Being an endurance athlete means you require a steady supply of energy and nutrients to allow you to push harder for longer.
No matter if you’re a long-distance runner, cycler, swimmer, cross-country skier, or triathlon athlete, you don’t want to be having too many highs and lows. These can leave you feeling wrecked and too fatigued to see the goal through.
How can BCAAs help?
A BCAA supplement feeds your body with amino acids that are essential for energy metabolism and sustaining muscle function, as well as reducing cramps and other issues that can prevent you from reaching the finish line.
Adding a high-quality BCAA supplement before a bout of extended physical exertion can enhance your performance, and give you the edge over your competition.
Here are our top picks for 2021!
Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA
Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine
National Bodybuilding Co. Pro Contest BCAA
Why are BCAAs important?
Branched-chain amino acids or more commonly BCAAs are popular supplements and ergogenic aids amongst athletes and those looking to pack on muscle. Amino acids such as BCAAs are essential for creating protein, which is vital for performance and lean tissue growth.
BCAAs consist of three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, valine. These help to speed up muscle healing after long and arduous exercise – providing your body with raw materials to lower inflammation for quicker recovery.
However, BCAAs aren’t for everyone! Those who don’t train hard may not need to supplement BCAAs at all. An average person gets enough BCAAs through meats and other rich food sources. This is part of the reason why BCAAs remain more of a niche supplement compared to your whey protein, even with their recent rise in popularity.
But, utilized by the right individual – such as an endurance athlete – BCAAs can provide massive benefits for your training and competitions.
Benefits of BCAAs for endurance athletes
As your body breaks down muscle amino acids and proteins – such as by exercising for extended periods of time – having a steady supply of BCAAs helps to maintain your physical and mental performance, and prevents muscle loss.
Taking BCAAs before and endurance exercise will help you;
- Sustain elevated muscle performance for longer
- Help repair and build more quickly, allowing for more frequent endurance training sessions
- Experience fewer symptoms during and after endurance training, including soreness, muscle cramps, and fatigue amongst others
A look at the science
Looking at the studies, what are some key endurance benefits you can expect from using BCAAs?
In a 2019 review, researchers found evidence that BCAAs help delay onset muscle soreness after training. Another 2017 review noted that using BCAAs long-term may help lower your overall muscle damage from exercise. This essentially means BCAA help to prolong your longevity in endurance sports.
Another 2019 review compiled evidence showing the muscle protein synthesis benefits of BCAAs, while also noting that other amino acids too are important for muscle building. In other words, you can’t expect BCAAs to do all the legwork for you – stacking them with a nutrient-dense diet will always bring you the best results!
How we rate BCAA supplements
Our top 3 athlete-approved BCAA supplements have been thoroughly researched, tested, and reviewed according to our strict criteria.
As an endurance athlete, here’s what you will want to look (out!) for in a BCAA supplement.
- Testimonials – we only feature brands with excellent customer reviews and high authority in the industry.
- Value for money – a good price for BCAA is around 12-16 cents per gram, although it can still make the list if the ingredients are top-notch quality!
- Amino acid ratio – BCAAs need to come in 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine for optimal ergogenic effects. Cheaper, less effective products tend to skimp here.
- Bioavailability -A BCAA supplement will ideally use fermented BCAAs so your body recognizes it as nature-identical.
The 3 of The Best BCAA Supplements on the Market in 2021
Here they are – the year’s top choices in the BCAA category, specifically for endurance athletes.
1. Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is our number #1 pick because it has a clean, premium-quality formula with a unique twist – delivering NutriGenesis® BCAAs in the ideal research-backed ratio. Plus, it comes in capsules which makes it the most convenient BCAA supplement we’ve trialed yet.
Each serving of SPORT BCAA supplies you with:
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine), 2:1:1, 3000 mg
- L-Leucine 1500 mg (Ajipure® 1450 mg + NutriGenesis® 50 mg)
- L-Isoleucine 750 mg (Ajipure® 725 mg + NutriGenesis® 25 mg)
- L-Valine 750 mg (Ajipure® 725 mg + NutriGenesis® 25 mg)
This ingredient profile is completely different from any other BCAA supplement right now.
Ajipure is the golden standard, patented form of fermented BCAAs.
As for NutriGenesis®? It’s a nutrition technology developed by Opti-Nutra, the makers of Performance Lab BCAA. NutriGenesis® is the process Opti-Nutra uses to grow nutrients on probiotic yeast and bacteria – resulting in fermented, nature-identical BCAAs as they occur in foods.
Combined together, AjiPure® and NutriGenesis® represent the two best forms of BCAAs that are available on the market today, with superior absorption and sustained delivery. They reach your bloodstream faster and provide some impressive ergogenic benefits.
