You don't have to be a bodybuilder or an athlete to benefit from amino acid or branch-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, providing your body with the means for cell growth and repair and contributing to overall health. This fast-growing market is estimated to value almost $50 billion globally by 2030.
If you are among the nearly 50% of Americans trying to lose weight, amino acid supplementation may contribute to your goals. These supplements are generally taken during workouts to help your body build muscle and improve athletic performance, which can help you lose weight and keep it off longer. They can also boost your endurance and reduce post-workout soreness and fatigue.
All amino acid supplements are not created equally, however. This guide breaks down the top six amino acid supplements of 2023 based on their effectiveness, cost, safety, and customer satisfaction.
If you don't have time to read our complete guide, glance over our top picks below.
Not only is it a highly potent and top-quality product, but Thorne’s supplement is the only one certified for sport.
Vegan-friendly and available in two tasty flavors, this powder packs the punch athletes are looking for. Plus, you’re protected by a 60-day money-back guarantee if dissatisfied.
We considered four primary criteria to evaluate our top choices in amino acid supplements: quality, cost, safety, and customer service and satisfaction. Understanding how our top picks performed in these categories can help you decide which product is best for you.
Winner: Thorne Amino Complex
When buying any supplement, quality should always be the highest priority. Yes, everyone wants to save money, but buying a product that doesn't work is ultimately a waste. Purchasing a product composed of top-quality ingredients that are certifiably safe and rigorously tested is the best option. Based on these criteria, Thorne Amino Complex is our clear winner.
Thorne Amino Complex is the most comprehensive amino acid supplement among the competition, providing 11 amino acids and potent dosages of the three BCAAs. It’s third-party tested to comply with NSF certification, so if you're an athlete, you can safely take this supplement knowing it meets the gold standard of quality and contains no banned substances.
Thorne manufactures its products in a cGMP (certified good manufacturing practices) facility in the United States and provides free shipping on all products within the U.S. It supplies a 60-day, 100% money-back guarantee to top off its customer satisfaction qualities. If you're not satisfied, contact Thorne’s customer service for a full refund.
Winner: Naked BCAAs
Cost is our second key qualifier when choosing supplements or healthcare products. When we look at cost, we compare the quality of what we're getting to what we're willing to spend on it. Most of our top picks for amino acid supplements are reasonably priced, but Naked BCAAs stands out as the most cost-effective choice.
Naked Nutrition's BCAA formula provides three branched-chain amino acids, sunflower lecithin, and nothing else. This fully transparent company provides exact ingredient amounts and includes no fillers, artificial flavors, or sweeteners in its products. Plus, Naked BCAAs is vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and free of soy and dairy.
Winner: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine
Safety is an important consideration when buying any dietary supplement, in large part because the FDA regulates these products differently than conventional foods and drugs. When considering safety among amino acid supplements, we considered the following factors:
We're proud to report that all of our top six picks for amino acid supplements fared well in terms of safety. Ultimately, we chose Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine as the winner in this category based on its clear labeling of ingredient amounts and its inclusion of high-quality fermented BCAAs, glutamine, and coconut water for added hydration.
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine also won us over on taste: we enjoyed every flavor we tried. If the taste of other powders turns you off, Transparent Labs offers five stevia-sweetened fruit flavors that ultimately change the game.
Winner: Thorne Amino Complex
Customer service and satisfaction are essential considerations when buying dietary supplements because not everything works for everyone. Strong customer satisfaction means that you can get a full refund when you invest in a supplement that isn't right for you.
Three of our top picks for amino acid supplements provide 100% money-back guarantees. Even among those three, however, the levels of customer service varied. Thorne provided the most straightforward process for returns with a full refund within 60 days. Moreover, it was easy to communicate with customer service representatives via chat, phone, or email.
Thorne is also the only brand among our picks that offers free shipping on all orders in the US. When you consider the shipping costs of lower-priced brands, this brings Thorne Amino Complex into a closer range in terms of price.
The chart below shows how our top recommendations compare in terms of cost, transparency, ingredients, safety, and customer assurance. Your product choice will depend upon your lifestyle, budget, and dietary needs.
These price comparisons are based on single purchases of each product and do not account for subscription plans or bulk purchases, which can often earn significant savings.
Amino acid supplements, particularly BCAA supplements, have appealed to athletes and bodybuilders for years based on their beneficial effects on building muscle while reducing muscle soreness and fatigue during workouts. Today, the market has exploded due to the product’s widespread appeal to the general population.
Amino acid supplements have several benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike, including:
Due to their recovery and cell development abilities, amino acid supplements can even aid those with chronic liver diseases, certain cancers, diabetes, and other conditions, as demonstrated in this 2018 study.
In short, amino acid supplements are a good choice for you if your health goals include:
Not all supplements are equal, so we tried to include a wide variety of products in our top-six list. If you're vegan, you'll want to ensure that your supplement contains no animal byproducts. Five of our top picks are vegan-friendly, but many products are not.
