Women are lethal. No one can deny that. They hit the gym harder than men most times, and they want to look amazingly built too.
But is it a good idea to work out the same way? Well, they should definitely lift weights, but what about supplements, like BCAAs?
Truth is, it is perfectly safe for women to train like men; in fact, it should be encouraged. Here, I’ll tell you what BCAAs are, why women can and should take BCAAs, what the recommended ratio and dosage are, and how to find the right supplement for you.
For those who want their BCAAs right now, here is the condensed list:
For the ladies who wanna learn, read on…
What Are BCAA Supplements?
We covered this in a previous article, but essentially BCAAs stand for Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
These “promote muscle synthesis and increase muscle growth over time,” and are comprised of three different amino acids:
The main BCAA, leucine is the primary trigger of the protein mTOR, which leads to heightened muscle protein synthesis.
There are other amino acids and metabolites that do the same thing, but not at the same potency.
As far as scientific evidence goes, leucine is the best at inducing muscle protein synthesis, meaning it’s optimal for muscle rebuilding and growth.
The secondary amino acid in the mixture, isoleucine is intermediate at inducing muscle protein synthesis.
However, it’s main job is “to significantly increase glucose uptake and the usage of glucose during exercise,” giving you the energy to crush workouts and utilize your fast energy.
When you eat food, you intake glucose, or the body’s major source of energy. When you work out, it takes glucose to perform all of the movements.
With added isoleucine, you use up more glucose and more energy enters your muscle cells. In short: Bigger pumps, heavier lifts, extra energy.
The kid brother of the three, it appears valine’s purpose is to supplement the other two in the BCAA group.
This essential amino acid acts closer to leucine than isoleucine, in that it helps create more mTOR proteins, while to a lesser extent transferring more glucose into glycogen.
On its own, valine isn’t too potent, but it gives leucine and isoleucine a nice boost.
All three of these amino acids are essential amino acids; therefore, they cannot be made by the body, instead taken in by diet and supplementation.
BCAA supplements cover three of the nine total essential amino acids.
The other six are histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan.
Can Women Take BCAA Supplements?
With women comes a different physiological structure than men, which begs the question: Is it safe for women to take BCAA supplements?
Short answer: Absolutely.
Long answer: Multiple studies have found that women who take BCAAs experience less muscle soreness, improved body composition with exercise, minimal muscle loss and reduced body fat for women with a low calorie intake, and faster mental and physical fatigue recovery.
If you’re a woman who wants to feel better overall before, during, and after gruelling workouts, taking BCAAs is both smart and safe to do.
What Are The Benefits Of Taking BCAAs?
With the right dosage, BCAAs provide a ton of benefits for women:
- As previously stated, leucine and valine aid in muscle protein synthesis;
- BCAAs increase fat burning and help with fat loss, due to increased glucose usage;
- Supplements improve neuromuscular adaptations and hormone regulations from intense workouts, meaning added strength, power, endurance, and workout efficiency;
- Because your body’s fuel is burned efficiently, your workout performance improves and your muscle soreness/fatigue decreases;
- BCAAs support insulin health by consistently using glucose, upping insulin sensitivity;
- They could be tied to higher longevity and might be therapeutic.
These are the big benefits of BCAAs, and they can be said for both men and women; there are no gender-specific benefits.
So it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re wanting a kickass workout every time.
What Is The Ideal Ratio?
In the BCAA supplement market, there are many different ratios: 2:1:1, 4:1:1, even 12:1:1. What do these mean?
Each ratio has three numbers. The first number represents the amount of leucine compared to the other two numbers, which are isoleucine and valine.
For the most part, the last two numbers are equal, resulting in a 1-to-1 ratio.
So the change in ratios like those above is the amount of leucine in relation to the two sidekick BCAAs.
Leucine, as we learned earlier, is the main amino acid that enhances muscle protein synthesis.
So, logically, the more leucine we have in our supplements, the more of this benefit we will receive.
In contrast, you experience less of the isoleucine and valine benefits, like increased glucose usage and improved muscle fatigue recovery.
The ideal ratio is 2:1:1.
Research shows BCAAs with that ratio compared to a placebo and straight leucine (a.k.a. 1:0:0) provided the optimal muscle protein synthesis.
