What Are the Best Amino Acids? Our Top Picks

Amino acids are the molecules that make up proteins and a vital component of healthy diets. They provide nitrogen for a range of different biological processes. These include muscle growth and repair, hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis, and more.

Therefore, many people are now opting to take amino acid supplements to increase their daily intake of these compounds. However, not all products are equal in terms of effectiveness and safety.

So, what are the best amino acids, and which brands have a trustworthy reputation? We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. Read on to learn more.

The Best BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)

Among the most popular supplements are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These compounds get their name from their chemical structure, and they include:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

These are three of nine essential amino acids. In this context, ‘essential’ means that our bodies cannot manufacture them, and we must obtain them from food.

When unwell or under stress, the need to supplement amino acids may increase.

Most healthy people can get enough essential amino acids from their diets. However, when unwell or under stress, the need to supplement these substances may increase. Furthermore, many athletes take BCAAs to aid workouts and recovery. The purported benefits include:

  • Enhanced strength, endurance, and performance
  • Increased exercise efficiency
  • Increased training tolerance
  • Enhanced repair of mild to moderate muscle damage

Many people believe that because amino acids occur naturally in food, they must be safe. However, supplementation is a delicate balancing act, and research suggests that some amino acids could be harmful in specific circumstances.

According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition, the appropriate intake of essential amino acids for adults is as follows:

Amino Acid

Recommended Daily Intake
(in milligrams per kilo of body weight)

Histidine

8–12 mg/kg

Isoleucine

10 mg/kg

Leucine

14 mg/kg

Lysine

12 mg/kg

Methionine (+ Cysteine)

13 mg/kg

Phenylalanine (+ Tyrosine)

14 mg/kg

Threonine

7 mg/kg

Tryptophan

3.5 mg/kg

Valine

10 mg/kg

The best BCAA supplements will contain appropriate ratios of each amino acid, allowing individuals to calculate the right intake for their body size. And, while this is a critical factor in choosing a product, there are several additional considerations. Let’s take a look.

What to Look for in BCAA Supplements

When contemplating how to select the best BCAA for one’s needs, here are some essential questions to ask:

  • Is the product clearly labeled?
  • What amino acids does the product contain, and in what ratios?
  • Does the product contain additional active ingredients?
  • Does the brand provide third-party lab reports to confirm content and purity?
  • Is the brand open about its manufacturing process and quality standards?
  • Does the product contain unnecessary additives, such as sweeteners, colorings, etc.?
  • Does the brand have positive online customer reviews?

With these factors in mind, let’s check out some of the best BCAAs on the market today.

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The Best Amino Acid Supplements: Rated and Reviewed

Choosing the best amino acid supplement can be a confusing process. This section will highlight some of the top-rated brands to assist potential consumers in making a decision.

1. Designs for Health Amino Acid Supreme

Pros

  • Contains a good range of amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids
  • Adheres to good manufacturing processes
  • Few unnecessary additives
  • Focus on quality
  • Highly informative website

Cons

  • It is unclear what flavorings the product contains

Designs for Health is a company that, in their own words, puts science first. They appear to be dedicated to using the latest research to design high-quality products that work. They adhere to good manufacturing processes and meet requirements for purity and quality.

amino-acid-supreme

Their Amino Acid Supreme is a complete blend of essential amino acids and contains few additional ingredients. However, like many supplement companies, the ingredients list features ‘natural flavorings’ without specifying what they are.

The brand sells a range of other amino acid products and supplements. There is an extensive Research and Education section on the website, allowing consumers to become well-informed about their purchases.

Overall rating: 9/10

2. Thorne Amino Complex

Pros

  • Contains a good range of amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids
  • Rich in BCAAs
  • Few unnecessary additives
  • Positive online reviews

Cons

  • A formulation change may have made the flavor less appealing
  • It is unclear what flavorings the product contains

Thorne is a company that promises to “bring your health to new heights.” And judging by the host of positive online reviews, it seems to live up to its word.

thorne-amino-complex

The brand’s Amino Complex is a powder that contains the full range of essential amino acids and is especially rich in BCAAs. It also includes few unnecessary additives, although the ingredients list does not specify what flavorings it contains. Those who have used the product say it tastes great, although some have complained that it is less tasty following a formulation change.

The company sells a range of other items as well as its Amino Complex, and the website is easy to navigate. These features make it simple for customers from all walks of life to find what they need.

