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Your Complete Guide to BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

For some people new to fitness nutrition lingo, trying to figure out what BCAAs is referring to may be just as difficult as trying to understand millennial abbreviations like LMAO, FOMO, and ROFL mean.

Or maybe you already know what BCAAs are, but you don’t know if you really need to include them in your fitness routine.

I’m here to tell you, you need them.

I mean, there are so many benefits of BCAAs that I don’t know why you wouldn’t want them.

What are those benefits? I’ll go into more detail in this article, but here are a few to spark your interest:

  • Recover from workouts faster
  • Lose fat, NOT muscle
  • Improve performance

Interested yet?

Keep reading to learn the science behind branched chain amino acids, and to find the best deal on our number one recommended brand!

What are BCAAs?


Benefits of Branched-chain amino acid


BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are actually way more simple than they may sound.

BCAAs consist of three different types of amino acids that are especially important for muscle growth and recovery. These three amino acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.

Branched chain amino acids are mostly found in meat and eggs but the easiest way to get them is in supplement form.

What do BCAAs do?


To understand what BCAAs do, we are going to take a detailed look at each specific amino acid to see how each one benefits you.


Leucine is the MVP, the lead singer, the big deal of branched chain amino acids. This amino has the greatest influence on muscle growth and recovery.

Why is this important?

When you workout out as a lifter, swimmer, rock climber, or anything in between, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

These tiny tears can often cause soreness, scientifically referred to as DOMS. (There I go again, throwing in another acronym for you to debunk.)

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, or in simple terms, your muscles hurt and moving can be a struggle.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS can occur 12-24 hours after physical activity and leaves you feeling stiff, achy, and makes squatting to use the toilet surprisingly difficult.

For some, that sore feeling may seem like an accomplishment, but for those who want or need to workout on a daily basis, it can be a downright nuisance.

So how do you avoid DOMS and limping around like you’ve been mortally wounded?

One way is to Include a BCAAs supplement! The Leucine will help prevent major muscle damage and assist your body to recover faster.


This branched chain amino acid is going to be your new best friend during workouts.

Isoleucine increases your body’s capacity to use glucose, especially during activity.

This means you’ll have more energy for your workouts and the glucose (carbs) you eat will be more efficiently used rather than stored as extra padding for your behind.

When you consume carbohydrates, two things can occur: the sugars are either used as energy, reserved in glycogen stores, or stored as fat.

Most of us have enough fat on our bodies and don’t need anymore. This is why Isoleucine and branched chain amino acids are helpful. Isoleucine helps regulate blood sugars, preventing harmful insulin spikes and drops.


Valine has similar properties as Isoleucine and Leucine and works best when combined with them.

Valine, like Leucine, helps your body recover and stimulates muscle growth. Like Isoleucine, valine helps with the uptake and usage of glucose and it may play an important role in muscle coordination and brain function.

Why Use Branched Chain Amino Acids?

I’ve already mentioned some of the benefits of BCAAs, but that was only scratching the surface.

Here are four more impressive benefits of BCAAs:

1.You’ll recover faster.

One study found that branched chain amino acids reduced muscle damage. Another study found those who took a BCAAs supplement before and after a strenuous workout had faster recovery times.

Sprint Workout

This means you will be able to workout more often at higher intensities while avoiding possible muscle soreness and risk of injury. How many times have you skipped a workout because you were, “too sore”?

More training and less muscle fatigue will mean greater gains in strength and endurance.

2. You’ll lose fat, not muscle.

Research has shown that those who include a BCAAs supplement are more likely to lose unwanted fat while keeping lean body mass.

Many times when people are trying to build muscle and lose fat, they actually lose both. Additionally, beginning in your 30s, you actually begin to lose lean muscle and usually replace it with fat. A natural yet unfortunate process called sarcopenia.

By being physically active, including some kind of strength routine, and including the right kinds of supplements (like BCAAs) you can reduce muscle loss over time.

Branched chain amino acids can also help with muscle retention, keeping you lean and active as you age. How?

By keeping your muscles properly fueled with amino acids from BCAAs, you spare muscle tissue.

Muscle tissue can and is used for energy by the body, especially when calories are restricted and during endurance sports like marathons. Reduce muscle loss with a BCAA supplement!

3. You’ll improve performance.

A study conducted back in the 90s found, “that both mental and physical performance was improved by an intake of BCAA during exercise.”

This is because when amino acids are used for energy, your body prefers to use the amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine (aka BCAAs).

Understanding what each of the three BCAAs do, and considering that all amino acids are responsible for every important function in your body, these types of conclusions seem obvious.

Fitness Determination

If you’ve been doing any kind of sport or physical activity long, you know that it is just as much a mental game as well as physical.

Branched chain amino acids can help boost your mental capacity and keep you in top physical condition to perform your best.

4. They are effective and convenient.

You now know that branched chain amino acids are extremely important, but why supplement them? Why not just eat them naturally in your food?

I’m all about getting my nutrition through my food whenever possible, but for most people getting all the essential nutrients we need naturally in the diet can be difficult.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am saying that supplements can make life much easier.

For example, you would have to eat 4 whole eggs to get the same amount of BCAAs that you could get in one calorie free powder scoop of BCAAs.

Scoop of BCAAs

If you’re aiming for the recommended 5g of BCAAs before and after a workout, that’s 8 eggs and 560 calories to get 10g of branched chain amino acids that you could get for zero calories.

Besides supplementing being a simple way to get the needed protein and BCAAs in the diet, the powdered form of BCAAs is digested and absorbed quickly by the body.

The BCAAs found naturally in foods such as eggs and beef, take much longer to digest and cannot be immediately used by the body.

