Do you like the fresh taste of flavorless dehydrated powder in the morning?
Me neither! While branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplements can be a great way to give yourself some nutrition during a fast, they’re so awful tasting that even many competitive bodybuilders end up cheating and stuffing their faces during an alleged fast.
Faced with this challenge, I set out to find the best tasting BCAA for intermittent fasting.
Benefits of BCAA Supplements
There has to be some reason that we’ve all choked down BCAA supplements whenever we tried to spend a few days getting into competitive shape. When you diet, muscle loss occurs because the body increases how much protein you breakdown. Since your muscles are made of protein, if you go on a hardcore fast they’ll start to break apart to keep the rest of you nourished.
According to Layne Norton PhD, a biochemist and nutritional researcher who also happens to be a beast in the gym, BCAAs help you hold onto your muscles by providing your with the amino acids the rest of your body’s cell needs (1). His research even suggests that you might be able to increase muscle mass if you use BCAAs in combination with a good fasting and diet regimen coupled with the right kind of physical training.
Dr. Norton also found that BCAA supplementation can reduce the amount tryptophan that makes it through the blood-brain barrier, so you won’t feel as fatigued when you engage in a real rough workout.
A study from the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 made the same claims, namely that wise use of BCAAs can help you have better workouts with less fatigue (2). If you’ve been unable to keep weight off after you’ve worked so hard to loose it, then this might be the perfect option for you.
This was the reason I put up with the foul taste of this stuff forever, but honestly I always wanted to cheat and either not take the stuff or eat some solid food. Fortunately, there’s a much better way.
Things to Look for When Buying BCAAs
Not all supplements are created equally. BCAAs technically include certain compounds, but some manufacturers either fill their products full of cheap fillers or contain other things.
Chiropractor and nutritional expert Winston Greene wrote that you need the right amino acids because they each have different metabolic routes (3). Sound complex and weird? I thought so too, but the concept is really simple.
Some BCAA compounds deal with carbs like the sugars I needed to get out of my diet years ago while leucine deals with fat. One of these acids deal with both. Chinese physicians demonstrated this a little while back (4). The best thing to do is look for all three of these terms on the supplement label:
- Valine, which goes to carbs
- Leucine, which goes with fat
- Isoleucine, which metabolizes both
As long as the product you’re looking for has all three, you should be set. However, the finest quality supplement could still taste about as good as chalk so if you’re anything like me you’ll be looking at something more than just a list of chemical names.
How to Choose the Best Tasting BCAA Supplement
One study conducted by a bunch of coaches in Japan claimed that adding L-ornithine or L-arginine to BCAA powder made it taste less like sand (5). Scientists who worked on the study claimed that these compounds somehow tricked tastebuds into accepting the nastiness these supplements are known for (6). You could look for something that has them in there.
Most people, myself included, will want to find something that has a good taste to begin with.
One thing I found that seems to help is to look for slightly unusual flavors. Chocolate or cocoa powders sound great, and sometimes they are, but a lot of times they have this weird chalky taste. I’ve had some good luck with watermelon-flavored ones, which really kind of surprised me because I wouldn’t have thought of it.
Best Way to Make BCAAs Palatable
While I usually use BCAAs as a post-workout hunger-quencher during intermittent fasts, plenty of guys use them before their workouts. Either is okay, and it really depends on what works best for you.
On leg day or any other time I’m going to really hit the gym hard, I actually have a sports bottle full of BCAA mix next to me along with my water. I don’t notice the bad taste as much that way.
The jury is still out on whether or not it helps to drink them while lifting, but they might according to Australian science guru Dr. Krissy Kendall (7). Either way, drinking plenty of water with them isn’t just healthy, it also helps me stay full so I don’t violate my fast. The extra water helps them stay a bit more palatable too.
Some people have tried mixing theirs with something else. One dude on YouTube tried putting BCAA powder in tea of all things:
Fortunately, I’ve found a few I don’t have to worry about disguising as much. I still mix them into milk or my protein shake to help reduce any leftover bitterness, though.
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BCAA Product Taste Reviews
PUSH Pre-workout Powder
Sold in both fruit punch and lemon lime flavors, PUSH powder tastes much better than many other competing products because it comes packed with stevia leaf extract and some other natural flavoring agents. If you’re concerned about increased caloric intake, then rest assured that none of these sweeteners or anything else added is going to send the level of calories you get skyrocketing. There’s no added sugars or animal products, so you should be fine with this non-dairy BCAA supplement. Since it’s made for real gym performance, the developer included some fairly high doses of all three amino acids that you’re looking for.