Overall rating: 9/10

3. Klean Athlete Essential Aminos + HMB

Pros

  • Contains a good range of amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids
  • Also contains vitamin D3, calcium, and HMB
  • Few unnecessary additives
  • Adheres to good manufacturing processes
  • NSF International Certified

Cons

  • The exact breakdown of amino acids is unclear

Klean Athlete is a brand that places a great deal of importance on quality and purity. It follows good manufacturing processes, and the products are third-party certified, including by NSF International.

The Essential Aminos + HMB powder contains essential amino acids, plus vitamin D3, calcium, L-glutamine, and calcium β-hydroxy-β-methyl butyrate monohydrate (HMB). The latter is purported to support gains in strength and fat-free body mass during training.

klean-athlete-essential-aminos

While we love the addition of these beneficial ingredients, we were surprised to see that the label does not break down the amino acid content. It is listed as Amino9 Amino Blend instead. While some people may not mind this feature, we would prefer to know how much of each compound it contains.

That said, there are few additional ingredients, and the flavorings and sweeteners are all-natural, which is positive.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

4. NOW Sports BCAA Big 6

Pros

  • Contains six amino acids, including BCAAs
  • Also contains betaine
  • Certified by Informed Sport quality assurance service

Cons

  • The ingredients list is relatively long
  • It is unclear what flavorings the product contains

As the name suggests, NOW Sports BCAA Big 6 contains a blend of six amino acids, including the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It also features betaine, a compound that may help to improve body composition and exercise capacity.

now-sports-bcaa

The ingredients list is slightly longer than that of some other brands on our list. Furthermore, the exact flavorings are not listed, although the website does state that they are natural. However, we like that the product is certified by Informed Sport, a quality testing service for sports supplements.

In addition to amino acids, the brand sells various other products, including supplements, health and beauty products, essential oils, and more. This makes it a convenient one-stop-shop for all your wellbeing needs.

Overall rating: 8/10

5. Naked Nutrition Naked BCAAs

Pros

  • Very few additives
  • No artificial colorings, flavorings, or sweeteners
  • Informative website

Cons

  • Only contains three BCAAs

Those looking for a clean product will love Naked Nutrition’s BCAA offering. This powder contains nothing but leucine, isoleucine, valine, and sunflower lecithin. We love the fact that this product has no artificial flavorings, sweeteners, or other additives. However, it is a shame that it doesn’t contain a greater variety of amino acids.

The company’s tagline is “Nutrition with nothing to hide,” and it seems that they are dedicated to providing pure products. As well as BCAAs, Naked Nutrition stocks a range of whey and plant-based protein powders and other supplements.

naked-nutrition-naked-bcaas

The website also features recipes and information, including a quiz to help customers find the right product, which is a nice touch.

The main downside of the product is that it only contains leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Therefore, those looking for a complete supplement will have to search elsewhere.

Overall rating: 8/10

6. Pure Encapsulations BCAA Capsules

Pros

  • Easy-to-take capsule formulation
  • Suitable for vegans
  • No unnecessary additives
  • Third-party lab tested ingredients

Cons

  • Only contains three BCAAs

Capsules offer a convenient alternative to powders, and Pure Encapsulations’ BCAA capsules are ideal. The vegan capsules contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine alongside just cellulose and water.

pure-encapsulations-bcaa-capsules

The product’s ingredients are third-party tested and certified gluten-free. The brand sells several other supplements, and the no-frills website also has a detailed Education section, featuring webinars, brochures, and more.

Overall rating: 7.5/10

7. NOW Sports BCAA Veg Capsules

Pros

  • Easy-to-take capsule formulation
  • Suitable for vegans
  • No unnecessary additives
  • Certified by Informed Sport quality assurance service

Cons

  • Only contains three BCAAs
  • Exact BCAA ratios unclear

This offering from NOW Sports is another great option for those who prefer to take their BCAA supplements in capsule form. They are suitable for vegans and only contain two additional ingredients: hypromellose and stearic acid. The product is also certified by Informed Sport, just like the brand’s amino acid powders.

now-sports-bcaa-veg-capsules

The downside of these capsules is that they only contain the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine. We were also disappointed that the label listed the quantities of each BCAA rather vaguely.

Overall rating: 7/10

Best Amino Acids: Roundup

There is no substitute for a healthy and well-balanced diet. However, athletes and other individuals with intense training regimes may find BCAA supplementation beneficial.

Athletes and other individuals with intense training regimes may find BCAA supplementation beneficial.

When choosing the best BCAA supplement, look for a clean product with an appropriate balance of amino acids. All of the brands listed above fit the bill, although we especially loved Designs for Health and Thornes’ offerings. Let us know about your favorite amino acid products in the comments below.

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