The Most Over-Hyped Supplement Or The Holy Grail of Bodybuilding?

So you’re looking to step up your bodybuilding game.
Maybe you’re on a bulk and want to keep that anabolic state steam rolling throughout the day.
Maybe you’re on a cut and want to avoid muscle catabolism.
Either way adding BCAAs to your stack can be a cost effective way to keep making gains progress.

TL;DR: There are no such thing as complete miracles unless you get into gear. BCAAs are good but EAAs are better. You can shop EAAs here.. They are cheap and worth adding to your stack.

Outside of creatine the supplement that gets talked about the most are BCAAs.

Anything spoken in abbreviation form can sound scary but these are actually some of the most basic and safe building blocks of protein synthesis and worth checking out if you are serious about making your gains. Let’s dive in!

Why Are Amino Acid Supplements So Popular?

“BCAAs” is simply an abbreviation for branched-chain amino acids. These ambitious little bast*ards help build muscle tissue and positively affect muscle growth like no other.

Essential branched chain amino acids include leucine, isoleucine and valine. Each of these amino acids is essential.

What Does “Essential” Even Mean?

BCAAs explained

“Bro, aren’t all my supplements essential?” Well, not technically speaking no. Essential means these acids are not produced naturally in your body.

Thus, in order to build muscle like a beast you’ll need top up on your essentials through food intake and/or supplementation.

Your body can’t make this stuff itself so that’s why diet is so important when trying to build muscle, which is composed largely of BCAAs.

Chemical Composition & Role In Protein Synthesis

The chemical composition is arranged so that each amino acid also has branches, which is how they got their name. All amino acids play an important part in providing protein to the body.

Each amino acid performs a specific function in the production of protein and provides proteins to different parts of the body.

These essential acids are critical in  muscle development as they provide approximately one-third of the nutrients that muscles use during synthesis.

So long story short, BCAAs are pretty important and you need them if you’re skinny and want to get bigger.

When Is The Best Time To Drink Your Aminos?

BCAAs don’t f*ck around and are absorbed directly into the muscle where most other amino acids lollygag about and are eventually metabolized in the liver.

Absorbing directly into the muscle provides immediate energy to the muscles themselves for the contractions necessary in lifting weights and other athletic performances. Baller!

SY’s favorite Amino Pre-Workout Supplement&nbsp;</p>”>The Most Over-Hyped Supplement Or The Holy Grail of Bodybuilding?

SY’s favorite Amino Pre-Workout Supplement&nbsp;</p>”>Maintaining healthy BCAA levels can improve both training time and endurance. Translation: dosing up on aminos help facilitate your “beast mode”.

As everyone and their grandma knows, endurance and high-intensity training can cause early fatigue; branch chains taken just prior to training can help prevent early muscle fatigue.

Because immediate nutrition to the muscles is provided amino acids, less energy stores in the body are used during training so recovery time is less, and energy levels recover more quickly.

Performance athlete will be able to train the next day for the same amount of time and intensity.

If you are working out early in the morning before work or school and don’t have time for a fully loaded breakfast then at least supplement with a solid essential amino acid before training so that your muscles feed off the aminos and don’t consume the muscle you’ve already worked hard to get for energy.

SY loves Amino Energy by Optimum Nutrition for our early morning eye-opener. Perfect blend of amino acids and caffeine from green tea and green coffee beans, so it’s health as f*ck and tastes delicious.

Don’t worry about taking aminos after working out as you’ll already be supplementing with a healthy dosing (20-50gm) of protein anyway and protein is composed of branched-chain acids anyways. So taking a BCAA supplement post-workout with protein is redundant.

If you’re not sure which blend and what company is best then check out our own top 3 caffeine-free BCAA choices to help you with your decision making!

Best-Selling BCAA Supplements of 2023

When it comes to trying to make a decision on BCAAs the dazzling variety of products on the market can be confusing.

While we have had good experience with Optimum Nutrition, Mutant and Xtends, there are plenty of other awesome choices on the market.

One solid tip for choosing supplements is to go with something that has a lot of positive reviews.

The sheer number of users and ratings provides a bit of insurance that your purchase will be worth the money rather than spending on a more unknown company.

Below are some of the best BCAA supplements available on popular sites like and, which we always recommend over stores like GNC or Vitashoppe because they always have extra markups on their products.

Unsurprising to us, Xtends is topping the list regularly as the best selling amino-focused intra-workout supplement.

