Can BCAAs Actually Help You Get Stronger or Leaner?

Can BCAAs Actually Help You Get Stronger or Leaner?

Can BCAAs help you get stronger or leaner? Or are they overhyped and a waste of money?

I often get questions around BCAAs, so if you’re wondering whether or not they could help you  — or if you’re not even 100% sure what they are — I’m going to break it aaall down for you.

Read on to learn what BCAAs are, who might or might not benefit from them, as well as when to take them, how much to take, and what to look for in a supplement if you decide to give ‘em a try.


BCAAs is an acronym for “Branched Chain Amino Acids,” with the three BCAAs being leucine, isoleucine and valine.

There are a lot of different kinds of amino acids that make up proteins, but these three in particular are especially key in the muscle building and recovery processes.

Many sources of protein contain BCAAs, so while experts all agree they’re beneficial, the debate is really about whether or not you need to supplement with them.

I’d say there’s truth to both sides of the debate, so let’s take a look at who I think could benefit from supplementing with BCAAs vs. who probably wouldn’t.


(1)  You’re still eating lots of processed food.

My #1 rule when it comes to taking supplements for performance or weight loss: If you’re not already eating fresh, real unprocessed food consistently, then focus on doing that first. You’re going to get way more benefit from getting the foundation of your diet in place before spending extra money on supp’s.

(2) You’re simply eating and exercising to be healthy and maintain weight and your goals aren’t performance-based.

If this describes you — and ideally you’re eating real food most of the time and getting plenty of protein at each meal — then you don’t necessarily need a BCAAs supplement. You should be getting enough BCAAs just from the food in your diet alone.

You Might Benefit From a BCAAs Supplement If...

(1) You’re trying to lose weight (eating in a calorie deficit).

(2) You work out fasted (this could include working out first thing in the AM).

In these two cases, BCAAs will be helpful because if you’re going into a workout under-fueled, your body could end up breaking down muscle to provide energy.

So even if you haven’t eaten, the BCAAs will help you at the very least preserve the muscle you have and possibly even gain muscle (that last part also depends on the type of workout you’re doing and how you’re eating the rest of the time).

Either way, of course keeping our muscles from breaking down is a good thing. The more muscle we have, not only are we stronger and fitter, but the higher our resting metabolism, meaning the more fat we can burn simply by watching Netflix.


(3) You want to take your training to the next level.

This can mean the next level for YOU – whatever stage your training is at. Maybe you want an added recovery boost, or you’re looking to make some major strength gains. Once you’ve got that nutrition foundation in place and you’re fueling well throughout the day, then adding BCAAs around your workout can help with performance and even lessen fatigue during your workout so you can rock out more of those burpees, wall balls, miles, etc.


Research has shown that you’ll see benefits as long as you take them any time around your workouts, which could be before, during or after.

I like taking them before and during because, as mentioned above, they can help reduce fatigue during your workout. I also often exercise first thing in the morning, so I want to get them in my system as quickly as possible.


Just like with anything in the nutrition world, there’s varying opinions on this, so I recommend experimenting to find what works well for you. But I’ll give you some guidelines as starting points.

The average recommended or minimum dose is typically 5 g. And Precision Nutrition, one of the top sports nutrition coach certifications in the industry and through which I am L1 certified, recommends 10-15 g of BCAAs for every 1 hour of workouts.


When shopping for the BCAAs supplement that’s right for you, there are a few factors to consider.

First, check the label for the ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine the supplement contains. This is expressed with 3 numbers in the format of X:X:X (leucine:isoleucine:valine). You might see ratios of 3:2:1 or 10:1:1 on products, but from the research I’ve done I’ve concluded that 2:1:1 is really all you need and optimal. So don’t pay more for higher ratio numbers just because it sounds like it may be more effective.

Next, BCAAs come in capsule or powder form. I like the powder kinds better because I mix mine with water to sip on before and during my workouts.

If you go with a powder, I highly suggest getting a flavored kind unless you know you’re going to be mixing it with something like juice with a strong taste. The unflavored taste by itself is pretty rough.

And if you go with a flavored powder, be aware that most on the market have artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. If this matters to you, look for a kind that’s naturally flavored without ingredients like sucralose, acesulfame potassium, or artificial coloring like red 40 or blue 1.

Unfortunately, there are way fewer naturally flavored options with what I would consider “clean” ingredients. I know because I’ve looked!

And because I’ve done a ton of research on BCAA products, I put together a list of my top 10 brands (both flavored and unflavored). On the list, I’ve included where you can find them online, the total cost, and the cost per gram of BCAAs to show which are the best value.

To get the free list, simply click on the button below.

Now I’d also love to hear from you. Do you use BCAAs? If so, let us know your experience with them in the comments below!