Choosing the Best Vegan BCAA Supplements
Next to protein powders, BCAAs - or branch chain amino acids - are the most popular addition to an athlete’s supplement stack.
That’s because BCAAs are the “building blocks” of muscles, making up 35% of our muscle mass and essential for molecular growth and development (read: bigger biceps) to happen.
In addition to facilitating cell growth and repairing tissue damaged from tough workouts, BCAAs form antibodies, are a component of the enzyme and hormonal system, build essential RNA and DNA, and transport oxygen throughout the body.
BCAAs are especially important for vegan athletes and will ensure you’re taking in the right amino acids for protein synthesis - while we know Vegans can get plenty of complete protein from plant-based foods, vegan athletes benefit from the extra “insurance” taking a BCAA provides.
Taking these, in addition to a balanced diet rich in nutritious whole foods, will help you make the most of your workout.
What Should I Look for and What Should I Avoid in Vegan BCAAs?
When buying any BCAA supplement, it’s important to go for a formula that contains an optimal ratio of 2:1:1 leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
By opting for this blend of amino acids in these amounts, you get the full panel of benefits from a BCAA supplement. Studies have shown this ratio to be the most beneficial, with valine improving endurance and isoleucine playing a role in fat loss and reducing fatigue - two very important factors when you’re looking for a solid supplement to add to your stack.
BCAAs are also available in 4:1:1 and 8:1:1 ratios, but these blends with an excess of leucine can negate the positive effects from isoleucine and valine.
Vegan athletes will want to pay close attention to the label, avoiding any products that contain gelatin, which comes from the connective tissue of cows and pigs, and glyceryl monostearate, which can be made from animal fats, unless it’s clearly marked “vegetable glyceryl monostearate.”
These ingredients tend to be more prevalent in capsules and tablets rather than powders, so take special care if you’re looking to supplement with a pill rather than a powder.
You’ll also want to note the source of the amino acids in the supplement. Whether you’re vegan or not, the thought of a BCAA derived from duck feathers or pig hair is pretty gross, so be sure to opt for a BCAA supplement that is made from a plant source like corn.
Some brands might add natural ingredients like coconut water or sunflower lecithin, to boost electrolytes and make the powder more mixable, but on the whole, a shorter ingredient list is best - this will lessen the chance of sneaky animal products, and is also healthier for your body.
Whenever possible, opt for products that are clearly marked “vegan” or “plant-based” - not only will this eliminate any confusion, but you’ll also be putting your dollars toward a company that values its cruelty-free customers.
List of the Top Vegan BCAA Supplements
The source of many BCAAs tends to be hidden and hard to find making it difficult to purchase a supplement that's inline with your cruetly-free lifestyle.
So what’s an athlete to do when they want to get every bit of benefit from their workout, without consuming pulverized duck feathers?
If you stick with the tips we included above, you should be able to find something at your local Supplement store.
Alternatively, the brands listed below are 100% vegan-friendly without sacrificing the quality you would expect.
Raw Barrel’s Extra Strong Pure BCAA Tablets
Raw Barrel’s BCAA formula packs 1,000mg of BCAAs into each convenient tablet - that means you save money by taking half the pills for the same dose as traditional powders or capsules.
Raw Barrel boasts clean, pharmaceutical-grade branch chain amino acids, without fillers or “added bull” to weigh your body down.
The easy-to-take tablets are perfect for people who don’t want to be bothered with stirring their BCAAs into a liquid, and are made with 100% plant-based ingredients - no gelatin here!
In addition to the unique tablet form, Raw Barrel uses a natural fermentation method to extract the BCAAs from plants, as opposed to “acid extraction,” which is commonly performed by competitors.
Everything, from production to testing, occurs in the United States. Reviewers note that the tablets are easy to swallow, and don’t come with the bloating, dizziness, and other side effects that can occur from other supplements.
What We Love
You can feel good about purchasing Raw Barrel’s BCAA blend because the company offers a lifetime guarantee on the product - you can return the product at any point for a full refund, no questions asked. It’s great to see a company that takes such pride in their product and the satisfaction of their customers.
