supplements work better than just the BCAAs. So chances are, you really want to look at our Best Amino Acid Supplement list, which will have far more than just the BCAAs.

But in case you’re here looking for the best BCAAs without those extra EAAs (due to taste or budget perhaps), we have you covered.

Our Top 5 BCAA Supplements (BCAA only, no added EAA)

  1. 3. MAN Sports ISO-Amino

    The original one to keep it simple, inexpensive, but delicious by revolutionizing the industry with real candy flavors!

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  2. 2. NutraBio BCAA 5000

    Trusted and third-party lab tested! Also available in natural form with NutraBio BCAA Natural 5000.

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  3. 1. Ghost BCAA

    Two words: Swedish Fish. This is easily the craziest tasting BCAA on the market. Ghost nailed it with this one!!

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Thank you for reading our guide. If you would like to go back to the “choose your own adventure” guide section of this document, click here.

You may also enjoy our other guides:


Add-on Amino Acids We Look For

Branched chain amino acid supplements all used to be the same, but not anymore. Now, each one often its own plethora of bonus ingredients.

Given the vast amount of BCAA products and formulas on the market, there’s bound to be some standout ingredients, overrated ingredients, and under the radar picks that you may not even be aware of. Rest assured though, we’ve got you covered here as well.

  • The “Goods”

    • All 9 EAAs

      Even though this is a BCAA guide, we still do recommend reading the latest research on our BCAA vs EAA guide. Full spectrum EAAs may not taste as good as the best BCAAs, but they’re good enough that they’re worth using instead now.

    • The BCAAs

      This should be obvious, but you want a solid 5g dose, at minimum, in each serving of a BCAA product, preferably with 2.5-3g of Leucine. This amount of leucine has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, leading to greater muscle gains.[1,2] They also increase exercise output[11] and reduce soreness.[6,17]

      The three Branched-Chain Amino Acids

      Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine are the three BCAAs, and they’re an extremely important part of your diet

    • HICA

      HICA (alpha-hydroxy-isocaproic acid) is a metabolite of leucine that has been shown to increase lean muscle mass, reduce soreness, and decrease fat mass.[3] As we all know, Leucine is the catalyst for igniting the mTOR pathway in the body, so no leucine, no muscle building.

      We’re huge fans of this ingredient — especially for dieters trying to keep their muscle tissue — but not many formulas have it. Of those that do, as we write this, only one of them actually states how much is on the label!

    • Betaine

      Betaine (a.k.a. tryimethylglycine or TMG) is an amino acid that is a great addition to any pre or intra workout product. It boosts power output, reduces cortisol levels, and improves cellular hydration.[12,13,14] The clinical dose used in the best studies is 2.5g per day, each and every day.

      The real question we have lately is not whether it works – it’s whether it works in addition to creatine. They both work similarly, so do you really need 3-5g per day of creatine and 2.5g per day of betaine? We’re not sure yet, but if you’re a daily creatine user, you might not need a ton of this. From the data we’ve seen, it certainly can’t hurt, though.

      Betaine Anhydrous

      Egregiously Stolen from Athletix

    • Citrulline Malate

      Citrulline Malate reduces fatigue and soreness and fatigue while enhancing your training threshold.[15,16] This will help to increase your intensity during training and allow you to exercise for longer bouts of time before succumbing to fatigue.

      Note that when we want pumps we go for sheer l-citrulline (such as with Muscle Elements AmiNO Flow, our favorite weightlifting amino acid supplement).

      But when we want endurance, we’re going to look more towards citrulline malate to get some of that fatigue-fighting malic acid in there. The ever popular Scivation Xtend has the malate form, for instance.

    • L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

      L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

      LCLT is the form of L-Carnitine that you want if you’re into building muscle

      Abbreviated as LCLT, L-Carnitine L-Tartrate is involved in energy production in the body and also cellular metabolism.[7] Aside from these benefits though, LCLT can help offset any post exercise soreness that may result from intense training sessions, which is why many users take BCAAs in the first place. This is due to its ability to increase certain growth factors in the body (IGF Binding Protein 3, particularly).[45]

      So if you’re really trying to get rid of soreness, LCLT should be a featured product.

      Note that not all L-Carnitine products are the same! Our two favorite “versions” of L-Carnitine are LCLT (for recovery) and ALCAR (Acetyl L-Carnitine) for focus. Straight L-Carnitine is a waste for most people though, unless you’re carnitine deficient (vegetarians and elderly, usually).

    • Taurine

      Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body, so it may be easy to write this off as one of the “overrated” aminos, but that would hasty on your part. While it is “conditionally essential” and quite plentiful during normal times, during intense exercise or periods of extreme duress, your body goes through its stores of Taurine rather quickly and it can’t make enough to keep up with demand.

