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If you follow a vegan diet and want to take your exercise regime to the next level, build muscle and fight fatigue, you need a great vegan BCAA supplement. As a vegan and a gym fan, you’re no doubt aware of how important your protein intake is. You’re probably working hard to make sure you choose a complete protein or a mix of proteins to deliver your amino acid needs, but here’s something you may not be considering: are you getting enough Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
Vegan BCAAs should be an important factor in your training and diet regime. But the truth is, plant-based diets aren’t abundant in BCAAs, and unless you reach a certain threshold, they won’t kick-in. Supplementation, therefore, is often the easiest way for a vegan athlete or anyone following a vegan lifestyle to maintain that all-important level.
We’re happy to recommend the Best Vegan BCAAs in the UK. We’ll also examine whether BCAA tablets, BCAA capsules or BCAA powders are the best option for you.
After reviewing dozens of supplements, we believe that Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is the best BCAA currently available on the market.
Or read on to learn why we chose this BCAA as our #1 recommendation.
What are BCAAs?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 in total, all needed for various functions in the body, but nine of those cannot be manufactured by the body. These are described as essential amino acids and must be gained via diet or supplementation.
The nine essential amino acids are:
- Tryptophan, and
Of these nine essential amino acids, three are all-important for muscle and exercise gains. They are known as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Their name refers to their molecular structure but you don’t really need to worry about that – all you need to know is that these particular essential amino acids are the most useful when it comes to building muscle and physique and for helping your training needs. They can help significantly.
The three Branched Chain Amino Acids are:
- Isoleucine, and
Of the three BCAAs, Leucine is arguably the most valuable, thanks to its contribution to protein synthesis and building muscle.
Together BCAAs represent up to 40% of all the essential amino acids found in the muscles. BCAAs are broken down in the muscles as opposed to the liver (where most other amino acids are broken down), which gives them tremendous influence.
Benefits of Vegan BCAAs
Vegan BCAAs can Build Muscle
Of all the BCAAs, leucine gets the most attention. That’s because it helps muscle anabolism, or muscle growth. It influences growth hormone and activates the enzymes responsible for protein synthesis and muscle-building. It achieves this by activating the mTOR protein, which induces muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is by far the most comprehensively studied of all the BCAAs.
And here’s the extra good news for vegans – research shows that leucine is particularly effective at promoting lean muscle gains in those who struggle to gain enough dietary protein. You’re no doubt doing everything you can to gain enough complete protein, but there’s no denying that it’s harder to achieve for those who don’t eat meat, fish or dairy, so supplementing with BCAAs is a great choice for your fitness.
BCAAs Protect Muscle Tissue
As well as helping with muscle anabolism, BCAAs can help to prevent muscle catabolism, or the breakdown of muscle. Consuming them before or after a workout helps to maintain muscle stores and prevent breakdown for energy.
Vegan BCAAs can Reduce Fatigue
Here’s another great benefit of BCAAs and one that often gets overlooked in the rush to examine their muscle-building potential: BCAAs can reduce fatigue, allowing you to train harder for longer. Mental and physical tiredness can interrupt your training sessions, and supplementing with BCAAs can slow that process.
A 1997 study looked at BCAA supplementation and RPF, the Rate of Perceived Exertion – in other words, how difficult you perceive exercise to be while you’re doing it. Consider lifting your personal best one day feeling full of energy and vigour, and then compare it to the same weight after a hard day and a poor night’s sleep. It will feel much harder to achieve – that’s your RPE. And here’s the good news – the study found taking BCAAs significantly reduced RPE.
BCAAs help to reduce levels of tryptophan and serotonin in the brain. These brain chemicals tell your brain that you’re tired, which can bring workouts to a crashing end. Reducing them, therefore, helps to delay your perception of muscle fatigue. It’s not surprising then that certain research suggests BCAAs can improve physical and mental performance as well. By going head-to-head with the tryptophan receptors in your brain, BCAAs may delay the onset of fatigue while training which means that you can keep going. Extra reps! Extra benefits! Extra muscle building!
Another study examining BCAA supplementation during endurance exercise proved that taking BCAAs during long-distance running helped with physical and mental performance enhancement.