Plus, more valine means it wins over the other essential amino acid tryptophan, allowing you to contract your muscles with more force for longer – more reps, more intensity.
On top of that, if you’re looking to lose body fat as a woman, it makes sense to have a BCAA supplement higher in isoleucine; this amino acid activates receptors called PPAR, which increases fat burning and prohibits excess fat storage.
If you want the most bang for your buck, get the most benefits with a 2:1:1 ratio for your BCAA supplement.
What Is The Recommended Dosage?
Building on the 2:1:1 recommended ratio, you’re looking to supplement during or right before your workout, as well as right after.
For a fantastic workout experience as a woman, it’s ideal to get at least one gram of both isoleucine and valine.
When going with a 2:1:1 supplement, that means two grams of leucine.
However, it could be beneficial to get at least three grams of leucine for each dose.
This is where a 3:1:1 ratio supplement might work great, and makes for easy measuring; just take five grams of BCAAs, and you’ll get three grams of leucine and one each of the other two.
In a 2:1:1 supplement, you still need to get at least six grams in to get optimum amounts of each amino acid.
Simply put: Go for 5g of your supplement at least, with 6g being the ideal amount.
This hopefully gets you a gram of isoleucine and valine, along with 3+ grams of leucine. Do this twice daily, bookending your workout – one dose before, one dose immediately after.
What Are The Side Effects Of Taking BCAAs?
If you don’t follow a proper dosing regimen, then you could experience some adverse effects.
Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing quickly, so be sure not to take too much at one time or throughout a day.
When you stay within an appropriate range of BCAA daily allowance, you shouldn’t have a problem, as BCAAs are generally safe and incredibly effective when supplemented daily.
Common side effects of taking BCAAs include:
- Loss of coordination
- Headaches or nausea
- Increased insulin resistance (this could lead to Type 2 Diabetes, so be careful)
Also, BCAAs affect blood sugar levels, so if you’re about to or just got done with surgery, it’s recommended to remain off of your supplement for a period of time.
Specific diseases are made worse with taking BCAAs, such as kidney, liver, and heart disease, as well as ALS and branched-chain keto-aciduria.
If you drink alcohol in excess, it is advised to not take BCAAs, as the combo could mess up your blood sugar levels too much.
Basically, if you stay smart about how you supplement, BCAAs will give you nothing but the intended effects, which are better performance in the gym, less fatigue and muscle soreness, and increased muscle protein synthesis (a.k.a. GAINS).
What Look For When Purchasing BCAAs
Here is a simple system to use when you’re comparing various BCAA bottles:
1. For type of supplement, choose convenience. While powders are popular, sometimes capsules are easier to bring to the gym. So go with whichever you prefer – flavored water or unflavored water with a few pills in between.
2. Don’t overspend on crazy ratios. You don’t need 12:1:1; go with a normal, 2:1:1 or 3:1:1.
3. Ingredients are everything. You don’t want a bunch of fluff butting into your BCAAs. As pure as it gets – that’s what you’re looking for.
In capsule form, it should be a leucine/isoleucine/valine blend on the inside and an ingredient or two to compose the outer shell. For powders, you’re going for a single ingredient BCAA. Natural and simple, not added fillers and sugars.
4. Your BCAA supplement should be extremely absorbable. A fast-acting BCAA is best to get the most benefits; when you’re warming up and getting loose for a big workout, you want those amino acids pumping through your bloodstream already, working faster and longer.
5. Price. This is the last thing you should be worried about. If one supplement is better in everything above but is a bit more expensive, bite the bullet and get the better BCAA.
Your body is an investment. You don’t fill a McLaren with regular gas, so you don’t fill your temple with less-than-premium supps.
Review Of The Top BCAA Supplements
Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder
First up on our list is a classic company with a premium powder: Scivation Xtend provides a BCAA that is sugar- and carb-free, which results in zero calories.
- 2:1:1 ratio, with a scoop (serving) providing 3.5g leucine, 1.75g isoleucine and valine each, and a bonus: 2.5g of glutamine, which increases athletic performance, brain and digestive health, and muscle growth.
- Over a gram of an electrolyte blend to replenish your energy
- Over a gram of Citrulline Malate (1:1), another amino acid known for circulatory health.
