Leucine: what is it and WHAT does it do?
There leucine it's a amino acid apolar and represents one of the molecules that form the primary structure of proteins.
Together with phenylalanine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, it also forms the nine essential amino acids, or those amino acids which are not synthesized by the body but must be taken and integrated into the metabolism through food.
Finally leucine, isoleucine and valine, form a triad that takes the name of branched chain amino acids or BCAA (from the English branched-chain aminoacids). The branched chain amino acids they are defined as such due to their particular shape and constitute about 40% of amino acids necessary for human metabolism.
Between the BCAA there leucine it is certainly the most important and has numerous properties essential for the proper functioning of our body.
Firstly, it is essential for the construction and maintenance of muscle tissue as it stimulates the production of new proteins within the muscles and liver, facilitates the maintenance of existing muscle proteins and promotes their regenerative processes.
Another very interesting aspect of this particular amino acid it concerns the speed with which it is absorbed. Unlike most of the amino acids, i BCAA they are assimilated by the body directly at the muscular level, that is, without involving the hepatic metabolism. This allows them to be absorbed very quickly and the rate of oxidation that characterizes the leucine makes it theamino acid more effective for the stimulation of Langerhans Islands, or those cells of the pancreas that specialize in the production of insulin.
Finally, the creation of insulin allows for the reduction of blood glucose concentration and favors the production ofgrowth hormone.
Leucine: WHERE is it found?
It may seem obvious but the leucine is more present, like all amino acids, in those high protein foods. Foods such as red (lean) meat, white meat, salmon, tuna, eggs, milk and cheeses are typically high in leucine.
On the other hand, what can create some cause for confusion is the lack of information that often accompanies the labels of supermarket products. This happens because the latter are limited, in most cases, to indicating the percentage of proteins contained in the food, without specifying how many of them are BCAA is leucine.
To better understand the contribution of BCAA, Table 1 of this article reports the main food sources of branched chain amino acids, while in This Page the quantities of branched chain amino acids for each food.
On the site www.biolineintegratori.com all products on sale are provided with a table that highlights the ingredients and nutritional values in detail.
For those on a vegan or vegetarian diet it can be difficult to get the right amount of BCAA, proteins and others essential amino acids. For this reason, a valid help is represented by plant-based food supplements and products based on soy, legumes, quinoa and dried fruit, with a good amino acid profile.
Leucine: WHO should take it and WHO not?
All! As already mentioned above, the leucine is part of the essential amino acids and, therefore, it is not produced by the body but must be introduced through food. A varied and balanced diet is enough for a healthy person to maintain leucine at optimal levels.
The use of supplements is instead recommended, if not mandatory, for those people who do not want or are unable to follow a complete diet, such as the aforementioned vegetarians and vegans, or in the case of specific diseases.
In the sports field, the BCAA supplements they are very popular and used, especially by athletes who practice endurance sports or in the world of bodybuilding. In the first case, cyclists, cross-country skiers and marathoners exploit the qualities of the leucine to decrease the feeling of fatigue and speed up recovery at the end. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, aim to stimulate the production of protein and the consequent increase in muscle mass.
On the other hand the BCAA supplements and of leucine they are not suitable for administration to subjects suffering from particular conditions, such as:
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis);
MSUD (Maple Syrup Urine Disease);
pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It is also useful to underline that, although harmless in the right dosages, in the case of excessive intake these supplements can induce side effects such as: fatigue, headache, hypertension and gastrointestinal disorders.
Leucine: WHEN to take it?
There is no exact recipe for taking the supplements leucine. The frequency, dosage and duration over time depend on the needs and physical exercise of the individual.
In general we can say that:
according to the Ministry of Health the optimal dosage for supplements should be 5 grams per day of BCAA, enriched with vitamins B1 and B6, although experts recommend an intake of 1-2.5 grams per kg of body weight per day.
Taking BCAA supplements before exercising helps to preserve the protein stores already present in the body.
Taking it during training reduces the feeling of fatigue.
Taking it at the end of the year facilitates recovery.
In conclusion, it is important to be able to maintain the right amount of leucine in the muscles, especially for people accustomed to strenuous and continuous sports activities.
Ram3 supplements BCAA 2: 1: 1, for example, contain L-leucine, L-isoleucine is L-valine (plus vitamin B6) in 2: 1: 1 ratios, but they are also available in 4: 1: 1 and 8: 1: 1 ratios. Everyone is therefore free to choose the most suitable dosage according to their needs: whether it is to recover strength after a run or to increase their muscle mass.