      Taurine will help keep you hydrated by pulling valuable nutrients and water into your muscles,[41] thus allowing you to continue to exercise for longer bouts without succumbing to fatigue.

  • The “Overrated”

    • Glutamine

      Glutamine has gotten tons of hype over the years from the bro-science as a staple ingredient to help speed recovery.[5] The fact of the matter is that research is conflicting at best[4] and worst still is that unless it’s taken in tandem with L-Alanine, glutamine is broken down in your stomach before it’s absorbed by the intestines.[8,9]

      Here are a few of the pathways that glutamine is involved in. It's certainly not bad, but it's not worth the billions dollars worth of hype it's been given

      Here are a few of the pathways that glutamine is involved in. It’s certainly not bad, but it’s not worth the billions dollars worth of hype it’s been given

    • Electrolytes (Depending on Diet)

      It’s important to get several electrolytes in – especially potassium, magnesium, and sodium – but it really depends on what you need in your diet.

      However, being honest, there are two issues we have with all the raving that sports drink manufacturers love to throw in our faces:

      1. There is no research suggesting a PERFORMANCE boost from taking electrolytes!

        By Gatorade’s own admission (they link to this from their own site[64]), the sodium-based beverage did not affect performance!

        Instead, the Penn State-based researchers attempt to confuse the issue in their abstract with this ludicrous sentence:

        Beverage [Na(+)] did not affect performance; however, time to exhaustion was significantly shorter during the -4% (8 +/- 3 min) and -2% (14 +/- 3 min) vs. 0% (22 +/- 5 min) and +2% (26 +/- 6 min)

        So the sodium-based beverage didn’t affect performance, but the subjects didn’t get as tired when they were hydrated vs. when they were dehydrated to 4% or 2% body weight loss.

        But we already know that your performance is going to degrade when you’re dehydrated.

        These authors of that study are mashing two completely unrelated sentences together, likely in an attempt to confound the issue and cover up the failure in performance enhancement (at least by sodium)! Weak. Bad logic, bad science, bad writing… and they know it.

        Also, let’s not forget that Penn State is a disgraced school with a horrific history of unspeakable things having happened — likely with full knowledge from higher-ups — in their football program. To put it lightly, absolutely nothing can be trusted from this scum of a university, including this purposefully-confounded study.

      2. Most Americans already get plenty of Sodium, the center focus of most electrolyte drinks.

        Now, if you want to discuss potassium and magnesium, then there are great benefits there. Bring on the potassium! But the whole “replacing lost salt” situation is a bit ridiculous given the Western diet, and still, there’s no link to actual performance boost.

        Things of course begin to change when you have low-carb dieters or a keto diet, where these electrolytes are critically important to supplement.

      In short, we’re mostly interested in getting a performance boost, and really don’t see it from the electrolytes in any sports drink. It’s really from the water and carbs, which you can get nearly anywhere.

      Are we happy to get electrolytes in our BCAA supplements? Sure. But are they overrated for most of our readers? Almost definitely.

    • Arginine

      Arginine, much like glutamine, was an old “staple” in bodybuilding circles. It was traditionally used as a nitric oxide (NO) booster. The should have led to increased blood flow, nutrient transport, and pumps. Sadly, arginine is not nearly as effective as once touted and has been surpassed by more effective NO boosters like Citrulline and Agmatine.[10]

      The good news is that we really don’t see this one in many (if any) BCAA supplements.

    • Glycine

      Taurine and Glycine Molecules - Those Nitrogen Bonds are Causing us some Problems

      If you see glycine in your PROTEIN POWDER, then RUN! It is frequently used as a nitrogen-based filler to fool protein lab tests… because it’s cheap

      Glycine also acts as a neurotransmitter in the body. It typically influences the GABAergic and Glutaminergic systems, but in terms of exercise performance this doesn’t really do much for us. There are no relevant studies demonstrating Glycine’s effectiveness in increasing performance or aiding recovery.

      It may help you get to sleep quicker,[46,47] but we’re interested in performance here, so this filler amino acid gets relegated to the “overrated” category.

      The worst part is that this is a highly glucogenic amino acid, which will spike your blood sugar a bit. This is not what dieters want – especially low-carb dieters!

    • Silk Amino Acids

      Silk Amino Acids (SAAs) are a unique category of amino acids obtained from the Silkworm cocoon, of all places. They need to be hydrolyzed in order to be digested (an additional processing step which would further increase the price of a supplement).

      Aside from this, any studies showing their usefulness in increasing performance have only been done on animals (rats).[48] So, they might pose some benefit, but we’re not really willing to pay for them to be included in a BCAA supplement.

