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If you don’t get your 9 essential amino acids in your diet, your body won’t be able to access them at all, as it can’t produce them naturally.
This is scary news for vegans in the fitness and bodybuilding community, with these branched chain amino acids acting like building blocks for your muscles and encouraging protein synthesis.
As a result, vegan BCAA products are very popular dietary supplements in the vegan community, allowing plant eaters the same essential acids and natural boosters enjoyed by their meat-eating and milk-drinking counterparts.
Here we go over the best vegan BCAA products we could find.
Our Top Vegan BCAA Supplements (2019 Updated)
OUR #1 RATED
1. Transparent Labs
2. Performance Labs
3. Raw Barrels No Bull
5. Clean Machine BCAA
1. Best Overall - Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine
Featuring a blend of Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Glutamine, and Coconut Water Extract, Transparent Labs’ BCAA supplement is my personal favorite on this list.
According to its manufacturer, this unisex BCAA product is ideal for fitness fans who want to stimulate vegan protein synthesis, speed up muscle recovery post-workout, reduce fatigue, and speed up sugar absorption in the muscles during a workout.
This helps with muscle growth and muscle mass gains after a trying workout.
The weird flavors are also a nice touch, with “Strawberry Lemonade” and “Blue Raspberry” not being common flavors in the supplementation world.
They kind of remind me of the flavored vitamins I used to take when I was a child. Sigh.
2. Performance Labs BCAA
Performance Labs is a very respectable UK company known to produce several high-quality supplements.
One of the claims Performance Lab makes is that their chosen ratio of 2:1:1 for L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine is scientifically backed as stronger doses could have adverse effects.
I was able to find some studies that support this, with one, in particular, stating that a balance as found in food is the most suitable solution.
Because the active ingredients are extracted from sunflowers, this does become a suitable supplement for daily use without the need to plan for off-cycles. And personally, after 6 weeks of use, I had absolutely no side effects to report.
3. Raw Barrel’s BCAA Tablets
According to Raw Barrel themselves, each one of these tablets contains twice as many amino acid components as the other leading brands, supposedly giving you twice the value of other similar solutions.
Are those extra acids able to be absorbed by your body?
I sure hope so.
This product is filled with the branched chain amino acids that we vegans and veggies need when we want to build muscle, with l-leucine, l-isoleucine, and l-valine making notable appearances in this ingredients list.
You can definitely get the best out of your money with these BCAA tablets.
4. Solgar BCAA
Solgar has been going since 1947, and this bottle of BCAA supplements sure shows it.
It looks like it should be sitting on the shelves of a candy shop from yesteryear while Vera Lynn plays in the background.
These low-price pills are non-GMO and gluten-free, which is a nice touch for people with dietary restrictions.
They also contain additional vitamin B6, which helps your body to naturally metabolize those essential acids that are so important,
You'll get the best value with Solgar. Get the BCAAs your body needs without spending too much.
5. Clean Machine BCAA
If you’re trying to get a fit, lean body without subjecting yourself to the jittery effects of caffeine, then Clean Machine BCAA is for you.
This product is made from organic corn and sunflower lecithin, avoiding the soy lecithin which some people have problems with.
I particularly like the inclusion of dehydrated coconut water in this product, as it helps your body to naturally replenish electrolytes and endure longer through tough gym sessions.
Enjoy the benefits of this BCAA supplement without the kick of caffeine.
Take it during your pre and post workout for best results.
6. Battle Ready Fuel BCAA
I’ve got a soft spot for this product because it’s cherry flavored and I am a sucker for anything cherry-related.
You see, I’m one of those weird people who asks for the maraschino cherries from people’s cocktails.
This delicious supplement contains 5g of BCAAs per serving, providing you with the plant-based fuel that you need for gaining muscle mass in the gym.
There are 3 BCAAs in this supplement – leucine, isoleucine, and valine, all of which are essential for muscle growth and maintenance.
Delivered in their ideal 4:1:1 ratio, you’ll never have to worry about missing out on your precious amino acids again.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs, which stands for branched chain amino acids, come in three forms – Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. But why are these essential acids so “essential”?
And what makes them different from all those less-important acids?
You see, your body cannot naturally produce these amino acids, so they have to come from your diet, making them “essential” aspects of a healthy diet.
BCAA supplements are sought after in the bodybuilding and fitness world because BCAAs are broken down in your muscles rather than your liver, presenting bodybuilders and gym-goers with endurance advantages over their peers (1).
Here's a cute graphic presentation to learn more about BCAAs.
What are the benefits of taking BCAAs?
1. Improved workouts
Taking BCAAs has multiple positive effects on your workouts in the gym, helping you to lose weight or stay lean as you desire.
Taking BCAAs before, during and even after a workout improves not only the recovery process post-workout but can also improve muscle power during workouts, and overall gains. Most athletes - from amateur beginners to professional experts - and some people with health issues can benefit from supplementing their diets with BCAAs.
2. Reduced muscle soreness
People taking amino acid supplements often drone on about how great they are for relieving muscle soreness, and it appears that this may have some truth to it (2).