Key advantages of SPORT BCAA:
- Boosts growth, inhibits muscle breakdown
- Energizes and sustains athletic performance
- Improves endurance levels by blocking fatigue-inducing brain chemicals
- Reloads muscle nutrient stores for faster recovery
- Healthy for daily use – strengthens immunity against physical strain and supports athletic longevity
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA nutrient combination is especially effective for supporting prolonged physical exertion, such as endurance exercise.
Clean delivery is another advantage;
Performance Lab BCAA’s ingredients are delivered in plant-based NutriCaps®. The ingredients are made from 100% fermented tapioca (natural pullaulan), which makes them easy to digest. The sleek, ultra-modern bottle design adds to the overall positive impression.
One obvious drawback of using so many high quality ingredients is that the price inevitably goes up. But if you can afford it, you’ll be getting your money’s worth.
While we had great results using Performance Lab SPORT BCAA alone, this supplement is designed to be stacked with other Performance Lab formulas – leading to even greater performance improvements.
Pricing, Dosage Recommendations, and Final Thoughts
Bear in mind that SPORT BCAA is officially sold only on Performance Lab’s website, though stolen batches can sometimes be found on Amazon (we don’t recommend buying these as you don’t know how long they’ve been sitting on the shelf). As annoying as this can be for bargain hunters, selling directly means you know you’re getting your product right from the source, and at a cheaper price, too (since there’s no middle man).
Price per bottle is $39, or $1.95 per daily serving.
When you buy 3 or more bottles of SPORT BCAA, you get 1 extra bottle for free (4 month’s worth of product in total), plus free tracked worldwide shipping. Breaking it further down, the 3+1 bottle deal will cost you only $29.25 per bottle. This makes the otherwise premium price a little less itchy!
As far as dosage recommendations go, here are the official instructions from Opti Nutra:
For best results take 2-4 BCAA NutriCaps® 45-60 mins pre-workout and 2-4 immediately post-workout. During intense training, you may take 2-4 additional NutriCaps® mid-way through your session.
- Features BCAAs in their optimal ratio (2:1:1)
- Sustains muscle nourishment, assists in post-exercise recovery
- Conveniently delivered in prebiotic-infused capsules
- Optimal ingredient doses in each serving (6 capsules)
- Features Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®, two of the industry-leading nutrition patents
- Cleanest quality – free of gluten, unnecessary fillers and dead weight, GMO ingredients, and additives
- Pricey due to expensive manufacturing costs
- Only available online, directly from the official website
Does Performance Lab Sport BCAA sound like it’s for you? Learn more on their official website:
2. Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine
Unlike Performance Lab SPORT BCAA’s, Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA Glutamine doesn’t come in capsules but in good old regular powder. The good news is, it’s naturally sweetened, vegan friendly, and packed with good amounts of the key ingredients.
This particular BCAA also comes with some great additions like extra glutamine and coconut water powder. Coconut water is an excellent source of muscle nourishing electrolytes which can be of particular importance when you’re under prolonged physical stress.
Free of synthetics, effective doses of proven ingredients, and trusted brand reputation, Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA will tick most of the essential boxes for endurance athletes.
Each serving packs 8 grams of quality BCAAs, along with 5g of L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine is more beneficial for HIIT enthusiasts as it’s depleted the most during short but intense bursts of exercise, which endurance sport is not. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to see it included here!
As well as the BCAAs, coconut powder and glutamine, you’re also getting a hefty 1,535mg of vitamin C, which is great for reducing muscle inflammation and hastening your recovery, but it may not be the best for endurance athletes. One study found it may hamper physical performance.
Key Advantages of Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine;
- Provides high dose of quality vegan Branched-chain amino acids, along with other essential sports ergogenics
- Free of artificial flavors, preservatives, or filler ingredients.
- We’ve found it to be the most effective BCAA supplement for muscle recovery out of all tested, although it’s not the best at boosting athletic capacity (due to vitamin C)
Pricing, Dosage Recommendations, and Final Thoughts
Transparent Labs BCAA will cost you $39 per tub, which yields 30 servings. For us, this is a fair price considering the cleanliness and quality of the supplement.
This is not overly complicated product, yet it will still appeal to many. CoreSeries BCAA gets a thumbs up from us for hitting the basics well and excelling in the recovery aspect.
- Highly effective at lowering muscle inflammation from strenuous exercise, contributing to faster healing
- Coconut powder and glutamine for superior nourishment and recovery
- True to its name, it’s a completely transparent supplement, free of proprietary blends
- No synthetic flavors or additives
- Great company reputation
- Flavor is a bit dull
- Uses vitamin C which, while boosting recovery, is shown to hamper physical performance
Interested in Transparent Labs CoreSeries BCAA? Get prices here:
3. National Bodybuilding Co. BCAA
National Bodybuilding Co. Pro Contest BCAA has been made to help you get the most from your exercise – no matter if you’re hitting the weights, or the pavement.
A relatively new brand, National Bodybuilding Co. Pro-Contest BCAA has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its ever-growing positive feedback online.
Alongside BCAAs, this product features some of the best sports-enhancing ingredients on the market that will be especially attractive for endurance athletes.
National Bodybuilding Co. BCAA has been meticulously dosed at 4,000mg per serving to ensure you get the ideal balance of performance-boosting amino acids Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine, along with L-Glutamine and vitamin B6 for energy metabolism.
The only downside to this product, compared to others on this list, is the inclusion of artificial sweeteners. But this may not even be a downside, depending on your view of synthetic sweeteners, which studies still don’t have a conclusive opinion on!
Key Advantages of National Bodybuilding Co. BCAA;
- Maximizes exercise performance. Alongside muscle-nourishing BCAAs, it has vitamin B6 which helps your body efficiently convert food you eat into energy.
- Extends endurance. At the dosage levels that are found in this supplement, BCAAs are shown to positively influence ATP production in your mitochondria, which is the part of the cell that makes energy. This means that National Bodybuilding Co. BCAA works particularly well at extending time to fatigue.
- Boosts muscle growth. Although not the biggest concern for endurance athletes, higher lean muscle density often goes hand in hand with improved overall performance, which National Bodybuilding Co. Pro Contest BCAA certainly delivers.
Pricing, Dosage Recommendations, and Final Thoughts
One tub, which yields you 45 servings, cost $38. This makes National Bodybuilding Co. BCAA the most affordable option on this list. If you don’t mind the synthetic sweeteners, it might just be the one for you.
Taking 1/2 a scoop of this BCAA before prolonged physical activity will help you perform better for longer. Adding another 1/2 a scoop after your workout will help you get back on your feet faster the next day (or the day after that if you really kicked butt!).
I’ve personally found Pro Contest BCAA to work best during CNS-taxing exercises, such as squats, bench press, and the like. Although, it helped me just as much when I did my first ever marathon in December 2020.
You can get Pro Contest BCAA in only one flavor – Fruit Punch. While there’s not many options (yet), the flavor itself is great. We didn’t notice any hints of artificial sweeteners, it tastes just like a naturally sweetened option would. It easily dissolves with a spoon, too!
- All-around great BCAA supplement made for all types of athletes
- Research-backed ingredient profile
- Excellent serving sizes
- Produced by currently one of the fastest growing sports supplement companies
- Contains sucralose
- Only 1 flavor option
- Only sells from the National Bodybuilding Co.’s website
Sound like the one for you? Check Pro Contest BCAA over on their official website:
How to use BCAAs as an endurance athlete?
As an endurance athlete, you will want to take BCAAs as you would do with any exercise regimen. Before and during the workout is the best time to take BCAAs. This will help keep your muscles topped up with the essential amino acids, which will help you squeeze a few extra minutes (or more) of high-level physical activity – including training and competitions.
The exact dosage varies from brand to brand, and obviously, the supplement’s serving size. Make sure to read the label of the product and never exceed the maximum allowed dosage!
BCAAs will work best for competitive endurance athletes, people on a calorie deficit, and those who don’t get enough essential amino acids from their diet alone.
That concludes our guide on the best BCAA for endurance athletes.
We’ve inspected over 30 branched-chain amino acid supplements in the past year, comparing them against each other in categories such as: price, ingredient quality, effectiveness, and taste. Using our rigorous set of criteria, we were able to put together a list of what we believe are the very best BCAA supplements for endurance athletes you can buy today.
At the moment, Performance Lab SPORT BCAA stands head and shoulders above the rest, because of it’s incredible quality, streamlined formula, and nature-identical branched-chain amino acids.
Transparent Lab CoreSeries BCAA is our favorite option for athletes who specifically want faster recovery from training and competitions. It features ingredients like coconut powder and vitamin C alongside branched-chain amino acids which work together to reduce post-exercise inflammation and promote healing.
Finally, National Bodybuilding Co. Pro Contest BCAA is the most affordable of the bunch, providing 45 servings per tub for only $38. Again, if you don’t mind the artificial sweetener sucralose, you’ll love this one.
With all being said, there’s not a huge difference between these BCAA supplements. As long as you combine them with proper rest and a nutrient-dense diet, all three of them can give you the endurance edge you’re looking for.