Last updated: August 10, 2021

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In strength training, supplements are often sought to strengthen muscle build-up. More and more people are turning to energy-boosting BCAA powder. To tell you whether BCAA powder is right for you, we will explain what is important. In our BCAA powder test 2021, we have taken a closer look at BCAA powder and compiled the most important information for you. We explain the effect, the intake and the different types of BCAA powder. This should help you decide which product is right for you.




The most important facts

  • BCAA consists of the three essential amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine, which are important for building and maintaining muscle mass.
  • The powder is available in many different flavours and can be dissolved in water, juices or other sports drinks.
  • BCAA powder is effective in muscle building, endurance sports and weight loss and is therefore a particularly popular dietary supplement among athletes.

The Best BCAA Powder: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for BCAA powder

When buying BCAA powder, you can pay attention to various aspects, such as:

This should help you find the right product for you. When buying, look for high quality so that you only give your body what is good for it.

Ingredients

BCAA powder basically consists of leucine, valine and isoleucine. You will find these three essential amino acids in every BCAA powder. All three substances together are responsible for maintaining and building muscles by preventing the breakdown of proteins and increasing their storage. They also provide energy for the muscles.

Vitamin B6 is also contained in many BCAA powders, as it is an important coenzyme in amino acid metabolism.

Sweeteners and flavourings are often included to add flavour to the product. However, you can also find many other ingredients in the various manufacturers' products. They may contain potassium, sodium, caffeine citrate, vitamins and more. Therefore, you should always read the ingredients carefully beforehand and check what the respective substance is good for. Then consider whether these additional ingredients are really useful for you.

Ratio

The three ingredients leucine, isoleucine and valine can be contained in very different proportions in BCAA powder. On most packages you will find the indication 2:1:1, where the numbers are always in the order of leucine:isoleucine:valine. In the case of 2:1:1, this means that the BCAA powder contains twice as much leucine as isoleucine and valine. The 2:1:1 ratio is most commonly used in BCAA powder studies and is therefore the most common.

However, you can also find completely different ratios. The most common ratio is 2:1:1, but there are also often 4:1:1 and 8:1:1. You can already see that leucine is always the most contained. This is because the recommended dose for leucine is higher than for isoleucine and valine. The proven ratio for a good effect is 2:1:1 (1)

Taste

To make it easier to take the otherwise tasteless BCAA powder, there are many different flavours available. If you choose a product with flavour, you have to expect that sweeteners and flavours are also contained in the powder. We have listed the most popular flavours:

  • Peach or lemon iced tea
  • Watermelon
  • Fruit punch
  • Orange
  • Berries

You should decide according to your taste and order smaller sizes in advance so that you can try them out first. The most common flavour is iced tea.

Size

BCAA powder packs come in a wide variety of sizes. The best-selling size is 500 g. This corresponds to about 38 servings. If you take the powder frequently, you can also buy a 1000 g pack. This way you don't have to buy BCAA powder as often and it is often cheaper in larger quantities. To give you an overview, we have summarised the most popular sizes in a ranking.

  1. 500 g
  2. 1000 g
  3. 350 g
  4. 600 g
  5. 100 g

However, if you want to test the product first, you should go for a smaller pack. Sizes between 100 and 350 g are available. This way you can try out the BCAA powder and there won't be too much left over if it's not for you. In addition, you save a lot of money instead of buying a more expensive large package.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about BCAA powder answered in detail

In order to inform you about the effectiveness of BCAA powder and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What is BCAA powder and how does it work?

BCAA is the abbreviation for "branched chain amino acids" and means "branched-chain amino acids". These are the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. Proteins are a composition of these amino acids, which is why they are important for both maintaining and building muscle mass. However, the body cannot produce these three amino acids itself; they must be ingested through food.

Furthermore, BCAA is a great energy supplier for the muscles and thus fulfils a very important function. By taking BCAA powder, proteins can be better stored and degradation prevented. The essential amino acids reach the target tissue directly without having to find their way via the liver like other amino acids. BCAA can therefore play a major role in building muscles.(2) We have listed below the areas in which BCAA powder can be effective.

