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BCAAs for Vegans & Vegetarians: Your Essential Guide

by Ultimate Sup Staff on October 16, 2023

Are you a vegetarian or vegan athlete looking to boost your muscle growth and recovery? You may have stumbled upon the term BCAAs but aren't sure if they fit your plant-based lifestyle. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of BCAAs - branched-chain amino acids - and uncover their significance for vegans. From understanding what BCAAs are to exploring the best vegan-friendly supplements, we'll guide you through everything you need to know to enhance your performance and muscle health.

TL;DR: BCAAs are crucial amino acids aiding in muscle building and maintenance, particularly important for vegans. Plant-based diets can sometimes fall short in providing sufficient BCAAs, making supplements a beneficial addition. Ideal vegan BCAA supplements are plant-derived, follow a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, and hold vegan certification. A daily intake of 2-3 grams of BCAAs, around workout times, is recommended for optimal results.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are three amino acids that have a branched structure: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are part of the nine essential amino acids, which means that the body cannot produce them on its own and must get them from food or supplements. BCAAs make up about 35% of the protein in muscle tissue and play a key role in muscle growth, recovery, and repair. They also help prevent muscle breakdown, enhance energy production, and regulate blood sugar levels.

Why do vegans need BCAAs?

Vegans need BCAAs just as much as non-vegans. BCAAs are essential for maintaining and building muscle mass, especially for vegans who are active or athletic. Vegans may be at an increased risk of BCAA deficiency because plant-based protein sources are typically lower in BCAAs than animal-based protein sources. For example, soy protein has about 18% BCAAs, while whey protein has about 26% BCAAs. Moreover, some plant-based proteins have low levels of one or more of the BCAAs, such as lysine in grains or methionine in legumes. This means that vegans may need to combine different protein sources or supplement with BCAAs to meet their needs.

Where can vegans get BCAAs from food?

There are a number of plant-based foods that contain BCAAs, such as soy, quinoa, seitan, brown rice, and beans. However, it can be difficult to get enough BCAAs from food alone, especially for vegans who are trying to build muscle or train at a high intensity. For example, to get 2 grams of leucine (the most important BCAA for muscle growth), you would need to eat about 100 grams of soy protein isolate, 200 grams of quinoa, or 400 grams of black beans. That’s a lot of food! Furthermore, some plant-based foods may also contain anti-nutrients that can interfere with the absorption of amino acids, such as phytates in grains or lectins in legumes.

Benefits of BCAA supplements for vegans

BCAA supplements can help vegans to meet their BCAA needs and improve their muscle growth, recovery, and performance. Here are some of the benefits of taking a vegan BCAA supplement:

  • Increase muscle protein synthesis: BCAAs stimulate the mTOR pathway, which is responsible for initiating muscle growth. Leucine is especially effective in triggering this process.
  • Reduce muscle soreness and damage: BCAAs reduce the amount of creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in the blood after exercise, which are markers of muscle damage. They also reduce the perception of muscle pain and fatigue.
  • Enhance endurance and stamina: BCAAs provide an alternative source of energy for the muscles during exercise, sparing glycogen stores and delaying fatigue. They also prevent the accumulation of ammonia and serotonin in the brain, which can impair performance.
  • Support immune system and overall health: BCAAs support the production of glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from oxidative stress. They also modulate the immune response and inflammation after exercise.

How to choose a vegan BCAA supplement?

When choosing a vegan BCAA supplement, it is important to make sure that it is made from plant-based ingredients. Some BCAA supplements may contain animal-derived ingredients, such as gelatin (from animal bones or skin), magnesium stearate (from animal fat), or carmine (from crushed insects). It is also important to choose a supplement that is certified vegan by a third-party organization, such as Vegan Action or The Vegan Society.

Another factor to consider is the ratio of the three BCAAs in the supplement. The optimal ratio for muscle growth is 2:1:1 (leucine:isoleucine:valine), which mimics the ratio found in human muscle tissue. Some supplements may have higher ratios of leucine (such as 4:1:1 or 8:1:1), but this may not be necessary or beneficial. Too much leucine can cause an imbalance in the amino acid pool and inhibit the absorption of the other BCAAs.

You may also want to look for a supplement that contains other ingredients that can enhance the effects of BCAAs, such as:

  • Citrulline malate: This is a combination of citrulline (an amino acid) and malate (a salt of malic acid). It can increase blood flow to the muscles, improve oxygen delivery, and reduce lactic acid buildup.
  • Beta-alanine: This is a non-essential amino acid that can increase the levels of carnosine in the muscles. Carnosine is a buffer that can neutralize the acidity in the muscles, delaying fatigue and improving performance.
  • Electrolytes: These are minerals that help maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration. They include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Recommended BCAA supplements for vegetarians and vegans:

There are many vegan BCAA supplements available on the market, but not all of them are equally effective and reliable. To help you choose the best one for your needs, we have selected two of the most popular and highly rated products:

  • PERFECT Sports Vegan BCAA Hyper Clear: This supplement contains 5 grams of BCAAs per serving, with a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine. It also contains 500 mg of citrulline malate and 250 mg of beta-alanine to enhance blood flow and endurance. It is made from fermented plant sources and has a clear and refreshing taste. It is certified vegan by Vegan Action and has no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.
  • California Gold Nutrition BCAA: This supplement contains 4 grams of BCAAs per serving, with a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine. It is made from non-GMO corn and has a natural lemon flavor. It is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and certified vegan by The Vegan Society. It has no added sugars, fillers, or preservatives.

How to take BCAAs

The recommended dose of BCAAs for vegans is 2-3 grams per day. However, this may vary depending on your body weight, activity level, and goals. You can use this formula to calculate your optimal dose:

0.05 x body weight (in kg) = grams of BCAAs per day

For example: If you weigh 70 kg, you would need 3.5 grams of BCAAs per day.

BCAAs can be taken before, during, or after exercise. Taking them before or during exercise can prevent muscle breakdown and provide energy for the muscles. Taking them after exercise can enhance muscle recovery and growth. It is best to take BCAAs with food or a protein shake to maximize absorption and avoid stomach upset.


BCAAs are essential amino acids that are vital for muscle health. Vegans may need to supplement with BCAAs to ensure adequate intake and improve their muscle growth, recovery, and performance. When choosing a vegan BCAA supplement, make sure it is made from plant-based ingredients, has a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine:isoleucine:valine, and is certified vegan by a third-party organization. The recommended dose of BCAAs for vegans is 2-3 grams per day, which can be taken before, during, or after exercise.

If you want to learn more about the basics of BCAAs and amino acids, check out our article on BCAAs Basics Explained: Your Guide to Amino Acids. For those looking to incorporate BCAAs into their weight loss journey while preserving muscle mass, our article on BCAAs for Weight Loss: Keep Muscle, Lose Fat! is a must-read.

For the best BCAA supplements and nutritional products in Singapore, consider exploring the offerings at Ultimate Sup. They provide a wide range of high-quality supplements to support your fitness goals. Visit Ultimate Sup in Singapore to browse their selection and take your fitness journey to the next level.


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