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The fitness community is filled with various drinks that aid in electrolyte replenishment, hydration, energy and muscle recovery. The last of those characteristics is extremely important for muscle repair, recovery and re-growth. Amino acid supplements provides the key to jump start muscle recovery.
As it is with many of the supplements on the market, you can get lost in your choice for the ideal amino acid supplement. Are you to use a BCAA or a EAA? What’s the difference? These are questions we answered in our BCAA vs. EAA article here at Fitness Informant. Long story short, BCAAs are EAAs and they are equally important.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. As many of us know, protein is what repairs muscle and builds them up. A proper amino acid supplement will aid in muscle recovery, repair and regrowth.
Back to the main question, which one is right for me? That’s where we come in. Supplement companies are trying to trick you with their “unique” BCAA formulas, and added ingredients that may provide zero benefit.
We Remove The BS The Supplement Companies Feed You, And Tell You What They Don’t Want You To Know.
We remove the clutter from the amino acid category. We provide you with the five best amino acid supplements of 2018.
Table of Contents
The best amino acid supplements can provide you with:
The following table compares the top 5 rated amino acid supplments of 2018 in order from #1 to #5. It showcases their optimal features and gives you the option to purchase them at the lowest price online.
|Amino Acid||Best Pick For||Ingredients & Features||Rating|
1. Pitbull Labs BCAA Stim
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|Overall Effectiveness, Value, & Ingredients||- 7g Fermented BCAAs|
- 150mg Caffeine
- 2.5g Glutamine
2. NutraBio BCAA 5000
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|Value||- 5g Fermented BCAAs|
- No Fillers
- Minimal Flavoring
3. NutraBio Intra Blast
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|Ingredients Profile||- 7g Fermented BCAAs|
- 10g Amino Acids
4. iForce Nutrition Swolemate
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|Endurance & Strength||- 5g BCAAs|
- 1.6g Beta Alanine
- 1.25g Betaine
5. MHP BCAA-XL Energy
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|Energy||- 5g BCAA|
- 10:1:1 Ratio
- 265mg Energy
Amino acids come in a lot of shapes, sizes, flavors, etc. So what is is exactly that you need to look for in amino acid supplements? We can understand the confusion, and when supplement companies do not fully disclose their amino acid sources, or use fancy marketing terms, it can throw you off your game.
We break down several bullet points you should look for when selecting the optimal amino acid product for you. Find what is most important to you and your goals, and select the product that closely matches that. At the end of the day, the selection should come down to what is most important to you, as the consumer, the person with the checkbook. Do not let “marketing” win. Let science prevail.
Type of Amino Acid
We briefly touched on this before, but the type of amino acid you choose is very important. In the sports nutrition industry, there are two types of amino acids that are present in supplements: Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Branched chain amino acids ARE essential amino acids. However, BCAAs are most widely used before, during and after exercise to aid in muscle recovery, repair and growth. Branched chain amino acids are L-Leucine, L-Valine and L-Isoleucine.
Essential amino acids are nine of the 20 amino acids required by the body. The big difference between EAAs and the “other” amino acids are that EAAs cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food sources or supplements.
Ratio of BCAAs
Numerous scientific studies show that the 2:1:1 ratio of BCAA (two parts L-Leucine to one part L-Valine and one part L-Isoleucine) is the optimal ratio for muscle recovery, repair and regrowth. The 2:1:1 ratio BCAA supplements should be sought out for pre, intra and post workout.
Over the years, many supplement companies have been releasing products with various ratios. We’ve see ratios of 3:1:1, 4:1:1, 6:1:1 and 10:1:1. L-Leucine is a phenomenal BCAA, but it is also the “cheapest” of the BCAAs to produce. We want to ensure that you are not overpaying for a supplement based on marketing that these products are superior to the 2:1:1 ratio. There are some great products that do alter the ratio, but they are not ideal for consumption in and around your workout.
Source of Amino Acids
What supplement companies do not want you to know is where the amino acids are derived from. Let’s focus in on BCAAs. If the label does not say, “Fermented,” then your BCAAs may come from places you wish wasn’t true.
