Foods Highest in BCAAs

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids (meaning they are required in your diet and cannot be synthesized by your body) that play a key role in muscle growth, maintaining muscle mass, and overall health. BCAA and other amino acid supplements have become very popular because of the amount of positive science showing many benefits of BCAAs including their ability to:

  • Prevent muscle breakdown - When exercising in a fasted state or during high intensity exercise an athlete risks breaking down muscle to fuel their body because the energy demand is so high. Supplementing with BCAAs has shown to prevent muscle breakdown because the BCAAs sacrifice themselves and are converted to sugars (via gluconeogenesis) to fuel the bodies performance as opposed to hard earned muscle being broken down into amino acids and converted to an energy source. 
  • Increase anabolic (muscle building) signalling - BCAAs increase muscle protein synthesis by phosphorylating mTOR and sequential activation of s6 protein kinase (p70 s6k) which means that BCAAs activate pathways that signal your body to increase protein synthesis (contributing to muscle growth). Like flicking a switch to turn a light on in a room, BCAAs would be your finger flicking the switch, mTOR signalling would be the electricity that results when a complete circuit is formed from flicking the switch, and muscle growth is the result of the light turning on and lighting the room. 
  • Reduce muscle soreness - resistance training and high intensity exercise causes microtears in muscle fibres which are then rebuild by dietary protein/amino acid sources. When supplementing with BCAAs they have been found to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) associated with exercise. This means you will be less sore from your workout and will be able to work out more effectively the next day without muscle soreness hindering performance.  

BCAA supplements are part of the picture in increasing muscle growth, improving performance, and speeding recovery. Optimizing your diet to be high in BCAAs will result in even greater gains. Below is a list of common meats and alternatives and their content of branched chain amino acids from highest BCAA content to lowest. 

**All values are per 3 oz. or 85 gram serving. 

Turkey - Ground

  • Leucine - 1809 mg
  • Isoleucine - 1179 mg
  • Valine - 1206 mg
  • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 4194 mg (4.2 grams)

Beef - Ground, Extra Lean (90% lean meat, 10% fat)

  • Leucine - 1884 mg
  • Isoleucine - 1063 mg
  • Valine - 1186 mg
  • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 4133 mg (4.1 grams)

Bison - Ground, grass-fed 

  • Leucine - 1856 mg 
  • Isoleucine - 1045 mg
  • Valine -1165 mg
  • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 4066 mg (4.1 grams)

    Elk - Ground, Free-range

    • Leucine - 2164 mg
    • Isoleucine - 827 mg
    • Valine - 906 mg
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 3897 mg (3.9 grams)

    Chicken - Ground

    • Leucine - 1544 mg
    • Isoleucine - 901 mg
    • Valine - 937 mg
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 3382 mg (3.4 grams)

    Egg Whites

    • Leucine - 852 mg
    • Isoleucine - 555 mg
    • Valine - 681 mg
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 2088 mg (2.8 grams)

    Black Beans

    • Leucine - 594 mg
    • Isoleucine - 327 mg
    • Valine - 390 mg
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 1311 mg (1.3 grams)
    Sprouted raw Lentils
    • Leucine - 528 mg
    • Isoleucine - 273 mg
    • Valine - 336 mg
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 11371 mg (1.1 grams)

    Kidney Beans

    • Leucine - 375 mg
    • Isoleucine - 210 mg
    • Valine - 233 mg 
    • TOTAL BCAA/3 oz. = 818 mg (0.8 grams)

    This article serves as a reference for BCAA content of meats and alternatives, if you are looking to build muscle, choose foods higher in BCAAs and consume them after your workouts for the best anabolic response. If you are looking for high-quality BCAA supplement that will increase muscle growth, boost performance, and improve recovery check out DYNAMIS AMINOpulse Advanced Amino Matrix and use the code REFUELRECIPE for 20% off of your order

    Thanks for reading!

    Evan Ward BScHK, CPT
    CEO & Founder, DYNAMIS


    [1] Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, Doyle D, Wolfe RR. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999;276:E628–34.

    [2] Blomstrand E, Newsholme EA. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on the exercise-induced change in aromatic amino acid concentration in human muscle. Acta Physiol Scand. 1992;146:293–8

    [3] Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson H, Kohnke R. Branched Chain Amino Acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J. Nutr.vol. 136no. 1 269S-273S