- 30 servings (which means half a month’s worth if taken twice daily, before and after workouts).
- It does include red dye, artificial flavor, and citric acid, which gives this powder flavor. These are added ingredients, but they are for taste and don’t include refined sugars.
For a trusted brand with a quality product, Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder is your new best friend.
Another consistent and well-known brand, Cellucor’s BCAA supplement pulls zero punches.
- In a 2-scoop serving, you get a whopping 10 grams of BCAAs, including 5 of leucine and 3.2 of beta alanine, which potentially “increases the amount of work you can perform at high intensities.”
- For a 2-scoop serving, there are only 15 servings. For a single, this comes out to 30. A good way to break this up is to take one scoop before a workout and one scoop after. This makes it last for a lowly two weeks.
- Comes in three flavors: Tropical punch, watermelon, and lemon lime.
On the Amazon page, it doesn’t give the ingredients list, but on their site it says this product has roughly the same ingredients as the previous supplement – citric acid, natural flavors, and a few dyes. Another traditional brand, Cellucor is bound to fill your BCAA needs.
Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000
The first capsule type on our list, Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 is a cost-friendly, travel-friendly option for those on a budget or on the go.
- Slight downside: A serving equals eight pills. However, it comes with 30 total servings, each giving you 2.5 grams of leucine and 1.25 grams of both isoleucine and valine.
- 2:1:1 ratio
- Minimal other ingredients, resulting in a purer BCAA blend.
- Because it’s in pill form, it’s more cost effective.
Yet another trustworthy brand with many years in the business, Evlution Nutrition is a tremendous BCAA supplement option.
BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 3:1:2
This supplement is really special, and again created by a well-known, tried and true company. BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 3:1:2 sticks to its name in a literal way.
- Each serving is 1.5 grams, so you’ll have to perhaps triple that amount to get the desired supplementation. However, the grams are split up like this: .75g leucine, .25g isoleucine, and .5g valine. This creates a 3:1:2 ratio, which is unique.
- If you quadruple the dosage, you’ll get 3g of leucine, 1g of isoleucine, and 2g of valine, which hits all requirements with an double whammy of valine.
- The great thing about this supplement is that it comes with a whopping 333 servings, so even if you go with 4 servings per dose, you still get 83 days worth of BCAAs.
- Ingredients list: branched-chain amino acids and…nothing more. “Pure” as it gets!
- (Caveat to the single ingredient: This makes it taste a little weird. Just be prepared for it.)
A no-nonsense, give-the-people-what-they-want type of supplement, BulkSupplements Pure BCAA 3:1:2 is one of the best in the world.
PrettyFit BCAA Burn
Claiming to be “BCAAs for women,” PrettyFit comes in targeting females specifically. With this, BCAA Burn gives you a ton of the stuff you want while omitting stuff you don’t.
- Zero sugars/carbs/calories/caffeine.
- Lactose free, gluten free, non-GMO, and made in the USA.
- One scoop gives you 2g of leucine and 1g of isoleucine and valine each, making it 2:1:1.
- Also includes .5g of glutamine, taurine, and carnitine, the latter two needed for fat mobilization and effective energy expenditure. There’s a quarter gram of CLA too to increase metabolic rate.
- Has most of the same ingredients as the first two supplements, like citric acid, flavoring, and color dyes.
- 30 servings, but you’ll want 1.5 servings daily to get your 3g of leucine. If we continue with this hypothetical regimen, this would last you 20 days.
Despite being catered towards women, I don’t see why this is special for the female gender.
Men could take it and get the same exact benefits because BCAAs affect men and women the same way.
But, if you want a supplement that cares about what you put into your body as much as you do, go with PrettyFit BCAA Burn.
As a woman, it is imperative that you utilize BCAAs.
They are essential amino acids that aid in muscle protein synthesis, quicker recovery, less fatigue, and optimized performance.
You don’t need a crazy ratio; just keep it at 2:1:1 or 3:1:1. Getting around 5 or 6 grams should do the trick.
With minimal side effects, this makes for a potent, important supplement, one that you shouldn’t skimp on for lesser quality.
Women, if you want to ramp up your workout and show those boys who’s boss, consider getting yourself some BCAAs today!