Branched Chained Amino Acids, or BCAAs for short, refers to three specific amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine is an important part of muscle protein synthesis, and isoleucine induces glucose uptake (aka muscle glycogen) into cells.
Together, they are called ‘essential amino acids’, essential meaning that your body will not be able to produce them from other amino acids. Hence, to obtain essential amino acids, you will have to consume them via food or supplements.
Why Should I Take BCAAs?
When it comes to fitness, recovery is the name of the game. Recover better, train more, and you’ll get more results. The efficacy of BCAA supplementation in reducing fatigue and muscle soreness, both during and after exercise has been well proven by various scientific studies. This is likely due to BCAAs ability to preserve muscle glycogen while increasing fat oxidization (i.e. fat burning).
And since amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, BCAA supplementation may help with maintaining and increasing lean muscle mass as well. BCAA supplementation is also highly recommended for those following an intermittent fasting protocol.
How Much BCAAs Should I Take?
A ‘standard’ daily dosage of BCAAs should be 20g combined. Most BCAA supplements come in either a 2:1:1, 4:1:1, or 8:1:1 leucine / isoleucine / valine ratio. Supplements with increased leucine are targeted towards those looking to build more muscle mass.
Do keep in mind however that there is no ‘right’ amount to take. It will depend on your sex, body weight, training intensity, training frequency, and diet (BCAAs are naturally found in proteins such as meat and eggs). The best way is to experiment and work from there. The recommended dosage on the supplement label is a good place to start.
Which BCAA Supplement Should I Take?
Given their popularity, there are dozens of choices of BCAA supplements on the market. But for today, we are going to look at two of the most popular ones: Scivation Xtend and Modern BCAA. We will look at their pros and cons and break down what exactly goes into each product. By the end of it, you will be able to make an informed choice as to which of these would be more suitable for you.
Probably the most popular product by Scivation, its Xtend BCAA supplement has gone through several iterations since inception. Scivation has also released several variants of its flagship Xtend product, namely, Xtend Go, Xtend Raw, Xtend Free, Xtend Perform, and Xtend Ready to Drink.
For the purposes of this review we will be focusing on the standard Xtend product, however, there will be a brief section at the end detailing how all these product variants differ from the original Xtend.
L-Leucine, L-Glutamine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine, Citrulline Malate, Sucralose, Electrolyte Blend (Trisodium Citrate Dihydrate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride).
Calorie Content / Macronutrient Breakdown
Scivation Xtend contains zero calories and hence has zero macronutrients.
15g per serving, with two container sizes: 30 servings and 90 servings.
7g of BCAAs per serving in a 2:1:1 ratio comprising of:
- L-Leucine: 3,500mg
- L-Valine: 1,750mg
- L-isoleucine: 1,750mg
7g out of a 15g serving comprises BCAAs, leading to a BCAA concentration level of 46.7%.
Other Beneficial Ingredients
Each serving of Scivation Xtend also contains:
- 2,500mg of L-glutamine: While glutamine is an amino acid, it is not considered to be an essential amino acid as your body is able to produce it on its own. It is the most common amino acid in the body and comprises 61% of amino acids in your muscle tissue. It is also the primary nitrogen transporter into the muscles. Many supplement manufacturers include glutamine in both BCAA and protein supplements due to its ability to increase muscle protein synthesis and its low cost.
- 1,000mg of citrulline malate: A compound composed of citrulline, an amino acid, and ester of malic acid. Studies have shown that citrulline malate supplementation can increase weight-room performance, reduce muscle soreness, and increase endurance by promoting aerobic energy production. It can also enhance the effectiveness of BCAAs (plus post-exercise growth hormone levels) and improve arterial stiffness due to its effect in increasing nitric oxide production.
- 1,190mg of electrolytes: The main electrolytes in this blend are trisodium citrate dihydrate, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride. The addition of these electrolytes is to promote rehydration during workouts which will enhance the fatigue and muscle soreness resisting properties of the BCAAs.
- 640mcg of Vitamin B6: It seems strange that out of all the vitamins that vitamin B6 was chosen for this product. But vitamin B6 has been shown to increase the rise of growth hormone and suppress the increase of prolactin (a female hormone that lowers testosterone) after exercise. Further, we also lose vitamin B6 as we exercise.
Scivation Xtend is available in a wide variety of flavors, 15 in total! The flavors available are: Pink lemonade, Grape, Watermelon, Lemon-Lime, Orange, Pineapple, Fruit Punch, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, Green Apple, Mango, Tangerine, Margarita and Pina Colada.
Although individual flavor preferences vary, you would probably be able to find one flavor that you really like. That said, based on personal experience and user reviews, the top Scivation Xtend flavors are Watermelon and Green Apple.
The sweet taste and flavor of Xtend comes from sucralose (aka Splenda), citric acid, malic acid, acesulfame potassium.
Value for Money
Depending on flavor, prices for a 30 serving container of Scivation Xtend range from $20 – $24 while the 90 serving container costs from $35 – $55 (with most flavors coming in at the $40 – $45 range). Hence a single serving of Xtend would cost anywhere from $0.39 to $0.80 with the average being around $0.70/serving for a 30 serving container and $0.50/serving for a 90 serving container.
In addition to the original Xtend, Scivation has five other variants on the product. They are listed below together with their main differences from the original Xtend.
- Xtend Go: All the same ingredients as the original but with the addition of 200mg of caffeine and 200mg of l-theanine (an active ingredient found in some teas) per serving. The addition of these ingredients is to improve focus during workouts. The product is designed for intra-workout supplementation. Available in three flavors.
- Xtend Raw: The unsweetened version of the original; designed to be added to your protein shake or smoothie.
- Xtend Free: For those who dislike artificial flavors. Uses stevia extract and does not contain sucralose or acesulfame potassium. However, it also contains sugar at 2g per serving, meaning that one serving has 8 calories. Available in two flavors.
- Xtend Perform: A mixture of Xtend with Scivation’s ‘PeakO2’ blend (2g per serving), which are six different strains of mushrooms (cordyceps, reishi, king trumpet, shiitake, lion’s mane, and turkey tail). This proprietary blend can supposedly improve peak power output, VO2 max, and time to exhaustion. Available in three flavors.
- Xtend Ready To Drink: The ready to drink version of Xtend. The only main difference in ingredients is the addition of 2,500mg of taurine per serving. Taurine is a popular ingredient in energy drinks and has been shown to improve blood flow. Available in two flavors.
USP Labs Modern BCAA
USP Labs’ Modern BCAA is another popular entrant in the BCAA supplement market. While USP Labs is probably better known for their Jack3D pre-workout supplement, their Modern BCAA product has also been very well received. Currently, there are only two variants of the product; the original Modern BCAA and a version sweetened using stevia and Munk fruit.
Micronized L-Leucine, Micronized L-Isoleucine, Micronized L-Valine, L-Lysine HCI, Taurine, L-Alanine, Glycine, L-Alanyl-Glutamine (Sustamine), Electrolyte Blend (Sodium Citrate, Potassium Chloride).
Note: Micronized means that the particles have been broken into smaller particles for easier absorption.
Calorie Content / Macronutrient Breakdown
USP Labs’ Modern BCAA contains zero calories and hence has zero macronutrients.
17.85g per serving with 30 servings per container.
9.375g of BCAAs per serving in a 2:1:1 ratio comprising of:
- L-Leucine: 7,500mg
- L-Valine: 937.5mg
- L-Isoleucine: 937.5mg
9.375g out of a 17.85g serving comprises BCAAs, leading to a BCAA concentration level of 52.5%.
Other Beneficial Ingredients
Each serving of Modern BCAA also contains:
- 5,625mg of L-Lysine HCI, Taurine, L-Alanine, Glycine, L-Alanyl-Glutamine: The manufacturer does not break down the exact components of the other amino acids in the product. L-Lysine is another essential amino acid and is a building block for the proteins in your body. Taurine, as mentioned previously, is popular in energy drinks and has been shown to improve blood flow. L-alanine is another non-essential amino acid that is also a building block of proteins. Glycine has been shown to improve sleep quality and thus reduce fatigue and increase recovery. Sustamine (L-alanyl-glutamine) has also been shown to increase reaction time and performance skill through increased rehydration.
- 654mg of electrolytes: The main electrolytes in this blend are sodium citrate and potassium chloride.