BCAAs Can Improve Recovery Time
There is significant evidence that taking vegan BCAAs can reduce muscle soreness and boost recovery time. Research shows that BCAAs reduce protein breakdown during an exercise session and reduce levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of muscle damage.
Take this graphic, provided courtesy of Performance Lab. It shows the dramatic difference between muscle soreness after exercise when taking a placebo (grey line) versus when taking BCAAs (blue line) for men and women.
A 2013 study said: “The intake of the BCAA is presumed to help contribute to enhancing exercise performance by exerting its influence on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances.”
Further BCAA studies have identified that BCAA intake can contribute to reaction times and improve aerobic exercise.
BCAAs Provide a Source of Muscle Energy
When you’re working out, your body uses glucose as a primary source of energy. When the body runs low on glucose, it can break down BCAAs to maintain the ATP energy your muscles need. Interesting fact – BCAAs are the only amino acids that can be burnt for energy.
Taking BCAAs therefore seems to help preserve muscle glycogen stores during exercise so taking in more BCAAs might well help you to have more energy in the ‘tank’ when it comes to your exercise regime.
In short, vegan BCAAs should be in your gym bag. Let’s recap the benefits…
VEGAN BCAA BENEFITS IN A NUTSHELL
- Encourage muscle protein synthesis
- Reduce rate of muscle breakdown
- Speed up recovery and muscle regeneration
- Fight the chemicals that make muscles sore and stiff
- Aid with muscle contraction
- Boost ATP muscle energy levels
- Fight fatigue to boost your performance
- Potentially also boost the immune system
The beauty of BCAAs is that they can be taken before, during or after a workout depending on how you want to use them!
** BUY OUR RECOMMENDED VEGAN BCAA **
** BUY OUR RECOMMENDED VEGAN BCAA **
Why Should Vegans Take BCAAs?
We’d argue that anyone wanting to improve their physique and training regimen should take BCAAs, but it’s certainly true that BCAAs are particularly important for vegans.
As we said in our introduction, plant-based diets don’t tend to be abundant in BCAAs. The richest sources of essential amino acids are chicken, eggs, dairy and red meat – all things you’re avoiding as a vegan. As a vegetarian, you might supplement your amino acid intake with a whey protein post-workout shake – but whey is derived from milk and is a no-go for vegans (or the lactose intolerant).
As a vegan, you could supplement with soy protein, a complete protein, but let’s be honest: there are issues there too. Estimates suggest more than 80% of the global soybean crop is now Genetically Modified.
Vegans therefore are often left to combine plant proteins in a strategic way throughout the day to ensure they gain a complete range of essential amino acids. That’s a lot of work, and unless you’re actively monitoring your proteins and know their exact chemical composition, it can be hard to maintain generous amino acid reserves. Harder still to ensure you take in enough leucine, isoleucine, and valine to attain and maintain the threshold you need to reach before their benefits kick in.
And don’t forget – if you’re active, your muscles will have a higher amino acid demand to begin with! That’s true for vegans and non-vegans alike. Exercising in a fasted state will also cause your BCAA reserves to be oxidised quicker – so you’ll need to supplement to keep them topped up.
In a nutshell: the easiest way to guarantee that you can meet the all-important leucine threshold — and benefit from the other BCAAs too – is to supplement. That’s why we don’t hesitate to recommend the best vegan BCAA UK – our favourite, Performance Lab SPORT BCAA.
LOOKING FOR AN ALTERNATIVE COMPLETE VEGAN PROTEIN?
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA pairs perfectly with Performance Lab SPORT Protein. SPORT Protein is made with organic brown rice protein, Oryzatein – the only brown rice protein ‘patented for enhancing athletic performance’. Oryzatein is classed as a complete protein when in supplement form and has been clinically shown to be as effective as whey at increasing lean muscle mass. It doesn’t need to be stacked with a BCAA but doing so only strengthens your muscle-building and recovery.