Muscle building

Many different studies on the subject of building muscle by taking BCAA powder show different results. The question of whether BCAAs are successful in building muscle is still very controversial. Nevertheless, there are studies that show that BCAA powder has a positive effect on the stimulation of muscle fibrils and protein synthesis and can lead to muscle building.(3) In addition, not only the muscle build-up is promoted, but also the muscle breakdown is inhibited. Because by taking the BCAA, the protein breakdown in the skeletal muscle and the liver can be reduced and thus the breakdown of the muscles can also be prevented.(4)

Lose weight

BCAA can also have an effect on weight gain. The isoleucine can lower the blood sugar after eating and thus prevent weight gain. (5) In the case of obesity, however, no positive findings have yet been found. However, BCAAs can only have a supportive effect by helping to reduce weight gain. For weight loss, a conscious diet should be followed and the BCAA should only be taken as a supplement. This can positively reinforce the weight loss and the combination of diet and BCAA can lead to a better result.(6)

Endurance

The use of BCAA powder to strengthen endurance has already been proven in several studies. The additional intake of BCAAs can reduce muscle damage and exhaustion during endurance training.(7) Furthermore, BCAA powder can promote muscle regeneration. The BCAA weakens the breakdown of proteins during training and the leucine promotes protein synthesis in the muscle. This can reduce muscle damage and promote recovery from the damage. This means that muscle fatigue is reduced and we can therefore create more endurance for the muscle.(8)

When and for whom is it useful to take BCAA powder?

Taking BCAA powder is suitable for both men and women. By reducing muscle fatigue and providing more energy for the muscle, BCAA is especially suitable for athletes who train or do endurance sports very frequently. It is also helpful if the goal of muscle building is to be achieved. The best time to take it is before training. This is the most effective way to prevent muscle soreness and damage. (9, 10) It also makes more sense for the goal of muscle building to use it before training. It is even recommended to take it in the morning on an empty stomach. This can prevent the muscle breakdown that can slowly occur after sleep.

Did you know that cardio training on an empty stomach does more harm than good? If you start cardio in the morning on a completely empty stomach, your body will start to draw energy from your muscle mass. It is best to drink a BCAA shake beforehand so that your body is fit for training and does not attack your muscle mass.

During training, taking BCAA powder can hydrate you and also have a positive effect on energy and muscle damage. It is therefore possible to drink the BCAA powder mixed with water during the workout. It is also possible to take it after a workout, but so far it has shown the least effect. Studies have not found much pain relief in the muscles. (11) However, a combination of before and after training is conceivable and could even increase the effect.

How should BCAA powder be dosed and taken?

In general, the daily requirement of BCAA for an adult starts at 140 mg per kg of body weight. This can increase to 210 mg per kg of body weight for competitive athletes. (12) In general, a consumption of 5-10 mg is recommended. However, also pay attention to the recommendation on the packaging of the BCAA powder. The recommended dose of protein is 0.8 g per kg of body weight per day. Most of this is already absorbed through food, which is why the BCAA should only be used as a supplement. It is best to start slowly and increase your dose over time if needed.

The BCAA provides your muscles with an energy supply and thus gives you longer endurance. (Scott Webb / unsplash)

You can simply dissolve the BCAA powder in water and drink it. Of course, you can also take it with juices or other sports drinks. However, you should avoid taking it with milk, as the fat slows down the absorption of the BCAA.

What types of BCAA powder are there?

There are different types of BCAA powder. These have now been adapted to different lifestyles and make it possible for everyone to take them. A distinction can be made between BCAA powder vegan, zero and organic. In the following, we will briefly introduce the three types.

Type Description
BCAA Powder Vegan No animal substances or contents of animal origin are used in this product. Thus, only plant-based substances are used.
BCAA Powder Zero Zero means that absolutely no sugar is contained. In order to maintain the taste, alternative sweeteners are often used.
BCAA Powder Organic Organic products are made with a focus on the organic origin of the raw materials. The ingredients must not have been genetically modified and are therefore particularly natural.

BCAA Powder Vegan

This type of BCAA powder is especially suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It completely avoids the use of substances of animal origin. However, the taste is often lost in the process. Since artificial additives are usually not used in these products, it is often produced with a neutral taste or very little taste is perceived. For those who do not like sweet drinks anyway, vegan BCAA powder is optimal. By using only plant-based ingredients, this product is made for animal lovers.

BCAA Powder Zero

This BCAA powder product does not contain any sugar. It is therefore particularly low in calories and suitable for use during a diet. This type of BCAA powder is also suitable for diabetics, as the blood sugar level is not further burdened with additional sugar. However, to still get the sweetness and taste into the BCAA powder, alternative sweeteners such as liquid sweetener are often used. However, these substitutes are often artificially produced, which is why natural intake takes a back seat with this product.

Organic BCAA Powder

The meaning of organic is the ecological cultivation of raw materials. They must not be genetically modified and treated with chemical products, which is why organic products are of natural manufacture. Thus, organic BCAA powder is better for human health. You can recognise organic products by the use of the legally protected terms "Bio". Organic products are becoming more and more important, especially due to climate change. The use of organic BCAA powder is more environmentally friendly and therefore particularly suitable for people who value nature and our environment.