If you have any food allergies, you should talk to your physician or dietician before taking any new supplement, these products included. You'll also want to check the labeling carefully to see if the product is manufactured in a facility that produces any known allergens.
Because amino acid supplements can impact blood glucose levels, they may interfere with diabetes or thyroid medications. If you're taking any ongoing medications or have a chronic medical condition, you should consult your doctor before beginning any new dietary supplement.
Amino acid supplements are inappropriate for children under 18 and pregnant or lactating individuals.
Amino acids are molecules that the body uses in forming proteins essential for bodily functions, including:
There are three types of amino acids, which we’ll discuss in-depth below:
Essential amino acids are those we have to attain from dietary and supplement sources because our bodies can’t produce them. Naturally, these are the kind that amino acid supplements focus on contributing. There are nine essential amino acids, including:
Essential amino acids are naturally derived from food sources, many of which are protein-rich meats. You’ll find essential amino acids in:
Complete proteins (like the first eight items on the list above) are foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. On the other hand, incomplete proteins have some — but not all — essential amino acids. These foods include nuts, seeds, beans, and some grains.
Vegetarians and vegans need to combine a variety of incomplete proteins to attain all of the essential amino acids in their daily diet. Amino acid supplementation can help ensure those with restricted diets still get all the protein-making compounds they need for optimal health.
Our bodies can produce nonessential amino acids, which include:
These amino acids are mostly made from glucose and support tissue growth, immune function, red blood cell creation, and hormonal regulation, among other tasks.
When we’re sick or stressed, our bodies stop producing some nonessential amino acids. These conditional amino acids include:
Since these conditional amino acids are still important to keep our body functioning, boosting your levels with an amino acid supplement when you’re not feeling well can help you get back on track faster.
While not formally a separate kind of amino acid, many over-the-counter amino acid supplements focus on BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids. These consist of three essential amino acids:
BCAAs are among the top supplements for bodybuilders and athletes because they support muscle growth and tissue regeneration and have also demonstrated the ability to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in clinical trials.
BCAA supplements focus on the three essential branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) in a 2:1:1 ratio for optimum muscle growth and repair during and after workouts. More generalized amino acid supplements contain varying amounts of the nine essential amino acids, with some including other nonessential and conditional amino acids.
It's key to keep your health and fitness goals in mind when buying an amino acid supplement. If your focus is on bulking up at the gym, BCAAs are generally the way to go. But suppose you'd like a greater variety of amino acids for overall health. In that case, we'd recommend choosing a product like Thorne Amino Complex, which provides 11 different kinds, including BCAAs, essential, and conditional amino acids.
All amino acids provide the materials needed for your body to build protein and function. Vegans or vegetarians may benefit from generalized amino acid supplements because these products cover the ground that protein-rich meats would otherwise provide in an omnivorous diet.
The first benefit you’ll likely see when beginning an amino acid supplement is improved muscle gain from working out. Your endurance and strength may increase, allowing for longer, more intense training sessions. Amino acid supplements also help balance blood glucose levels, so you may experience lower or more stable blood sugar.
A big benefit of these supplements is their impact after working out. Amino acid supplements can significantly decrease post-workout fatigue and muscle aches within initial use. Over time, their supplementation will contribute to a more muscular physique.
Amino acid supplements can also have beneficial effects on:
Amino acid supplements are generally safe for non-pregnant, non-lactating adults. They produce few side effects, but those that can occur include:
Because amino acid supplements impact blood glucose levels, it’s essential to talk to your doctor before use if you take diabetes medications or have any chronic medical condition.
These products should not be used by children under 18.
Best overall and best for athletes
Thorne Amino Complex was our overall winner based on several criteria. This powder formula packs more punch than almost any supplement on the market, providing 11 amino acids — including the three BCAAs — to boost energy and promote muscle growth and repair. Thorne Amino Complex comes in two tasty flavors (lemon and berry), lightly sweetened with stevia. It is also the only supplement among our top picks that is NSF Certified for Sport based on third-party testing, proving it is free of any substance banned by major athletic organizations.
While most of the supplements on our list are transparent about specific ingredients and quantities in every capsule or scoop, Thorne Amino Complex is among the best. It clearly states that each serving provides the following amino acids:
With BCAAs topping its ingredients, Thorne Amino Complex provides the following benefits:
Thorne offers a subscription membership program that earns up to 20% savings on orders. By enrolling in this program, you’ll save 10% off each refill, and if you subscribe to three or more products, you’ll earn 20% savings. However, this discount does not apply to the initial product or bundle purchase. The pricing below is based on a 30-day serving (one container).
Thorne provides free U.S. ground shipping on all orders. Expedited shipping and international shipping charges are calculated during checkout.
