Best Amino Acid Supplements For Muscle Growth & Protein Absorption
Are you looking for a way to boost your muscle growth? How about a way to improve your endurance during workouts? Or, do you just want to minimise the time you spend in pain after an intense workout? It sounds like you are in need of an amino acid boost.
Supplements that supply amino acids are not only able to provide these benefits but also ensure you get the full use out of your daily protein consumption. There are a surprising number of factors to take into account when buying amino acid supplements, which can make the process frustrating. In this review article, we’ll give you a helping hand by recommending some of our favourite products.
Scivation XTend BCAA
Glutamine and Citrulline Malate included
BSN Amino X
10 g of BCAA per serving
Optimum Nutrition, Essential AmiN.O
Provides almost all essential amino acids
BPI Sports Best BCAA
Oligopeptide-Enzymatic TechnologyⓇ for fast absorption
Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy
Complete workout aide supplement
Best 5 Amino Acid Supplements
It’s clear from the get-go that XTend is a serious amino acid supplement for those who are serious about building muscle. Each serving of XTend comes with 7 g of the scientifically studied 2:1:1 BCAA Matrix, which is 2 g more than most other similar supplements. It comes with another two stars of the amino acid spectrum: Glutamine (2.5 g) and Citrulline Malate (1 g) to round off your 14 g serving.
Glutamine and Citrulline Malate make up the other two sides of the holy amino acid triangle along with BCAAs. Glutamine plays a key role in protein metabolism and muscle synthesis, which promotes muscle recovery and growth. At the same time, Citrulline Malate improves energy by promoting blood flow and energy derived from breathing. As you can imagine, this helps boost your workout, results and recovery.
It also includes an electrolyte blend to boost stamina and combat dehydration. Lastly, it comes with a decent amount of Vitamin B6. You will also be glad to know it’s completely calorie and carb free. This is truly a performance product.
On a per serving basis, BSN Amino X provides the biggest dose of amino acids of all the products on this list. Per 14.5 g serving, you get a whopping 10 g of their “Amino Acid Interfusion,” which consists of a typical Micronised BCAA blend as well as the other crucial amino acids L-Alanine, Taurine and L-Citrulline. If upping your amino acid intake is your primary concern, you can’t go wrong with Amino X.
You also get 2 g of their Efforsorb™ EnDura Composite, which is a mix of citric and malic acid as well as sodium bicarbonate and cholecalciferol. Citric and malic acid help to relieve pain from muscle breakdown, give a small energy boost and even speed up your metabolism. As a bonus, it comes with your total daily Vitamin D requirement.
This is a 0 calorie product, and it has a negligible amount of carbs. You can choose from a number of interesting flavours like Coca-Cola, watermelon and Cherry Cola. You get 30 servings per container, but keep in mind that they recommend two servings a day for the best results. The good thing for those in a rush is that you can take it before, during or after your workout.
Optimum Nutrition is one of the biggest and most trusted supplement suppliers around, and whenever we write a review like this, we make sure to try out some of its products. We’re happy to report that it has once again delivered a great product for those who want an amino acid supplement to boost their workouts and recovery. It makes use of micronised free-form amino acids, which absorb faster.
The list of amino acids included is huge, and all of the most important ones are accounted for like Taurine, L-Glutamine, CarnoSynⓇ (Bea-Alanine), L-Arginine and more. It’s safe to say your muscles will have all the recovery support they need. Each 9 g serving also comes with 100 mg of naturally sourced caffeine for a kickstart. However, there is a small footprint of 10 calories and 2 g carbs.
Normally, a single 585 g container comes with 65 servings. However, they recommend that you adjust your servings to 4 or 6 scoops (split across your workout) according to your workout intensity. It’s one of the more expensive products on our list, but as it contains 14 amino acids and 8 essential amino acids, it’s worth the price.
BPI Sports is another one of the trustworthy brands that we turn to for high-quality sports supplements. Best BCAA is also a favourite among most fitness bloggers and review sites. The “Advanced” BCAA blend delivers 5 g of BCAA in the standard 2:1:1 blend. However, it utilises Oligopeptide-Enzymatic TechnologyⓇ, which is scientifically proven to be a more efficient mechanism of absorption and intake.
This product doesn’t rely on caffeine for an energy boost, so factor that into your buying decision. However, it does come with CLA Matrix (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which is also a caffeine-free weight control supplement and is said also to promote lean muscle.