When Do You Take BCAAs?

Generally, before and after a workout take one serving or 5-10g of Branched chain amino acids. These are the times when your body most needs amino acids.

Others find it helpful to sip on their BCAAs drink during their workout for added energy and hydration.

Those looking to preserve muscle mass may take a serving of branched chain amino acids in the morning.

When you wake up, your body is in a fasted state. Since you haven’t eaten all night long, you are probably burning muscle as a source of energy.

This is bad news if you want to preserve that hard earned lean mass! Taking BCAAs in the morning with a healthy protein filled breakfast can end this muscle breakdown and give you an energy boost to start your day.

What Brand of BCAAs are the Best?

Our number one, go to brand of BCAAs is IdealLean.

IdealLean BCAAs

Not only does IdealLean BCAAs have the ideal amount and ratio of amino acids, but they also include a fat loss blend unique from any other brand on the market.

Here is what you will find in IdealLean BCAAs:

  • An optimal ratio of 2:1:1

This means there is slightly more grams of Leucine than Isoleucine, and Valine. Research supports that Leucine is the most important of the three BCAAs and that this ratio is best for performance and recovery.

  • Green tea and CLA

Green tea has been shown in several studies to increase fat burning and to aid in physical performance. CLA is an omega 6 fatty acid. Some studies have found it has a positive effect on weight loss and improves body composition.

  • Coconut powder

Coconut is one of the most hydrating substances in the world and can help improve workouts.

  • Additional amino acids L-Citrulline and L-Glutamine

L-Citrulline is known for its sports performance properties and L-Glutamine may help increase lean muscle mass.

  • Zero calories and 2 delicious flavors

With IdealLean BCAAs, you get to choose from two tasty flavors that you’ll actually want to drink, Green Apple or Raspberry Lemonade. Each scoop is calorie free, so you don’t have to worry about extra calories.

Mountain Biking

Branched chain amino acids can bring your performance, physique, and fitness to the next level.

They have been well studied and aid in recovery, muscle growth, maintenance, and physical and mental performance during your workouts.

Try our top recommended BCAAs supplement, IdealLean and start seeing a difference today!


  1. Rebecca

    I tore my acl and mcl. I’m having surgery this Friday to repair it. Will bacc help in the repair process? I’m taking a multivitamin. I was a high school soccer player, buy it don’t know when I’ll be allowed to return to any of my workouts.

    1. Anne

      Not quite, but it may be helpful in retaining muscle while recovering from surgery. ACL/MCL tears are especially common in women, and previous tears correlate with an increased likelihood of future tears. Your golden ticket will be excellent physical therapy and high commitment on your part to those stretches and exercises!

  2. Judith

    Hi I’m trying my best scared to intake bcaa since I have really bad anxiety…so I can’t have no caffeine
    I just want to be healthy and over come this fear

    1. ucantu

      Pretty sure most BCAA formulas have no caffeine. Make sure to read your labels.

    2. GME

      Don’t be scared. Just read your labels. BCAA’s don’t normally contain anything other than Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, and some flavoring. Ocassionally, there will be a BCAA product that someone will advertise as providing “energy”. Those are the ones that may have some caffeine in them, but they are very rare. You can read the labels of two or three dozen different BCAA brands and not find any that have any caffeine in them at all, as caffeine is not normally added to BCAA supplements.

      These IdealLean BCAA’s don’t contain any caffeine, although they do contain Sucralose, which can adversely affect your intestinal flora, which is not a good thing. However, Xtend FREE BCAAs by Scivation are all natural, have no additives, and have no caffeine as well. That the one I currently use and it works very well.

  3. Misty

    Im 37 ive gained 30 pounds in 2 months i dont understand o eat differently increased water intake o dont understand

  4. Sylvia

    I have lupus and primary biliary chirosis. Is it safe to take bcaa

    1. GME

      If it is safe for you to eat protein, then it is safe for you to take BCAAs, as they are simply 3 of the amino acids of which proteins are made up of. If you can eat Chicken, Eggs, and Beef with no problems, then you can take BCAAs with no problems.

  5. Annie

    Why did the BCAA’s that I bought from you come with a warning label saying they contained lead in them? That was very disturbing!

    1. GME

      It was because California passed a law (proposition 65) requiring labels to include such a warning, even if the level of lead is safe, normal, common, and poses no health threat at all. It was simply a result of Californication, that’s all.

      1. Laurie A McNally

        What concerns me is the other BCAA”s I have purchased do not come with this warning label?

  6. Sherry

    I am 66 yo diabetic type 2 on small dose of insulin. I’m 60 lbs overweight. I workout in a structured pool program and walk. Would this be effective for me?
    P.s. in spring summer & fall I kayak.

    1. GME

      Yes, BCAAs won’t affect blood sugar levels at all, and you would receive the benefits the article mentions if taken prior to and/or after your activities. They help avoid muscle soreness when taken 1/2 – 1 hour before workouts, and assist with recuperation and muscle growth when taken after workouts.

    1. GME

      Yes, they are safe to take when breast feeding. They are simply 3 amino acids, which are components of protein. So, they are as safe as eating some chicken or a hamburg, each being a source of protein and totally safe.

      In fact, having brought up the subject, taking BCAAs could, theoretically, assist in raising the protein content of breast milk (which would be a very good thing), if ones dietary intake of protein were low to begin with.

  7. John Smith

    BCAAs are the coolest supplements ever , I’ve been taking ON BCAA powder for over a year and the results are amazing.
    Thanks for the guide Amy.

  8. Ehsan

    Congrats on your article
    But do you believe bcaa is overrated?
    And does whey can replace bcaa?

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