Proprietary blend or Non-Prop

Typically, we aren’t huge fans of proprietary blends here on PricePlow. We always prefer to know what exactly we’re putting in our body and how much of each ingredient we’re consuming. That being said, we’re “OK” with prop blends when we know that we’re getting at least 5g of BCAA.

However, if we start to see aminos like glycine, glutamine, and taurine near the top of the blend, we’re not so enthusiastic. While nice to have extra aminos, these aren’t the “best or brightest” free form amino acids to have in abundance as the research on these is mixed.

In our opinion, none of these supplements are so “magical” that they should be masked with a prop blend of any kind. There’s not that many secrets to it (besides the flavoring systems). Pick ingredients with certain benefits and be on your way!

  1. Pasiakos, S; Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis.; Military Nutrition Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine; 2011; Retrieved from
  2. Antonio, J; Effects of exercise training and amino-acid supplementation on body composition and physical performance in untrained women.; Human Performance Laboratory, University of Nebraska; 2000; Retrieved from
  3. Mero, Antti A., et al. Effects of Alfa-hydroxy-isocaproic Acid on Body Composition, DOMS and Performance in Athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7.1 (2010); Retrieved from
  4. Lagranha, C; Glutamine supplementation prevents exercise-induced neutrophil apoptosis and reduces p38 MAPK and JNK phosphorylation and p53 and caspase 3 expression.; Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo; 2007; Retrieved from
  5. Phillips, G; Glutamine: the nonessential amino acid for performance enhancement.; University of Iowa Children’s Hospital; 2007; Retrieved from
  6. Ra SG, et al; Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise . Adv Exp Med Biol. (2013); Retrieved from
  7. Spiering BA, et al; Responses of criterion variables to different supplemental doses of L-carnitine L-tartrate . J Strength Cond Res. (2007); Retrieved from
  8. Harris, R; L-glutamine Absorption Is Enhanced after Ingestion of L-alanylglutamine Compared with the Free Amino Acid or Wheat Protein. Nutrition Research 32.4 (2012); Retrieved from
  9. Hoffman, J; L-alanyl-L-glutamine Ingestion Maintains Performance during a Competitive Basketball Game. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9.1 (2012); Retrieved from
  10. Wijnands, K; Citrulline a More Suitable Substrate than Arginine to Restore NO Production and the Microcirculation during Endotoxemia; Department of Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Center; 2012; Retrieved from
  11. Kim, D; Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances; Department of Physical Education, Chonnam National University; 2013; Retrieved from
  12. Lee EC, et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2010); Retrieved from
  13. Courtenay ES, et al. Vapor pressure osmometry studies of osmolyte-protein interactions: implications for the action of osmoprotectants in vivo and for the interpretation of “osmotic stress” experiments in vitro. Biochemistry. (2000); Retrieved from
  14. Apicella JM, et al. Betaine supplementation enhances anabolic endocrine and Akt signaling in response to acute bouts of exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2013); Retrieved from
  15. Perez-Guisado; Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness.; Department of Medicine, University of Córdoba; 2010; Retrieved from
  16. Hickner, R; L-citrulline reduces time to exhaustion and insulin response to a graded exercise test.; Human Performance Laboratory, East Carolina University; 2006; Retrieved from
  17. Shimomura, Y; Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.; Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology; 2004;
  18. Negro, M; Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system.; Pharmacobiochemistry Laboratory, Section of Pharmacology and Pharmacological Biotechnology, Department of Cellular and Molecular, Physiological and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Pavia; 2008; Retrieved from
  19. Shimomura, Y; Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle.; Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology; 2006; Retrieved from
  20. Børsheim, E; Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise.; Metabolism Unit, Department of Surgery, Shriners Hospital for Children/Galveston, University of Texas Medical Branch; 2002; Retrieved from
  21. Wolfe, R; Effects of amino acid intake on anabolic processes.; University of Texas Medical Branch, Shriners Burns Hospital; 2001; Retrieved from
  22. Aquilani, R; Unaffected arm muscle hypercatabolism in dysphagic subacute stroke patients: the effects of essential amino acid supplementation.; Servizio di Fisiopatologia Metabolico-Nutrizionale e Nutrizione Clinica, Centro Medico di Montescano; 2014; Retrieved from
  23. Ispoglou, T; Double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial of L-Leucine-enriched amino-acid mixtures on body composition and physical performance in men and women aged 65-75 years.; Carnegie Faculty, School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University; 2015; Retrieved from
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About the Author: Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto

Mike Roberto is a research scientist and water sports athlete who founded PricePlow. He is an n=1 diet experimenter with extensive experience in supplementation and dietary modification, whose personal expertise stems from several experiments done on himself while sharing lab tests.

Mike's goal is to bridge the gap between nutritional research scientists and non-academics who seek to better their health in a system that has catastrophically failed the public. Mike is currently experimenting with a low Vitamin A diet.

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