The quick absorption of the BCAAs should help you shake off muscle pain sooner after workouts, and the addition of CLA is great if you are on a cutting program or want to control your weight. The arctic ice flavour has a blueberry-ish taste that effectively masks the chemical taste of these types of products and renders the drink quite palatable.
BCAA Energy is an all-in-one Amino Acid supplement that boosts energy, endurance and mental focus. It also helps you recover post workout. Each 9 g serving comes packed with 5 g of BCAAs, 500 mg of CamoSynⓇ Beta-Alanine, 500 mg L-Alanine and 500 mg Taurine as well as Vitamin C, B6 and B12. The energy boost comes from natural caffeine derived from coffee beans and green tea extract. Despite all this, it contains 0 carbs and 0 calories.
The 2:1:1 blend of BCAAs present in this product is standard because it’s one of the most effective BCAA blends around. However, this product is more than just an amino acid supplement. It will help you with your entire workout from the moment you start until you are in recovery mode.
You can choose from 15 flavours, making this one of the most varied products regarding taste. All the ones we tried had s slight chemical taste which is slightly unpleasant. The natural caffeine provides a slight boost in energy and focus without being overwhelming. Your particular caffeine tolerance will play a big role.
As you can see, there is a lot of personal preference involved in choosing the perfect amino acid supplement for you. You should take the time to consider which benefits are the most important to you.
If you feel like you need an energy boost and an increase in clarity before a workout, you should go with something like the Evlution Nutrition BCAA Energy or Optimum Nutrition Essential Amin.O. If you prefer a more gradual increase in your endurance, the non-caffeinated products might be more appropriate.
Similarly, if you feel like you are especially sore and stiff post-workout, you might want to go with BSN Amino X, which includes a composite just for this purpose. The BPI Sports Best BCAA can even help you to slightly speed up your metabolism and develop leaner muscles.
Overall, we liked the Scivation XTend BCAA most because we felt it was the best all-rounder. It provides an above-average amount of amino acids (7g per serving) as well as Glutamine and Citrulline Malate, which both comes with fantastic benefits of their own.
Buyer’s Guide to Amino Acid Supplements
What are Amino Acids?
It might surprise you to know that there are 20 different types of amino acids. Most of these are present in our bodies and form part of the basic building blocks of protein that make up our muscular tissue. As such, they are essential ingredients when it comes to building up protein, especially after breaking it down during something like intense exercise.
Our bodies can produce 11 of these 20 amino acids, the other 9 are called essential amino acids, and we can only get them from our food sources. These 9 amino acids can also be found in amino acid supplements.
What you need to look for in an amino acid supplement
Of all the free amino acids, Glutamine is the one most commonly found throughout the body. You can almost think of it as the cement holding your muscles together, as 61% of skeletal muscle consists of it. Therefore, it’s vital in the process of protein metabolism and synthesis ( the process of building muscle after breakdown). Taking in extra Glutamine also stops muscle fatigue as less of your actual reserves are used up.
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
BCAA is a term used to refer to three specific amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. All three of these occur naturally in foods like eggs and meat. They are known to promote muscle growth over the short and long-term and to reduce fatigue that results from muscle breakdown. BCAAs are most commonly used in a 2(leucine):1(isoleucine):1(valine) matrix.
For amino acids to be genuinely useful and provide you with all their benefits they need to be absorbed quickly. This starts the muscle protein synthesis process immediately. Two common forms in which BCAAs are made for quick absorption are micronised form and Oligopeptides.
Amino acids help reduce fatigue after workouts. However, many products introduce caffeine to the mix to give you energy and focus boost before exercise. This effect might be magnified or lessened by your caffeine tolerance. Some people like the energy boost while others don’t. Just ensure that the caffeine comes from natural sources like coffee beans or green tea leaves.
Just as they use caffeine to boost energy, amino acid supplements might also incorporate other supplements to offer some additional benefit. These can vary from a weight control supplement like CLA to agmatine sulfate to caffeine. Whatever is included, make sure you research each ingredient based on its own merit and what side effects it may have.
Although they aren’t chemical compounds, amino acids can have a strong, tacky taste that can only be described as “chemical.” This is the reason why amino acid supplements are flavoured. Even then, some flavourings are more effective than others. Check customer feedback and try to taste a few different flavours yourself before you settle on one that works for you.
As with all supplements, you should check the serving size as well as the cost per serving to calculate whether or not a product is worth it for you. Don’t always take the number of servings at face value as they can sometimes refer to scoops whereas a serving would consist of multiple scoops.