A lot has been written about the usefulness of branched-chain amino acids (also known as BCAAs). While this is a fascinating topic, we will now focus on just one of those amino acids: Leucine. This amino acid seems to have a lot of useful properties, but it also has some side effects that need to be understood. In this article, we will attempt to give you a short and dirty rundown on this important nutrient.
What Is L-Leucine?
Leucine is one of the essential amino acids, meaning that the body needs it and cannot synthesize it from other materials. Since the body cannot make this stuff, you must acquire leucine from your diet.
This substance plays an essential role in the processing of protein. Amino acids have often been described as building blocks, and this is appropriate since your muscles will use them in that fashion. Workout supplements often include branched-chain amino acids like this one because of their many proven benefits.
Sources Of L-Leucine:
As we stated before, leucine can only be acquired from your diet. Good sources of leucine include:
- Navy beans
- Ricotta cheese
- Squash seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Benefits Of L-Leucine:
There are several ways in which leucine supplementation can be helpful.
First, let’s talk about the most popular benefit. Leucine has proven to be quite effective as a weight-loss supplement. The good news is that it doesn’t act as a stimulant like many other diet supplements. Instead, it works on the chemistry of your body in a subtle and natural way.
For a better idea of how that works, let’s examine this study. Researchers found that leucine aids weight loss in a most unusual way: By conserving protein. The study doesn’t do a good job of explaining why that works, so we will attempt to make up for that.
Your body gets energy from a variety of sources, but most of it comes in the form of proteins, fat, or carbs. The carbohydrates are converted in glucose, which functions as a source of quick and easy energy. This is why many trainers will tell you to front-load with plenty of carbs before a hard day’s workout. The purpose is to ensure that you have enough energy to get through the day.
Protein is processed differently because it’s harder to digest. Thus, the body goes into an energy-saving mode. As a consequence, the hunger response is significantly dulled. This is why a high-protein diet is more filling and why it helps with weight loss. It reduces cravings for food throughout the day. Leucine is particularly useful for this purpose.
Like all BCAAs, leucine has been proven to be quite beneficial for promoting muscle recovery. You see, muscles only grow because you are damaging them. Every time you lift, you are creating micro-tears in your muscle tissue. This tearing may sound bad, but it’s a good thing because it forces your muscles to rebuild themselves, and they will build themselves larger and stronger than before. Thus, muscle development is partially the result of an immune response.
Once you understand how that works, you can take control of the process. This study should give you an idea of how you can accomplish that. Using laboratory rats, they showed that leucine supplements could decrease muscle soreness brought about by strenuous exercise. However, the news gets even better. They also found that a dose of leucine right after the workout would increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis. Strenuous exercise usually leads to a temporary decrease in the rate of muscle protein synthesis, which is why it’s better to take amino acids (like leucine) right after a workout. They will quickly bump your protein synthesis level back up to where it should be.
There is also evidence to suggest that leucine could be helpful in the management and prevention of diabetes. These results may be the most promising thing in the whole article. We already knew that leucine was good for weight loss, and most people know that people with diabetes need to keep their weight down for safety reasons. However, regular doses of leucine were also shown to reduce hyperglycemia and other metabolic imbalances. No one seems to understand why leucine does this, but other studies have also corroborated these findings.
There are some possible side effects of this supplement. We should start by letting you know how important it is to stay within the recommended dosage. For the record, the recommended dosage for this particular supplement is quite variable.
Medical science has not yet determined the ideal dose for this supplement, but certain dosage levels have been studied. These results show us that a dose as high as 60 grams per day was not found to be dangerous. However, the average dose is more like 1-4 grams per day.
Leucine is toxic to the brain if it builds up to an extremely high level. There’s no need to panic about this, though, because leucine doesn’t build up that much under normal circumstances. There is, however, a disease called “maple syrup urine disease” that is caused by an inability to break down leucine and other BCAAs. When these amino acids accumulate, the result is eventual brain damage and possibly even death.
That being said, leucine is also an essential substance that your body needs for basic health and survival. So, this is one of those cases where small amounts are good for you, and large amounts can be very bad for you. It is really as simple as that.
There is a lot of exciting research going on right now. As we learn more and more about the different amino acids, we find that they make excellent medicines! This fact is surprising since these proteins have usually been studied from a dietary viewpoint. However, mother nature intended us to have a lot of amino acids, which is why she put them in all the tastiest foods. From that perspective, the effectiveness of leucine and other BCAAs in treating specific health problems is not surprising.
Be aware that this list does not contain all of the benefits and potential benefits of this versatile and highly effective supplement. We hope that you will be intrigued enough to figure out the rest for yourself. Please follow us on Facebook so that you can always stay updated on the latest research in the world of health and fitness.