- Features only natural flavors
- Stronger than some other supplements
- Contains some additional vitamins
- More expensive than other options
- Sold in small pouches
- Some workout warriors might not want caffeine
BPI Sports BCAA Powder
This version of the venerable BPI powder blend has been around for a few years now, and they’ve taken that time to get all the bugs worked out of it. Remember how you should experiment with off-beat flavors? They sure took that advice and offer this creamier blend in so-called “Watermelon Ice,” “Blue Raspberry” and “Arctic Ice” flavors. All of them taste much less bitter than regular powders but still pack an amino-acid fueled punch that should help when you’re fasting.
- Fairly inexpensive
- Available in three different flavors
- Added natural oils for extra performance
- Taste might be too strong without enough water
- Heavy on the sweet-tasting side
- Feels a bit grainy
MuscleTech Amino Build
MuscleTech is one of the better-known names in the industry, and you’re probably familiar with their BCAA powders. The mango and orange hints in their fruit punch ones aren’t too bad, and taste like many sports drinks do. The designers of the so-called “Icy Rocket Freeze” and “Blue Raspberry” mixes went to extra lengths to hide away as much of the bitterness of these products as they could. You won’t find any fillers here, though it does use some artificial colors and flavors that you may not like. Discerning bodybuilders who don’t want creatine in their diet won’t find it added, however, which is a plus if you’re going on a specific type of fast and need to cut certain things out.
- No added stimulants
- Pretty inexpensive
- Super sweet to overcome BCAA bitterness
- Doesn’t mix well if not fresh
- Might overpower some palates
- Can be clumpy
Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder
Scivation’s BCAA powders have been around long enough for their prices to drop, but they’re still pretty popular with a lot of workout warriors. They used sucralose in it so that it could stay nice and sweet without exposing you to any of the problems that come with something like phenylalanine. It has decent levels of all three types of amino acids you’re looking for, so you can use it before or after your workout when you’re doing a fast. It doesn’t contain any carbohydrates, added sugars or anything else that could increase your caloric intake.
- Comes in a variety of flavors
- Formulated for recovery and muscle growth
- Includes additional electrolytes to improve overall hydration
- Some flavors taste better than others
- Need to mix real vigorously
- Has some slight metallic hints
Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000
Evlution Nutrition’s product comes in three flavors, and the pineapple has received the most attention among fans of it. Since this product is pretty pure with the exception of some added stimulants, you won’t need much to get the full effect even if you’ve been doing a fast for some time.
One heaping scoop mixed with water or juice should be plenty after a workout or about 30 minutes before. This can also make it a bit more cost effective than products that you have to use more of in order to get any benefits out of them. It’s a balanced formula that might be especially attractive to those who want to focus on recovery when they’re dealing with some of the feelings of weakness that come with an extended fasting period.
- Mixes really easily
- Comes in proven 2:1:1 BCAA ratio
- No residue
- Includes coffee bean extract
- Container isn’t airtight
- A bit too sweet
If you don’t mind opening your wallet a little bit in order to get the best tasting powder you can find, then you might want to look into the PUSH Pre-workout mix. It’s going to cost a little more, but you can really tell the difference as far as all those natural ingredients go.
While BCAA mixes are never going to taste all that great, they did a really good job making it more palatable so you’ll actually be able to stick to your fast and keep the weight off.
If you’re looking for something more reasonable you can buy in bigger bulk, then definitely look into Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 mix. It’s been popular with weekend workout types for a long time for a reason, and it’s tasty enough that you can also use it as part of an everyday regimen while you’re on a fast.
MuscleTech’s Amino Build is worth looking into if you’re on a strict budget. While it’s not a pure BCAA powder like the others, it’s still got all the amino acids you need without running up the price tag or tasting bitter.
1 – https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/bcaas-the-many-benefits-of-amino-acids.html
2 – https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/136/2/544S/4664405
3 – https://www.dcnutrition.com/amino-acids/branched-chain-amino-acids-bcca-valine-leucine-isoleucine/
4 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0957416614004029
5 – http://ergo-log.com/how-to-reduce-the-bitter-taste-of-bcaas.html
6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16946537
7 – https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ask-the-science-chick-should-i-drink-bcaas-during-workout.html