While the tablets go down easy for most people, they are a little on the large side. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, this product may prove to be less convenient than mixing a powder with a beverage.
Micro Ingredients Pure BCAA (Instantized)
Fermented from non-GMO corn, Micro Ingredients BCAA powder is 100% pure, clean, and vegan, containing no additives, preservatives, or artificial sweeteners.
The powder is instantized with sunflower lecithin for easy mixing and contains an optimal 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, valine, and isoleucine for maximal muscle repair.
The all-natural products are lab tested and packed in an FDA-registered facility in California with United States-sourced ingredients.
Because it’s instantized, this powder is one of the best-mixing brands out there - the supplement will dissolve completely and clear in water, so it’s simple and pleasant to take, with no grittiness or clumps.
Additionally, reviewers note that it is completely tasteless, allowing it even to be mixed with unconventional beverages like iced coffee.
What We Love
Because it’s made from fermented foods, this formula is gentle on the stomach, and won’t cause bloating, gas, or cramping that can come with many health supplements. Additionally, it’s a great price on Amazon for the quantity and quality of the product.
While the formula is completely tasteless and mixes well in water, some reviewers note that the smell of the powder is so overpowering that it is hard to get it down.
Clean Machine Unflavored BCAA
Clean Machine is the perfect choice for the natural-food athlete - made from whole-food ingredients like fermented non-GMO corn, coconut water, and sunflower seeds, this unflavored formula mixes well with any protein shake, pre-workout, or post-workout drink.
The coconut water provides natural electrolytes, and sunflower lecithin instantizes the powder for easy mixing.
The blend is soy free, gluten free, non-GMO, and free of sweeteners, preservatives, additives, and synthetics for a zero carb, zero sugar supplement.
This product is on the expensive end of this list, and some reviewers note that the bitterness of the “unflavored” powder is very pronounced, which makes it hard to mix with certain beverages.
What We Love
This supplement is really about what it doesn’t contain versus what it does - reviewers appreciate that all ingredients in this vegan BCAA supplement are non-GMO, all-natural, and free of synthetic or chemical additives.
Many reviewers noted a decrease in muscle soreness after taking this product, between the added BCAAs, as well as the electrolytes from the coconut water.
Even though this brand is unflavored, many reviewers note that the supplement is extremely bitter. It pays to be choosy when mixing this formula with certain beverages, and a strong-tasting beverage will help mask this taste.
Solgar BCAA Plus Vegetable Capsules
For those who can’t be bothered with powders and find tablets hard to digest, Solgar makes an easy-to-take soft gel capsule made completely from plant-based ingredients.
With the usual BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, the Solgar formula also includes a dose of vitamin B6, an important factor in amino acid metabolism.
The soft gels are 100% vegan, gluten free, and kosher parve.
Each bottle contains 100 vegetable-based capsules, and each serving consists of two soft gels.
Athletes are recommended to take 1-3 servings of these capsules daily, depending on workout intensity and duration.
Reviewers note that these capsules are fast-absorbing, easy to take and boost energy levels.
What We Love
It can be difficult to find a soft gel capsule that doesn’t contain animal-based gelatin, so we - and many reviewers - appreciate being able to take a convenient capsule while adhering to a plant-based diet.
Additionally, this purity of the formula is top tier - it contains no unnecessary additives, preservatives, or sweeteners along with the BCAAs.
This product gets mixed reviews from some purchasers - while it works wonders for some, many people note that they aren’t sure if the pills are particularly effective, as they don’t notice any change in recovery time or energy levels.
BCAAs for the Vegan Athlete
Whether you’re an endurance runner or bodybuilder, every athlete, vegan or otherwise, can benefit from the healing powers of plant-based vegan BCAAs.
Decreasing recovery time, facilitating muscle growth, transporting oxygen throughout the body, and helping build RNA and DNA, the building blocks of life, BCAA supplements are a high-quality, inexpensive addition to any supplement lineup for the moderate or serious athlete.
By keeping a few simple guidelines in mind, you can choose a BCAA supplement that will not only treat your body well but will help you squeeze every ounce of benefits from your workout, all while keeping in line with your cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle.