Leucine, the essential amino acid for building muscle
Leucine is an essential BCAA (branched-chain amino acid), meaning that it's not made by the body and must be consumed through our food intake or supplements. It is naturally found in foods such as seeds and nuts, eggs, soy products, spirulina, chicken, brown rice and whole wheat products.
Leucine is the most important BCAA, particularly for bodybuilding, because it is the one responsible for the reconstruction of muscle fibres and best stimulates muscle anabolism. The other two BCAAs, isoleucine and valine, may have a similar effect, although they are not as potent when used in isolation, like leucine. It accounts for 8% of the total amount of amino acid in body muscles and ranks high in concentration in skeletal muscle tissue. So what makes Leucine so essential for athletes?
Why is Leucine beneficial to the body?
Leucine has numerous performance boosting features that will improve your workout game.
- Overall performance enhancement- Improves energy output, reduces fatigue and increases endurance levels.
- Significantly improves muscle anabolism (muscle growth)
- Improves protein synthesis, which contributes towards stronger muscle fibres, faster recovery and better physical performance.
- Assists in preserving lean muscle tissue
- Breaks down fat
Another benefit of this essential amino acid is its anabolic effect. When Leucine is added to a protein drink, it increases in anabolic power (meaning that it stimulates protein synthesis) by 70%, which causes a greater intake of proteins into the muscles. Leucine also has a strong anti-catabolic effect to maintain and preserve your dry muscle mass. Thus, you will be able to limit muscle breakdown as much as possible after your intensive sessions! At the end of a workout, a Leucine supplement will help stop the catabolic effect more quickly so that your body can enter its optimal recovery phase.
How to take Leucine- dosage and recommendations
Here are some recommendations to help you get the most out of supplementing with leucine:
In order to boost post-workout recovery, it's advisable to take about 2 to 5g of leucine. Taking more than this will not necessarily lead to more benefits. In all cases, there are no side effects today on overuse of leucine for health.
Most athletes consume leucine supplements with whole food meals (that contain a low protein profile) or during a fasting state. Anything under 2g of leucine (when consumed with food) will be mostly transformed into calories, therefore its advisable to consume between 2.5g - 4g per meal.