Modern BCAA is available in 12 different flavors. They are: Watermelon, Fruit Punch, Blue Raspberry, Pineapple Strawberry, Mango Orange, Pink Lemonade, Grape Bubblegum, Raspberry Lemonade, Green Apple, Peach Tea, Honeydew Melon and Cherry Limeade.
With such a wide variety of flavors, tastes will vary however most users seem to enjoy the Watermelon and Blue Raspberry flavors.
The flavoring in Modern BCAA comes from sucralose (aka Splenda), citric acid, malic acid, acesulfame potassium.
Value for Money
One 30 serving container of Modern BCAA retails from about $20 – $30, leading to a price per serving of $0.67 to $1.00.
USP Labs also has a stevia-sweetened version of Modern BCAA. It is sweetened with stevia and Munk fruit extract and does not contain sucralose or acesulfame potassium. Only available in orange flavor.
Scivation Xtend vs Modern BCAA Comparison – Who Comes Out On Top?
Now that we’ve taken an in-depth look at both products, the question on everyone’s mind is: which one comes out on top? Let’s see how both products stack up in their respective categories.
One serving of Scivation Xtend contains 7g of BCAAs compared to 9.375g in Modern BCAA. Concentration wise, Modern BCAA also comes out on top, with a BCAA concentration of 52.5% versus 46.7% for Scivation Xtend.
However, we also have to consider the BCAA ratios. Scivation Xtend has a 2:1:1 ratio while Modern BCAA has an 8:1:1 ratio. This means that while Modern BCAA has 115% more leucine content than Scivation Xtend (7,500mg vs. 3,500mg), Scivation Xtend has 87% more isoleucine and valine compared to Modern BCAA (1,750mg vs. 937.5mg).
So the question now becomes should you bias leucine over the other two BCAAs? It depends on your goals. As we mentioned earlier, higher leucine content is better for those targeting increased muscle growth. However, valine minimizes serotonin conversion in the brain (which signals fatigue) and improves cognition while isoleucine gives BCAAs its increased fat oxidization capabilities.
Hence, if you are more focused on muscle growth, go for Modern BCAA but if your focus is on improved workout performance and fat-loss, opt for Scivation Xtend instead.
Other Nutritional Content
Modern BCAA contains an additional 5,625mg of amino acids, which will assist in further muscle growth, as well as some further effects of fatigue reduction, primarily through increased rehydration.
On the other hand, Scivation Xtend has 1,000mg of citrulline malate, a proven substance for increased endurance and aerobic energy production. It also has vitamin B6, to increase post-exercise growth hormone plus a greater amount of electrolytes compared to Modern BCAA. Its 2,500mg of l-glutamine also give a boost for additional muscle building effects.
In terms of hydration, while Scivation Xtend does have more electrolytes, Modern BCAA’s sustamine also promotes rehydration, thus balancing it out.
Based on the ingredients, it seems clear that again, Modern BCAA seems more geared towards those looking for muscle growth while Scivation Xtend is primarily targeted for increased endurance during workouts.
Both Scivation Xtend and Modern BCAA have a wide variety of flavors so they are relatively equal in this regard. That said, Scivation Xtend has a slight edge with a slightly broader range of flavors. Most users also rate the taste of Scivation Xtend better than that of Modern BCAA.
Value for Money
Scivation Xtend comes out on top with an average price of about $0.70 per serving for a 30 servings container and $0.50 per serving for a 90 servings container. Even at its cheapest, Modern BCAA comes out at around $0.67 per serving, which is the average for Scivation Xtend. Scivation Xtend is the clear winner here.
If you are primarily looking for improved endurance and recovery during your workouts, then Scivation Xtend is the BCAA supplement for you. With its higher isoleucine and valine content, coupled with the additional citrulline malate, this product will give you that endurance boost you are looking for.
On the other hand, if you are looking for higher muscle growth, then go with Modern BCAA. While you will definitely also see an improvement in endurance and recovery, its effect will likely not be as pronounced compared to Scivation Xtend. If you are taking BCAAs as part of an intermittent fasting protocol; Modern BCAA with its higher amino acid content will also be more suitable for you.
Quick Review Tables
|Better for endurance and fatigue reduction.||Not so good for muscle growth.|
|More product varieties.|
|Better Value for Money|
|USP Labs’ Modern BCAA
|Better for muscle growth.||Slightly more expensive.|
|Ideal for intermittent fasting.|
Last updated: December 16, 2019
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