BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) were perhaps my first ever nutrition supplement apart from protein powder and fish oil.
Amino acids are building blocks of protein. So, instead of supplementing with BCAAs, you can just eat a steak. If you are already taking a post-workout protein shake, keep in mind that your protein powder has BCAAs – you won’t need to add them separately. For a comprehensive discussion on what BCAAs are, check out this article.
Meanwhile, let me tell you more about my favorite brand of BCAAs.
My coach recommended Scivation XTEND to me a number of years ago, and I have been a loyal fan since then (not without an occasional fling on the side, but hey! I always come back).
In fact, I have gone through three (!) different types of packaging with this one supplement – the one they landed on lately, I am very happy with as it uses smaller containers, wasting less space. [Don’t you hate it when supplements arrive in a half-empty container?].
The cost varies from $31 to $39 CAD for a 30-serving container. The cheapest that I have seen it is at Bodybuilding.com – 90-serving container for $71.98 CAD works out to less than 80 cents per serving. However, if you are shipping the product to address outside of USA, you have to take into account shipping costs, and the fact that for some strange reason you are not allowed to order more than 90 servings at a time.
XTEND has one of the largest flavour selections in the world of BCAAs – pink lemonade, grape, watermelon, lemon lime, orange, pineapple, fruit punch, raspberry, strawberry kiwi, green apple, mango, and unflavoured variety.
I have tried them all (yep!), and loved them all, especially raspberry and mango.
One serving equals one scoop and contains 7g of BCAAs.
Multi-scoop serving sizes is a well-known trick in the supplement industry. You THINK you are getting 22g of protein with your one scoop. Turns out the nutrition label lists one serving size as TWO scoops. Ugh.
I like the fact that amounts of all the ingredients are listed separately. No mystery blends, but rather leucine, glutamine, isoleucine and valine on the nutrition label.
Citric acid. A preservative, naturally occurring in citrus fruit.
Sucralose. Aka Splenda – a sugar derivative, and the primary sweetener in XTEND, it actually tastes most similar to sugar, so if you are not a fan of artificial taste of some other sweeteners, you may like this one.
Artificial flavour. BCAAs by themselves do not taste like blue raspberry. Shocker. In fact, they are quite bitter, which is why in other manifestations, you will find them in caps, or with bitterness blockers added.
Malic acid. Naturally occurring compound with sour taste, used as a food additive. If you have ever had rhubarb, you know what this tastes like.
FD&C Yellow #5, and FD&C Blue Lake #1. Food colorings – approved as safe for human consumption in US, EU and other countries. Pharmacologically inactive. However, if you inject a pound of them directly into your eyeball, you will probably die. So, refrain from doing that, and you will be fine.
Compare this with:
Optimum Nutrition AmiN.O. Energy – the house brand of Bodybuilding.com, and the manufacturer of my favorite protein powder.
AmiN.O. Energy is still a solid product (which is also cheaper than XTEND), and would be comparable to a house brand of any supplement store, like GNC or Popeye’s. You can expect a longer ingredient list, and less BCAAs per serving.
XTEND is also certified by NSF – a third party organization that determines compliance with various regulations and safety standards.That questionable bottle of fat burners your roommate bought online? Probably not NSF-certified.
As drug testing in sports becomes more prevalent, this will become more and more important for athletes.
Still wondering about artificial sweeteners?
1. Artificial sweeteners are not necessarily the devil. And just because your supplement uses agave juice, or maple syrup does not make it automatically “better”.
2. If you’d still rather not drink something that is bright blue (or pink, or orange), check out XTEND FREE – an alternative powder with no artificial colors, flavours, or sweetener, or XTEND RAW Scivation – with no color, sweetener OR flavor, or the simplest – XTEND caps (see below).
Wondering whether you need BCAAs at all?
No. You do not.
Although you may find that taking a BCAA supplement during/after intense workouts helps with recovery. Want to experiment? Try it for 4-6 weeks, and see if you notice a difference.
And, strictly speaking, you also do not need cookies. Or sex. Yet, what kind of life would THAT be?
Speaking of which, XTEND dissolved in water works well WITH cookies, and AFTER sex. You know… for recovery.
*I am in no way sponsored by Scivation, so all the purchases of XTEND I make are out of pocket, and all the opinions are my own.