Non-fermented BCAAs typically come from bird beaks, bird feathers, pig carcasses, human hair and other areas we wish wasn’t true. With that said, this has been the primary source of BCAAs we’ve been consuming for years. The truth is that we will still be consuming BCAA and amino sources derived from these. Why? We cannot tell the difference at a consumer level, and, even though it is gross, they are still beneficial to muscle recovery, repair and regrowth.
If you see the term “Fermented’ on the label, then you can sleep easily. This means that the amino acids were derived from vegas sources (i.e. plants and vegetables). These typically do not taste as good as non-fermented (how can that be…non-fermented comes from bird feathers – but it is true) so these products will typically be less favorable on taste or use more ingredients to mask the poor taste.
Ultimately it is up to you. Fermented aminos will be more expensive than those that are not fermented. The choice is yours.
Optimum Nutrition started the energized amino acid category with Amino Energy. Now, many companies are hopping on this train. Energized amino acids are a great alternative to coffee. They provide you with a good amount of amino acids (some better than others) and the ingredients needed to boost energy and focus. Here are some energy ingredients to look for in amino acids:
Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for his bodybuilding and acting career, but also for his line in “Pumping Iron” when he talks about the Pump being the equivalent to sex. The “pump” provides so much more than just an amazing look to your physique. In fact, the pump plays a much larger role. When you obtain a good pump from an amino acid, it means blood is flowing into your muscles bringing them essential nutrients they need to repair, recover and regrow. The following ingredients are popular pump activating ingredients to look for in your amino acid supplement:
Remember, the pump is more than just the look. It is important to your overall growth and physique. Obtain the pump you want through an effective amino acid supplement containing pump activating ingredients.
If you’re an endurance athlete, you may not want all of the ingredients that promote strength or pump. You may just want ingredients that will help your heart beat longer at faster rates through the use of supplementation. The following ingredients are used in in amino acid supplements to help with improving your endurance:
As an endurance athlete, you must look for ingredients that will help contribute to your type of training as it is vastly different than strength training. In fact, a whole other muscle type (slow-twice aka Type 1) is being trained.
Taste is of great importance to this category because you’re typically drinking amino acids throughout the day. Unlike a pre-workout, in which you chug, amino acids are meant to be sipped. Thus, taste is very important.
Fermented amino acids will typically taste worse than non-fermented amino acids. It is important to look at flavoring agents in an amino acid product like Citric Acid, Malic Acid and Sucralose.
We examined five different areas of each amino acid supplement when we compiled our rankings:
When we review each amino acid supplement on their ingredient profile, we look at the ingredients used, the dosage they are being used at and the source of amino acids.
Many amino acids include a variety of beneficial ingredients, but under dose them proving to be non-effective.
Effectiveness is an extension of ingredient profile. If the product uses proven ingredients at clinically suggested dosages, proper ratios and from quality sources, then typically the product should be effective.
Everyone is different. Everyone takes to different ingredients differently at varying dosages. We have tried and tested each of these products throughout the full duration of their container to ensure these products are effective over their life.
We review taste on two different components. First, how close does the amino acid supplement taste to the actual name printed on the label. For example, does Blue Raz actually taste like blue raspberry. Second, we review it on overall taste (in our opinion) versus others in the same flavor category.
Mixability refers to how well does the product mix in 8-12oz of water. The testing process for an amino acid drink we use here is a generic Blender Bottle with the chrome spiral ball. We use regular tap water with no ice.
Value is a combination of ingredient profile, effectiveness, taste, mixability and cost. We do not just look at the price tag like a lot of others do. If a product is priced at a premium, we inform you if it is worth the premium price or not based on all the categories. We look at the overall picture of the amino acid supplement, and how it compares to other amino acid supplements on the market.
Please Note: Many of the “top 10 amino acids” lists you find online are written by content writers with no in-gym or supplement experience who are paid by the word count to write an article for a website trying to generate money.
These lists are influenced by brands who pay for placement. These lists contain amino acid supplements that are, for the lack of a better word, garbage.
The following products on our best of list were used by the author of this article. He used the amino acid supplements through the duration of a full container. Sample packs were not used in determining the rankings of the following best amino acid supplements of 2018.
Stop relying on faulty information that is influenced by outside writers and money. This list is the real deal. Here at Fitness Informant, we don’t steer you wrong. Be Informed. Live Fit.
Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here’s our list of our top rated amino acid supplements for 2018. These are the best for muscle recovery, repair, regrowth, fat loss and energy supplements:
BCAA-XL Energy from MHP is one of those amino acid supplements that provide you with the added kick of energy. It also is one of those amino acid supplement that utilizes a unique ratio of branched chain amino acids.
First, BCAA-XL Energy contains 265mg of an energizing complex from Green Coffee Bean Extract, Green Tea Extract and Yerba Mate. This provides a solid pick-me-up that you may need to get you through your day.
The 5g of non-fermented BCAA ratio used in BCAA-XL Energy is 10:1:1. This is the highest we’ve seen. As we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t mean it is not a good product, but this is not ideal to consume pre, intra or post workout. This would be a solid choice to sip throughout your day when you are outside your anabolic window.
MHP does a great job on taste of this product. It is not fermented BCAAs, thus the taste should be better than a fermented product, and it really is a good flavor. This is one of the best tasting BCAA supplements we’ve tried.
MHP, Maximum Human Performance, rebranding their company to “get with the times.” They make quality products designed for the casual going to semi-intense weight lifter. They are, by no means, a hardcore company. MHP makes good products that are unlike the norm (i.e. this is 10:1:1 ratio versus the norm of 2:1:1). This is not a bad thing; it is actually refreshing to see a company do something different.
One serving contains:
This is not going to be the best choice for amino acid pre, intra or post workout, but it is a great selection for a “during the day” amino acid supplement. It has a great flavor, solid energy ingredients and still provides 5g of BCAA per serving.
Swolemate from iForce Nutrition is one of those amino acid supplements that go above and beyond the 2:1:1 BCAA ratio. Swolemate also includes ingredients that promotes endurance, strength and the pump.
Swolemate provides you with 7g of 2:1:1 BCAAs per serving. This is much higher than a lot of the amino acid supplements on the market. The only downfall, they are non-fermented. At 7g per serving, you can get away with 2-3 servings a day for sufficient amount which helps with the value.
Swolemate also contains 1.6g Beta Alanine, promotes strength and endurance; 1.25g Betaine, promotes strength; and 1g L-Cittruline, promotes the pump. These are solid dosages for an amino acid product. These are ingredients you’d typically find in your pre-workout supplement.
iForce Nutrition is owned by High-Tech Pharmaceuticals. iForce Nutrition makes good products geared towards the dedicated lifter. They are also seen as a “bodybuilder” brand, meaning their products are used by bodybuilders all over the world. iForce Nutrition also manufactures other products like pre-workouts, proteins and more.
One serving contains:
Although Swolemate uses non-fermented BCAAs, they use a sufficient amout at 7g per serving at the scientifically proven 2:1:1 ratio. We also get the added benefit of Beta Alanine and Betaine, which is dosed at 50% of clinical levels (this is awesome for an amino acid product) that promotes endurance and strength gains. The addition of L-Cittruline is a nice touch. Overall, solid amino acid product that does more than just muscle recovery. Best to consume this product pre, intra and/or post-workout.
Intra Blast by NutraBio is an all-in-one muscle recovery product that includes amino acids to help with muscle recovery, repair and regrowth. Intra Blast is considered a 3-in-1 formula!
Intra Blast starts with Essential Amino Acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids for a total of 10,005mg. This portion of the supplement includes 7g of fermented 2:1:1 ratio BCAAs. This is the best ratio with the best source of aminos. You also get a sufficient amount requiring only 2-3 servings of Intra Blast per day.
Intra Blast includes other ingredients outside of amino acids to help with performance and recovery. You get 5g of L-Glutamine, which aids in muscle recovery. NutraBio also tosses in 2g of Betaine, which helps with strength output. We get several ingredients in the hydration and electrolyte area of this product, something not seen in any other supplement.
This is truly an all-in-one muscle recovery product that might be more than you need, but it sure as hell promotes repair, recovery and regrowth!
NutraBio won our 2017 Shield of Excellence Award for Brand of the Year. Their commitment to quality and education of the consumer makes them a brand to look up to. When you use a product from NutraBio you know you are getting an honest made product with the highest quality ingredients at the highest industry standards.