Runner-up overall and best tasting
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine is a post-workout recovery supplement containing three blocked-chain amino acids with glutamine and coconut water to support hydration, metabolism, and immune function. It is gluten-free, non-GMO, and contains no artificial preservatives, coloring, or sweeteners. We chose Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine as our overall runner-up and best tasting, as it offers five fruit flavors naturally sweetened with stevia that surpass most brands.
Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine contains just five ingredients and ten calories in each 19.65g scoop, but they carry a lot of heft. This amino acid supplement contains a significant amount of glutamine, which promotes healthy metabolism and immune function in clinical studies.
Transparent Labs BCAA’s full ingredient list includes:
Additional ingredients vary depending on flavor but generally include citric acid, stevia, and natural flavors. Transparent Labs BCAA supplements include only premium fermented vegan BCAAs.
Transparent Labs BCAA promotes the following health benefits:
Transparent Labs currently only offers BCAA Glutamine as a one-time purchase with no subscription or bulk savings options. However, you can save money by purchasing this product as part of Transparent Labs' bundles. One container with 30 days’ worth of servings costs $39.99, or $1.33 per daily serving.
Buying from the company website ensures a 60-day customer satisfaction guarantee, and all orders over $99 include free shipping in the US. Shipping for orders under $99 starts at $7.99.
Best budget pick (powder) and best for vegans (powder)
Naked Nutrition is a company dedicated to transparency, providing pure ingredients without fillers, added flavors, or proprietary blends. In Naked BCAAs, you get a vegan powder with three potent branched-chain amino acids in effective doses. This keto-friendly, GMO-free, and gluten-free blend leaves no questions about its efficacy or transparency. It won our vote for the most affordable vegan option on the market.
Naked BCAAs leave no guessing to the buyer. This supplement contains just four ingredients, which include:
Like other BCAA supplements, Naked BCAAs supplies the protein building blocks needed to help your body recover from intense workouts and build muscle strength. Its full benefits include:
Naked BCAAs blows away the competition in terms of price. Each 1.1lb tub contains 100 servings, making its daily serving less than half the cost of most other brands. You can earn additional savings by enrolling in Naked Nutrition's subscription program, which takes 20% off your first shipment and 10% off subsequent shipments.
Naked provides free U.S. shipping on all orders over $99. For orders under $99, shipping starts at $7.00.
Best budget pick (capsules)
Life Extension Branched Chain Amino Acids comes in a capsule formula that's easy to carry to the gym, so you can always take it before or during your workout. For people who can't stomach powders and don't mind taking four capsules daily, Life Extension provides three potent BCAAs at an affordable price.
Life Extension’s Branched Chain Amino Acids provides all three BCAAs in each four-capsule dose. It contains:
This product, like most BCAAs, is an intra- and post-workout supplement supporting:
There are approximately 22 daily servings in each $15 bottle of Life Extension Branched Chain Amino Acids. Life Extension offers an AutoShip membership which reduces your price by 10%, dropping the daily cost to 61 cents.
Enrolling in Life Extension’s AutoShip membership eliminates all shipping costs. For single purchases, shipping starts at $5.50 for standard shipping and goes up for expedited or international orders.
If you want to know more about Life Extension’s other products, check out our full review.
Best for building muscle
Some studies show that fermented BCAAs are more readily absorbed by the body during workouts, making them more effective as an intra-workout muscle repair supplement. Jacked Factory BCAA - Fermented uses this fermentation to boost the amino acid’s natural effectiveness, which is ideal for those who want to bulk up and enjoy intense training sessions. It comes in a tasty, vegan-friendly powder formula with a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to valine and isoleucine in high amounts.
Jacked Factory BCAA - Fermented contains just three ingredients in potent quantities for intra-workouts. It includes:
With a 2:1:1 ratio of these three ingredients, Jacked Factory BCAA - Fermented provides the following benefits:
Jacked Factory offers a subscription program with 25% off your first order and 15% off subsequent orders. This quickly drops the price of BCAA - Fermented from an already-affordable 67 cents per daily serving to 61 cents.
Jacked Factory does not provide free shipping on single or subscription orders. For orders to the United States, shipping is $9.99 and upward.
Best for vegans (capsules)
NOW Sports provides a powder formula and capsules for its Branched-Chain Amino Acids, both at a reasonable price. We tested the capsules, which were convenient to take at the gym during workouts for added endurance and muscle recovery. NOW Branched-Chain Amino Acids are an Informed Sport certified product, meaning that each batch is third-party tested to ensure it contains no banned substances.
NOW Branched-Chain Amino Acids is less transparent than many brands regarding its ingredients. It contains:
This supplement supports:
NOW Sports products are widely available from pharmacies, big box stores, and online retailers. Ordering directly from the company earns savings when ordering in bulk, but NOW Sports does not provide a subscription option.
Shipping on single orders costs $6.95 in the contiguous U.S. NOW Sports provides free shipping on all orders over $50.
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