What to Look for in a Vegan BCAA
Here’s what you should look for in a quality vegan BCAA…
Obvious, we know, but some BCAA products source their BCAAs from animals, so you’ll need to look for a product that uses plant-based BCAAs. Always check the labels for ingredients such as gelatine – note that this is often included in capsules or tablets, even if it’s not in the main ingredients list. It’s worth making sure whatever BCAA you choose uses plant-based capsules, such as the tapioca-based NutriCaps used in our recommended vegan BCAA, Performance Lab BCAA.
Look for a ratio of 2:1:1 of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. This ratio mimics that found in nature and is more effective. The amount of Leucine included should be double that of the other BCAAs. Beware, however, manufacturers that load up on leucine – offering a 4:1:1 ratio or higher – just because they’ve heard that leucine is the most important BCAA. As ratios increase, clinical trials show that safety and research-backed benefits decrease.
You don’t want to choose a BCAA that damages the environment or uses unhealthy ingredients. Look for products that are free of GMO and other allergens and are made with eco-friendly manufacturing processes. Again, we like Performance Lab BCAA for this.
Here’s where you also need to pay attention. Many BCAAs are crammed full of synthetic or artificial fillers and more; BCAA powders are the worst culprit for this… simply because BCAAs DO NOT TASTE NICE. If they didn’t add in all the extras to make it palatable, you just wouldn’t be able to consume it. We’re talking artificial flavours, sweeteners, colourings, and masking agents. As someone concerned with health and fitness, you want to avoid these. One way to avoid them, opt for your BCAAs in capsule form…
BCAA Capsules vs BCAA Powders: Which Is Best?
So, which should you choose – BCAA capsules or vegan BCAA powders? If we’re honest, this probably comes down to personal preference, but we’d vote for vegan BCAA capsules every time. They are more convenient, easy to take anywhere, no messing. Plus, they don’t need the sweeteners and artificial flavourings to make them taste better either; they’re flavour-neutral.
Of course, you’ll still want to double check that any capsule BCAA products you use are vegan-friendly and don’t contain any artificial or synthetic sweeteners or additives. Annoyingly, some BCAA tablets still do add fillers.
We’ve checked all the above and scoured the vegan BCAA UK market to make our recommendation for the…
Best Vegan BCAA to Buy in the UK
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is our favourite vegan BCAA supplement for many reasons. It’s a top-quality supplement with many things to recommend it: from its clean formula to its 100% vegan credentials to its science-proven formula. Here are a few of the reasons we rate it so highly…
Vegan Friendly BCAA
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is 100% vegan friendly. Its BCAAs come from a mix of Ajipure® and Performance Lab’s own NutriGenesis ® process.
Ajipure®, with its Ferment-A-Pure technology, is a market-leader in the creation of pure pharmaceutical grade BCAAs. They are fermented using only vegetable-based carbohydrates for its raw materials, NEVER using any raw materials of animal origin. Performance Lab’s NutriGenesis® production process grows amino acids in a lab which are identical to those found in nature, meaning they are grown with the same co-factors, probiotics, enzymes and more that make them so bio-available. They include no animal products at all.
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA capsules are made with fermented tapioca, no gelatine included. As a bonus, they are infused with prebiotics to help digestion. It’s safe to say that are 100% vegan friendly and easy to digest.
Ideal Ratio of BCAAs
The BCAAs included in SPORT BCAA are in the ideal 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine to Isoleucine and Valine. This is the same natural ratio of BCAAs found in muscle tissue, meaning it’s easier for the body to absorb. Altogether, one serving of Performance Lab SPORT BCAA includes 3g of BCAAs.
The 3,000mg in Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA provides a solid dose of all three amino acids, and there’s the option to take more if desired. Capsules give you the option to take your dose when you want, how you want, as often as you want; that’s the beauty of them (well, that and the convenience of not having to carry around a powder with you!)
BCAAs are commonly used as a pre- and post-workout supplement (and an intra-workout too if you’re in the middle of particularly intense exercise), so you could take one serving before training and another serving afterwards, giving you a mega 6g dose. Or, if you prefer to stick to the 3g, you can split your capsules before and after your workout. The choice is yours!
Ajipure’s® 100 years of clinical and scientific research into amino acids means that it can create BCAAs of exceptional quality and purity, which are faster absorbed by the body. Its products are milled seven times, encouraging quick absorption and improved effectiveness. Performance Lab’s own exclusive NutriGenesis process also ensures superior BCAAs with great bio-availability.
