In a Hurry? Here are the top 3 Vegan BCAA’s that we’ve picked:
Anyone who has ever spent more than 5 minutes browsing the supplement category on Amazon will have come across Vegan BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acid supplements. They are literally everywhere, and to the uninitiated, they can all look very much the same.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) come in all shapes, sizes and flavours (literally), and yet they all seem to do the same thing.
So obviously the real question here is, What are BCAA’s, and why do I need them? Well that’s why we’re here.
We wanted to answer some of your most burning questions and also hopefully recommend to you what we believe to be the best vegan-friendly and plant-based BCAA’s on the market today.
So let’s get right down to it, and start with one of the most important questions about BCAA’s:
What are Vegan BCAA’s?
Okay, so let’s start right at the top.
BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. These amino acids account for up to 35% of your muscle mass, and act as the ‘building blocks’ of muscle growth and protein synthesis.
BCAA’s are ‘Essential’, meaning that your body is not able to synthesize them on its own through what you eat and drink, as opposed to ‘Non-Essential’, which basically means that your body is able to synthesize these Amino Acids simply through what you eat and drink. BCAA supplements are made up of the 3 essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine typically in a 2:1:1 ratio.
Why do I need BCAA’s in my Diet?
BCAA’s play an essential role in helping to rebuild, grow and repair muscle tissue. In addition to this, the supplementation of BCAA’s can help to reduce muscle damage, soreness and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) post-workout.
There have also been a number of studies indicating that BCAA’s may have medical uses also. BCAA’s have been used to help treat ALS and other muscular diseases. They have also been thought to benefit brain function in people with advanced liver disease and anorexia.
How are BCAA Supplements Made?
There has been a lot of discussion and controversy over the manufacturing process of traditional BCAA supplements, and in most cases, quite rightly too.
For BCAA products that are of the ‘non-fermented’, non-vegan variety, the primary source is Keratin.
Most of you will know that Keratin is primarily found in hair and fingernails. It is a fibrous structural protein that is one of the most concentrated sources of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
So where is Keratin obtained from in such large quantities?
Well, the answer isn’t too appetising.
Two of the main raw ingredients in commercial Keratin production is Duck & Bird feathers and Human Hair.
Yep – Human hair. What the actual Vegan-Heck?!
Supplement Manufacturer Natural Stacks has stated:
“human hair is often used because it’s cheaper and can still be classified as vegetarian”.
In fact, health and dietary supplements are the only example of humans intentionally eating and digesting other humans. The supplement manufacturers use a process that extensively uses solvents and other chemicals to separate the amino acids from the dead tissue.
Another source of Keratin is from Pig skin. The hairs and outer layers of Pig skin are both rich sources of Keratin, and are occasionally favoured for the manufacturing of BCAA powders.
So is this something that you may be looking to avoid in your supplementation? Well read on, because we are going to show you some of the best vegan BCAA alternatives so you can avoid anything ‘hairy’.
“Stop, stop, stop – I’ve had had enough. How can this be Vegan?”
Fortunately there absolutely are Vegan alternatives to this madness. BCAA’s from fermented sources are typically made using corn, fermented alongside a specific type of bacteria to produce the BCAA trio of amino acids.
Here is an extract from the supplement manufacturer Innobio about how the organic fermentation process works:
“L-Leucine is obtained via fermentation of glucose and corn steep liquor using Corynebacterium glutamicum which has been safely used in industrial production of amino acids for a long time. For L-leucine production, sterilized glucose and corn steep liquor are fermented with a nonpathogenic, non-toxigenic species and strain of Corynebacterium glutamicum (MD0032) at 28-30ºC for 2-3 days in a fermentation tank. After fermentation, the broth is passed through an ion exchange resin.”
What should You be Looking for In a Quality BCAA Supplement?
When shopping for BCAA’s, it’s important to keep in mind a few basic requirements.
Firstly, you should always check that the 3 essential amino acids have been included in the generally accepted ratio of 2:1:1.
Secondly, as you should be doing with any supplement that you’ll be putting in to your body: CHECK THE INGREDIENTS! What you put in to your body has a direct effect on how you feel, make sure it’s all good.
Thirdly, SOY. Even though it is technically plant-based, a lot of people are starting to steer-clear of this hidden ingredient, and for good reason too! We won’t dive in to the ins and outs of Soy in this post, however if you’re trying to avoid it then you may be shocked to see it is in a lot of BCAA products!
Soy Lecithin is used to help the supplement mix more effectively, prevent clumping and also separation.
However, Vegan alternatives are available! Sunflower Lecithin is the generally favoured option, and completely eradicates the nasty soy from your lovely Vegan BCAA supplement.
Finally, if you’re opting for an all-Vegan BCAA supplement, check for any hidden nasties. Sometimes flavourings, sweeteners and filling agents can make a product ‘Un-Vegan’.
To save you the hassle and stress of finding the best Vegan BCAA supplement, we’ve done the research for you and have compiled this list of what we recommend you to use.
Choosing the best protein powder doesn’t have to be a difficult task, especially if you know what to consider. And in the above reviews, we have highlighted some of the key features of high-quality protein powders so you know what you are getting into.
Also, there is a buyer’s guide included to make your search easy and quick, good luck.