One study found that sports players experienced less muscle soreness and faster muscle recovery when supplied with 40g of BCAAs per day.
I can’t argue with science, folks.
3. Increased fat loss
Leucine has been shown in studies to increase fat oxidization and energy expenditure, which is thought to lead to increased fat loss.
Of course, the best vegan BCAA supplements will also naturally give you more energy and endurance in the gym, making it easier to burn more fat anyway.
4. Treat liver problems
Studies have suggested that liver cancer may be linked to low BCAA levels, and people with liver problems are often treated with medicine which is high in branched chain amino acids, as well as other components.
A whopping 75% of people don't realize they have liver disease, so it would be wise to keep on top of the liver while you can.
How are BCAA supplements made and what makes vegan BCAAs different?
Traditional BCAA supplements (i.e. non-vegan ones) are made from keratin.
These products are sometimes referred to as “non-fermented” supplements, which is basically a nice way of them dressing up the fact that they’re made from keratin.
You see, keratin is a fibrous structured protein which is found in our hair and fingernails, among other places.
So guess where the other BCAA supplements come from? Duck feathers, bird feathers, and… wait for it… human hair. Gross.
First of all, I’ve been a vegan for a good few years now, and I’m not even sure if human hair would count as a vegan-friendly ingredient… is it vegan if the people it comes from consent to it?
I don’t know; it’s a huge mess.
The outer layers and hairs of pig skin (again… gross) are also used for producing the keratin in traditional BCAA supplements, which is less than appealing for both omnivores and veggies alike.
However, vegan friendly BCAA products are made differently, requiring a process of fermentation which is derived from plant-based ingredients like corn and sugar.
L-Leucine is obtained via fermentation of glucose and corn steep liquor using Corynebacterium glutamicum which has been safely used in industrial production of amino acids for a long time. For L-leucine production, sterilized glucose and corn steep liquor are fermented with a nonpathogenic, non-toxigenic species and strain of Corynebacterium glutamicum (MD0032) at 28-30ºC for 2-3 days in a fermentation tank.
So to put it in layman’s terms, veggie BCAA products are made from sugar and corn booze, while some more modern versions are made from sunflowers instead.
What should you look for in vegan BCAAs?
1. Look for a formula that contains a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine
This is thought to be the optimal blend of amino acids for plant-derived BCAAs, with studies suggesting that this blend helps the ingredients to work synergistically with one another in the best way. You can indeed find 4:1:1 and 8:1:1 ratios on the market, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better in this case.
2. Avoid products containing gelatin
Unlike vegetarian capsules which are made from vegetable cellulose, gelatin capsules are made from the crushed-up bone marrow of cows and/or pigs, which is obviously not veggie or vegan-friendly. When you’re looking for veggie BCAA, make sure there’s no gelatin in the ingredients list.
3. Look for plant sources of the amino acids in the ingredients
If you have dietary restrictions or you just like to know all the sources of your BCAAs, try to find out the natural source for the acids in a supplement. There are many different vegan BCAA sources, including sesame seeds, turnip greens, soy, sunflower seeds, figs, avocados, raisins, apples, and much more.
Are BCAAs good for vegans?
Yes, BCAAs are important for building muscle mass. About a third of the protein in our muscles are BCAAs.
Do vegans need BCAAs?
Vegans need BCAAs because their diet may restrict their natural intake of these essential amino acids. BCAAs cannot be produced naturally by the body, so people need to consume them via food sources. However, plant-based foods are not abundant in BCAAs, so many vegans turn to supplementation for their intake.
See what other recommended supplements vegan should take in their bodybuilding/weight loss journey here.
Should vegans take protein supplements?
Vegans should take protein supplements if they are not acquiring enough protein in their diet alone. It is indeed possible for vegans to acquire protein in their plant-based diet, but unless they are paying very close attention to the nutritional values of the meals they eat, they could be deficient in protein. As a result, many vegans turn to protein powders and supplements to help them stay healthy and lean.
Are vegan BCAAs safe to take?
Vegan BCAAs are safe to take, assuming that the product is reliable and you are not allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients. When looking for vegan friendly supplements, look out for animal-derived ingredients and gelatin capsules, as these are certainly not suitable for a true vegan diet (3).
Do all vegan BCAAs have glutamine?
Not all vegan BCAAs will contain glutamine, but there are many vegan friendly BCAA products which do indeed contain glutamine. Because glutamine is a non-essential amino acid which is naturally produced by the body, it is not as highly sought after as essential acids such as leucine isoleucine and valine.
Our #1 Recommended Vegan BCAA Is...
Now that we’ve come to the end of our journey, I’d have to recommend Transparent Labs’ CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine as my top choice for best plant-derived BCAA product.
It contains natural flavors and no artificial sweeteners, so you don’t get that unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth that you get with many poorer-made artificial supplements.
I personally found that this product helped reduce my fatigue, allowing me to go more frequently to the gym as well as improving my performance. Of course you need to make sure everything else is up to a high standard such as getting enough rest and eating a well balanced diet.
The Best Vegan BCAA
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