We think this is because they are:

  1. They provide excellent quality assurance
  2. They are the original BCAA workout extending supplement created by Marc Lobliner and
  3. They are just plain affordable when compared to many other brands out there. Can’t go wrong with Xtends!
Bestseller No. 1
XTEND Original BCAA Powder Airheads Candy Flavor, 7g BCAA and 2.5g L-Glutamine, Sugar Free Post Workout Muscle Recovery Drink with Amino Acids for Men & Women, 30 Servings
  • THE OG — XTEND Original is the category leading BCAA product that has been trusted by consumers for more than 15 years. With it's huge selection of mouth-watering flavors, XTEND Original was designed to help you hydrate, repair, and recover.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Capsules, Keto Friendly Branched Chain Essential Amino Acids, 1000mg, 60 Count
2,056 Reviews
Bestseller No. 3
XTEND Sport BCAA Powder Blue Raspberry Ice - Electrolyte Powder for Recovery & Hydration with Amino Acids - 30 Servings
  • XTEND BCAA POWDER FOR MEN & WOMEN - The World's Number 1 BCAA Brand has been perfecting recovery since 2004 with 7 grams of BCAAs in the nature-designed and research-proven 2:1:1 ratio

How Aminos Impact Testosterone Levels & Muscle Building

Anabolic hormones increase muscle growth and studies have shown that BCAAs help the body to release anabolic hormones in the form of testosterone.

Don’t think branch chains are a testosterone “booster”, they just help facilitate the natural production of testosterone.

Anyone who’s gone on a hardcore cutting diet after a bulk knows that dieting can cause muscle loss.

BCAAs can help prevent muscle loss when the individual is on a fat reduced diet.

They are not a substitute for food protein, so it is important to eat enough food protein daily, however they will help you retain your muscle when in a serious cutting phase.

What Does 4:1:1 or 3:1:1 mean?

Perfect dosage amounts for the average male bodybuilder is usually 5 grams and above, depending on bodyweight, and is usually comprised of a 4:1:1 ratio or a 3:1:1 ratio for maximum protein synthesis.

bcaa ratios

Damn them aminos taste good..</p>”>Remember: amino acids help increase muscle growth, they do not replace the need for protein in the body.

They also help prevent muscle loss from dieting and the effects of over-exertion that bodybuilding athletes can experience while trying to reduce fat and gain lean muscle mass.

Correct use of branch chains over the short-term will keep muscles strong and force your body to use up excess body fat.

They also provide protein injection directly into the muscles without having to wait for the digestive process to occur. In summary, aminos are a pretty dope chemical.

Pitfalls of Amino Acid Deficiencies

You might not be aware that BCAAs have been used in aiding burn victims in recovery to help with toxin regulation and muscle/tissue synthesis.

Not having enough essential aminos in the body can cause toxins in the blood and urine to accumulate and build up, making for a syrupy consistency and nasty urea smell.

Severe deficiencies can cause individuals to become delirious and cause permanent nerve damage. If you have a regular diet and aren’t a burn victim you don’t have to worry about this.

However, toxicity build-up is very dangerous possibility so performance athletes should provide their bodies with supplemental essential aminos to aid in replacement of the extra amino acids they deplete through training.

This could mean eating more amino-rich foods or adding a pure-amino supplement to their diet.

Amino acid supplementation is also critical for individuals who have brain swelling as a result of liver disease.

These individuals who are recovering from serious illness that has taken an enormous stressful toll on the body are prime candidates for added BCAAs to help their bodies recover.

When To Take A Supplement In Addition To Whole Food

Amino acids are found naturally occurring in high protein foods like meat, fish, chicken, whole grains, legumes, seeds, protein pasta, dairy products, and even some chips!

Using supplementals as part of a training program can help the body to store more for use during exercise time when the need for an increase in muscle protein synthesis exists.bcaas in food

So no you don’t NEED supplements however they are a quick, easy and affordable way to ensure you’re reserves are topped up when you don’t have the time or $ to be preparing fresh whole food all the time.

Interestingly enough, BCAAs have also been used to treat anorexia, Parkinson’s, tardive dyskinesia, Huntington’s chorea, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Why Are They Called Branch Chains?

A branched chain amino acid means that there is a carbon atom in the middle with three or more additional carbon atoms added to it.

This cluster of carbon atoms causes branching to occur, much like tree branches in appearance, set-off from a main branch, which explains how these amino acids get their name.

They look like branches. Got it? good.

BCAAs are essential amino acids, which means the individual must consume them—they are not made within the body.