How much does BCAA powder cost?

When it comes to prices, it depends on different things, which is why everything from 15 - 70 € is included. Generally, three things are decisive: the composition, the quantity and the quality, which is often already defined in the brand. To give you a better idea of what BCAA powder should cost, we have put together a short table with the respective price range.

Composition / quantity Price range
2:1:1 / 500g 15 - 25 €
2:1:1 / 1000g 20 - 50 €
8:1:1 / 500g 20 - 35 €
8:1:1 / 1000g 40 - 70 €

Of course, it is up to you whether you decide on a higher or lower price range. In general, you can test yourself first and compare a cheap product with an expensive one.

What are the side effects of taking BCAA powder?

In general, BCAA powder is well tolerated when taken in the correct dosage. If you take too much of a single amino acid, you may experience side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting or nausea. Research is already underway to determine whether BCAA may be a cause of, or have an effect on, insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. However, it may also be that it merely indicates impaired insulin action as a so-called biomarker. However, this still needs to be researched further, which is why no solid results are available yet.(13)

The BCAA powder can be easily dissolved in water and thus even taken during training. (LYFE Fuel / unsplash)

Since the BCAA has an influence on the metabolism of serotonin, it can definitely have negative effects on mood. People with mental health problems should therefore be careful when taking BCAA powder. Previous research has shown a reduction in serotonin when BCAA is taken, which could lead to an eating disorder, among other things, when dieting. Here, too, the results are still very unexplored.(14) Therefore, pay special attention to what is suitable for you and start with a low dosage. If you have any pre-existing conditions, it is best to discuss the use of BCAA powder with a doctor.

What are the alternatives to BCAA powder?

The amino acids of the BCAA are contained in some foods such as fish, meat, eggs, nuts and others. This means that you can get all the BCAAs you need from your diet. (15) We have compiled a table with a selection of products and the respective amino acid values.

Product Leucine g per 100g Valine g per 100g Isoleucine g per 100g
Chicken 1.7 1.2 1.05
Beef 1.9 1.3 1.1
Wild salmon 1.8 1.4 1.2
Peanuts 2.0 1.5 1.2
Eggs 1.2 1.1 0.9
Milk 0.4 0.2 0.2

BCAA powder should only be used as a dietary supplement if you are an athlete and are aiming to build muscle, for example. In general, however, it is sufficient to eat a diet rich in protein. Another alternative to BCAA powder is to take BCAA in the form of capsules. If you don't like the taste of the powder or don't like to take it in the form of a drink, capsules are the quicker option. However, the powder comes in many different flavours and also makes you drink a lot. In the end, you have to decide for yourself which form of delivery is best for you.

How do I store BCAA powder and what is its shelf life?

It is best to store BCAA powder in a cool and dry place. Moisture should definitely be avoided, otherwise it can clump together. Often there is more information on the packaging about a suitable storage location.
BCAA powder already dissolved in water should not be left for longer than one day.

In general, amino acids should be used up quickly, as they do not have a long shelf life. The duration is around 30 days. However, you should check the packaging for the exact expiry date, as the manufacturer is obliged to indicate this. If the product has already expired, it is better not to take it. In addition, the effect of the BCAA powder can also diminish over time, so that consumption is no longer beneficial anyway. However, we are talking about a period of between 1 and 2 years.

Image source: Yakov/ 123rf.com

References (15)

1. Campbell, B., Kreider, R.B., Ziegenfuss, T. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 4, 8 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-8
Source

2. Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.269S. PMID: 16365096.
Source

3. Jackman SR, Witard OC, Philp A, Wallis GA, Baar K, Tipton KD. Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Front Physiol. 2017 Jun 7;8:390. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00390. PMID: 28638350; PMCID: PMC5461297.
Source

4. Holeček M. Branched-chain amino acids in health and disease: metabolism, alterations in blood plasma, and as supplements. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018;15:33. Published 2018 May 3. doi:10.1186/s12986-018-0271-1
Source

5. O'Rielly R, Li H, Lim SM, et al. The Effect of Isoleucine Supplementation on Body Weight Gain and Blood Glucose Response in Lean and Obese Mice. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2446. Published 2020 Aug 14. doi:10.3390/nu12082446
Source

6. Mourier A, Bigard AX, de Kerviler E, Roger B, Legrand H, Guezennec CY. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-972594. PMID: 9059905.
Source

7. Kim DH, Kim SH, Jeong WS, Lee HY. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2013;17(4):169-180. doi:10.5717/jenb.2013.17.4.169
Source