The Performance Lab range of products is made by respected UK supplement manufacturer, Opti-Nutra. Opti-Nutra has a well-known commitment to excellence and it’s a reputation well deserved. It takes a science-led approach to its products, doesn’t get distracted by industry buzz (which is rarely backed up by science) and seeks out the best quality forms of its ingredients. Ajipure is a case in point. Opti-Nutra also has an excellent reputation for customer service, an important point to consider when you’re buying supplements from the internet.
Here’s another one: whenever you buy supplements from the internet (or from anywhere for that matter), you’ll want to make sure they are manufactured safely. That means no proprietary blends – ingredients and dosages clearly labelled – and quality manufacturing standards. Performance Lab products have the cGMP – Good Manufacturing Practices – seal of approval and are made in FDA-approved labs. It guarantees first-rate quality control throughout the entire manufacturing process, giving you peace of mind.
Both forms of BCAAs included in Performance Lab SPORTS BCAA are super clean. The NutriGenesis process, for instance, doesn’t use pesticides or herbicides and has negligible environment impact. Ajipure® is non-GMO and uses no fillers or shortcuts in its production. Its amino acids are 99-100% pure (its Ferment-A-Pure Technology currently has 130 patents).
We’re not exaggerating to say that Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is one of the cleanest vegan BCAAs on the market. It is:
- GMO-free and non-irradiated
- Free of synthetic additives
- Contains no soy or gluten, and is allergen-free
- Banned substance tested
- Vegan-friendly with plant-based capsules
- GMP certified, meaning it is made to the highest manufacturing standards
- Eco-friendly and highly bio-available.
Here’s where we think Performance Lab SPORT BCAA really shines. The entire Performance Lab range is designed to be used together if desired. So, you can safely stack Performance Lab SPORT BCAA with any of the other supplements in the range, giving you incredible flexibility with your supplement choice. Think of SPORT BCAA as a foundational vegan nutrition sport formula and you can make some excellent stacks, such as:
SPORT BCAA + Performance Lab SPORT Protein
A dream combo. A complete vegan protein source combined with additional BCAAs to keep you well beyond the leucine threshold.
SPORT BCAA + Performance Lab SPORT Carb (also vegan)
The combination of carbs and BCAAs has been shown to be highly effective. Performance Lab SPORT Carb gives 2+ hours of stim-free muscle energy, backed up by the energy and fatigue-busting aspects of SPORT BCAA.
Final Word on Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
So, is it a good idea to add vegan BCAAs to your training and exercise regime? Yes, absolutely. Is it even MORE beneficial to add them if you’re following a vegan diet? Most certainly.
Who are BCAAs for? Anyone! That’s the great thing about BCAAs; they’re suitable for athletes, professionals, and amateurs alike, and anyone interested in maintaining their fitness. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to take advantage, though they can certainly help when you’re trying to build muscle and lose fat.
Let’s recap their major benefits:
- BCAAs help anyone following a vegan diet to push up their leucine threshold
- Doing so allows leucine to get to work encouraging protein synthesis, helping you to build muscle
- BCAAs also protect against exercise-related damage to muscles
- They also reduce your perception of fatigue, helping you to continue!
Out of all the many BCAAs on the market, we do not hesitate to recommend the best vegan BCAA UK in our eyes… Performance Lab SPORT BCAA. It’s so good that we recommend it to vegans and non-vegans alike.
PERFORMANCE LAB SPORT BCCA ALSO STACKS WELL WITH:
Performance Lab SPORT Pre
Combine SPORT BCAA with Performance Lab’s vegan pre-workout for an extra stim-free oomph to your workout. The L-citrulline in SPORT Pre helps the body to use the Branched Chain Amino Acids more effectively. Combine it with creatine, beta-alanine, and maritime pine bark to boost strength, power, muscle growth, endurance and more.
ALSO STACKS WELL WITH:
Performance Lab SPORT Post
Don’t neglect your post-workout supplement needs; combining Performance Lab SPORT BCAA and SPORT Post is the best way to encourage muscle recovery after exercise and to maximise long-term muscle gains.