Hence this is a supplemental chemical, which can be done with either food, powders, pills or a combination of both.

Essential Acids Explained In Detail

Let’s take a closer look at the individual building blocks that work together in harmony to prevent catabolism and initiate muscle protein synthesis.


Leucine is metabolized through the fat in the body. Leucine dictates insulin performance. Because leucine is included, supplements can create more fat loss, muscle growth, and helps prevent diabetes.

Leucine acts as a signal to the body telling it to use more nutrients to build more protein but must be taken in proportion with the other two essential amino acids in this group.

Consider essential amino acids the “Three Musketeers” of muscle production, they work together for the best results.

BCAAs are best when used in combination of 2:1:1 of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This is why you see a lot of 2:1:1 ingredient quantities on supplement labels.

mbalance or change in this ratio can result in deficiency of isoleucine and valine. Leucine tells the cells to grow thereby making muscle cells grow larger and adding bulk to the athlete’s frame.


Isoleucine is metabolized through both the fat in the body and through carbohydrate digestion.

Biotin (Vitamin B7) or Vitamin H is necessary for the body to be able to metabolize isoleucine, so make sure you’re taking your multivitamins when supplementing!

Excess isoleucine converts to fat except when in the form of supplemental BCAA where it can be stored directly in the body for immediate use rather than the necessary conversion of fat to energy.

Isoleucine can be found in foods like turkey, chicken, lamb, eggs, soy protein, seaweed, and fish. Too little isoleucine (a severe deficiency) in the body can cause muscles to tremble.


Valine is also metabolized through carbohydrate digestion.. Valine has been used in the treatment of sickle-cell disease.

Too little valine in the body cause nerve damage and tremors as well. It completes the trifecta of essential acids that work together to get you yoked.

lood Saturation & Absorption

BCAAs in supplement form are absorbed into the blood directly; it does not go through the digestive process as food when consumed.

Therefore, in supplemental form, immediate use of the aminos are readily bio-available. Excess BCAA supplementation can be stored in the muscle for use during exercise.

Anti-Catabolic Effects of Supplementation During & Post Workout

Excess BCAAs consumed from food are converted into fat and unless the individual uses it during the next training session, that fat adds to body size, whereas with pure amino acid supplementation this problem does not exist.supplement addiction

In addition, if extra BCAAs are needed, the body will convert fat to energy during the exercise session resulting in body fat reduction.

If you are otherwise healthy, and not a high performance athlete, BCAAs may not be necessary in your diet. But since you’re looking to get jacked, you should probably pick some up.

Determining Optimal Dosage

BCAAs work best when taken before, during, and after training. For increased muscle growth, they can also be taken at other times throughout the day to “trickle feed” muscles.

Optimal dosage depends on the intensity of the training and the amount of muscle the athlete wants to add to his or her body.

BCAA dosage varies mostly according to weight. 150 pounds or less are recommended to take 10 grams daily. For individuals 151 pounds or more it’s recommended to take 15 grams. These dosages should be split throughout the day.

Popular suggestions are to take your aminos with breakfast, in between meals, and before bed. This way the body can absorb of what it needs for use during training.

Other nutritionists recommend between three grams and 50 grams daily, so it depends on the intensity of the workout and other dietary factors.

There is no known maximum safe amount, as the body seems to be able to store safely excess amounts of supplemental BCAAs so have at it!

Top Supplements From Amazon and

BCAAs in natural form are bad tasting. Manufacturers provide this supplement in powders that are pleasantly flavored, and include them in mixtures that have positive flavor enhancement.

Aminos also come in capsules and pills. Capsules and pills can take a long time to digest, so powder is generally preferred.

In addition, the pills are much larger than other supplements and can be difficult to swallow.


  • Musclepharm Amino1
  • Dymatize BCAA Complex 2200
  • USPLabs Modern BCAA+
  • BSN Amino X
  • Gaspari Nutrition BCAA 6000
  • Optimum BCAA 1000
  • Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAA
  • Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy
  • Cellucor COR-Performance Beta-BCAA
  • Musclepharm BCAA 3:1:2
  • BPI Sports Best BCAA
  • Infinite Labs BCAA Caps
  • Optimum BCAA 5000

Do You NEED BCAA/EAA Supplements?

Well, if your diet is poor then yes, you need them. If you are eating a well rounded diet of whole foods and/or are consuming protein shakes on a regular basis then no, actually you don’t really need any BCAA or EAA supplements as the protein is broken down into these amino acids naturally via digestion!

Helpful Resources:

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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