8. Yoshiharu Shimomura, Yuko Yamamoto, Gustavo Bajotto, Juichi Sato, Taro Murakami, Noriko Shimomura, Hisamine Kobayashi, Kazunori Mawatari, Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 2, February 2006, Pages 529S–532S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.2.529S
Source

9. Ra SG, Miyazaki T, Kojima R, et al. Effect of BCAA supplement timing on exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage: a pilot placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2018 Nov;58(11):1582-1591. DOI: 10.23736/s0022-4707.17.07638-1.
Source

10. Fouré A, Bendahan D. Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(10):1047. Published 2017 Sep 21. doi:10.3390/nu9101047
Source

11. Kephart, W.C., Mumford, P.W., McCloskey, A.E. et al. Post-exercise branched chain amino acid supplementation does not affect recovery markers following three consecutive high intensity resistance training bouts compared to carbohydrate supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 13, 30 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0142-y
Source

12. Riazi R, Wykes LJ, Ball RO, Pencharz PB. The total branched-chain amino acid requirement in young healthy adult men determined by indicator amino acid oxidation by use of L-[1-13C]phenylalanine. J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1383-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1383. PMID: 12730426.
Source

13. Nawaz SS, Siddiqui K. The Emerging role of Branch Chain Amino Acids in the Prediction of Diabetes: A Brief Review. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2020;16(6):532-537. doi: 10.2174/1573399815666190502113632. PMID: 31057117.
Source

14. Solon-Biet, S.M., Cogger, V.C., Pulpitel, T. et al. Branched-chain amino acids impact health and lifespan indirectly via amino acid balance and appetite control. Nat Metab 1, 532–545 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-019-0059-2
Source

15. Starkie Sowers, CN, A Primer On Branched Chain Amino Acids, 2009 Huntington College of Health Sciences
Source

Why you can trust me?

Wissenschaftliche Studie
Campbell, B., Kreider, R.B., Ziegenfuss, T. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 4, 8 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-8
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.1.269S. PMID: 16365096.
Go to source
Wissenschafltiche Studie
Jackman SR, Witard OC, Philp A, Wallis GA, Baar K, Tipton KD. Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Front Physiol. 2017 Jun 7;8:390. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00390. PMID: 28638350; PMCID: PMC5461297.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Holeček M. Branched-chain amino acids in health and disease: metabolism, alterations in blood plasma, and as supplements. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018;15:33. Published 2018 May 3. doi:10.1186/s12986-018-0271-1
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
O'Rielly R, Li H, Lim SM, et al. The Effect of Isoleucine Supplementation on Body Weight Gain and Blood Glucose Response in Lean and Obese Mice. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2446. Published 2020 Aug 14. doi:10.3390/nu12082446
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Mourier A, Bigard AX, de Kerviler E, Roger B, Legrand H, Guezennec CY. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-972594. PMID: 9059905.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Kim DH, Kim SH, Jeong WS, Lee HY. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2013;17(4):169-180. doi:10.5717/jenb.2013.17.4.169
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Yoshiharu Shimomura, Yuko Yamamoto, Gustavo Bajotto, Juichi Sato, Taro Murakami, Noriko Shimomura, Hisamine Kobayashi, Kazunori Mawatari, Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 2, February 2006, Pages 529S–532S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.2.529S
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Ra SG, Miyazaki T, Kojima R, et al. Effect of BCAA supplement timing on exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage: a pilot placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2018 Nov;58(11):1582-1591. DOI: 10.23736/s0022-4707.17.07638-1.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Fouré A, Bendahan D. Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(10):1047. Published 2017 Sep 21. doi:10.3390/nu9101047
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Kephart, W.C., Mumford, P.W., McCloskey, A.E. et al. Post-exercise branched chain amino acid supplementation does not affect recovery markers following three consecutive high intensity resistance training bouts compared to carbohydrate supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 13, 30 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0142-y
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Riazi R, Wykes LJ, Ball RO, Pencharz PB. The total branched-chain amino acid requirement in young healthy adult men determined by indicator amino acid oxidation by use of L-[1-13C]phenylalanine. J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1383-9. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1383. PMID: 12730426.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Nawaz SS, Siddiqui K. The Emerging role of Branch Chain Amino Acids in the Prediction of Diabetes: A Brief Review. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2020;16(6):532-537. doi: 10.2174/1573399815666190502113632. PMID: 31057117.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Solon-Biet, S.M., Cogger, V.C., Pulpitel, T. et al. Branched-chain amino acids impact health and lifespan indirectly via amino acid balance and appetite control. Nat Metab 1, 532–545 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-019-0059-2
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel
Starkie Sowers, CN, A Primer On Branched Chain Amino Acids, 2009 Huntington College of Health Sciences
Go to source
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