One serving contains:
If you’re looking for something above and beyond just an amino acid supplement, than you won’t find anything more inclusive than Intra Blast. You get 7g of fermented BCAAs at the scientifically backed 2:1:1 ratio. To boot, you get the extra impact of L-Glutamine, Betaine, Taurine and more. This is the best all-in-one recovery product to consume during your workouts.
BCAA 5000 from NutraBio is a straight-forward BCAA product without anything other than the necessity. Unlike our #3 rated amino acid supplement, Intra Blast, NutraBio’s BCAA 5000 is only 5g of 2:1:1 fermented BCAAs without all the other ingredients.
The reason we like this product at #2 is that not everyone needs or wants all the other ingredients. They want a solid BCAA product that is affordable. BCAA 5000 is exactly that. Each container contains 60-servings of 2:1:1 fermented BCAAs at 5g. Three to four servings of this per day is sufficient for optimal gains.
BCAA 5000 is so transparent that it also shows you what you’re getting in terms of flavoring agents. No other brand does this for you.
For less than $30 you get 60-servings of high quality BCAAs. What more could you want?
NutraBio has been in business since 1996 producing some of the highest quality supplements you can buy today. They not only promote awesome, high quality products, but education as well.
NutraBio has been trying to educate the consumer on the sports nutrition industry for several years to ensure that you are purchasing supplements of high quality and not just a marketing gimmick. All of their products contain a 100% transparent label to ensure you know what you are putting in your body.
One serving contains:
BCAA 5000 isn’t some stripped down version of an amino acid product, it is a straight forward, no B.S. amino acid product. Most people in the market for BCAAs are looking for only that, not other ingredients that promote other positive effects. BCAA 5000 give you 60 high quality servings for less than $30. The BCAAs are at the proven 2:1:1 ratio for muscle recovery, repair and regrowth. Don’t forget they are fermented BCAAs, meaning they come from plants, not human hair.
BCAA Stim by Pitbull Labs is one of the most unique, effective amino acid products on the market today. This is why it is #1 on our best amino acid supplement list.
BCAA Stim first separates itself by it’s flavoring. Cherry Cola flavor of BCAA Stim has been called, from us, the most satisfying, unique flavor in any supplement we’ve ever tried. Mix it with carbonated water and you literally have Cherry Coke…but a million times healthier.
The taste is great, but the ingredients used are even better. BCAA Stim uses 7g of fermented 2:1:1 ratio BCAA. These are the highest quality BCAAs on the market. It is also at the optimal ratio of 2:1:1 which is scientifically backed to be the best ratio used for muscle recovery. At 7g, you would only need two to three servings per day for sufficient dosage, and that’s if you don’t eat anything.
You see the word “Stim” in the product title. That is because you also get 150mg of Caffeine Anhydrous. This is great for additional energy while you lift, or to prevent a crash post-workout from your stim heavy pre-workout. If you’re not a coffee drinker like me, then this is a suitable replacement for that.
Moving past the “BCAAs” and the “stim,” BCAA Stim also includes ingredients that promote recovery, the pump, fat loss and hydration. You get L-Glutamine, L-Cittruline, L-Carnatine and Coconut Water Powder in this as well.
Pitbull Labs was “new” to the scene in 2017 and was a nominee for Breakout Brand of the Year. Why? They are that good. Their products are high quality and affordable. They also stand for something good. For every item purchased, they donate a portion of their proceeds to rehoming homeless pitbull labs. A noble cause backed by great supplements.
One serving contains:
BCAA Stim gets our #1 spot in our best amino acid supplements because they use a combination of high quality BCAAs at optimal dosages with the best ratio, superior and unique taste and other muscle recovery and muscle gain improving ingredients. Not many products can do with BCAA Stim does, where they hit every box on the list. This is more than just an amino product, but a recovery product to be consumer during and after your workout.
If you are stimulant sensitive, they make a non-stim version that is the same formula just without the 150mg of Caffeine Anhydrous.
This completes our full list of the best amino acid supplements of 2018. The amino acid supplements listed above earned the right to be the top 5 category. Each supplement had a great ingredient profile that was comprised of ingredients that promoted muscle recovery, repair and regrowth.
Stay tuned to Fitness Informant throughout the year for updates as new products are tested and reviewed.