You’ve probably heard of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) before: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These essential amino acids are not produced by the body, so we must obtain them through our diet. BCAA supplements are popular among athletes and bodybuilders because they’re thought to promote muscle growth and improve exercise performance. Additionally, leucine has been shown to help preserve muscle mass in older adults and may help keep blood sugar levels under control. While all BCAAs are important, leucine is considered the most beneficial due to its effects on muscle protein synthesis.
What is Leucine?
Leucine is an essential amino acid that is integral to the synthesis of muscle. The leucine structure contains an alpha-amino group, an alpha-carboxylic acid group and a side chain isobutyl group, making it a branched-chain amino acid. Branched-chain amino acids cannot be produced by the body and need to be obtained from food sources. These amino acids are broken down in the muscles instead of the liver, helping to enhance energy production and muscle synthesis during exercise. However, leucine is often considered preferable to other branched-chain amino acids because it’s broken down and absorbed more rapidly, allowing it to be used more readily than other types, such as isoleucine and valine. Leucine supplements can help to increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance, making them a popular choice among athletes and bodybuilders.
Benefits of Leucine
Leucine is an amino acid that has been shown to be beneficial for muscle growth. When combined with other amino acids, it can help trigger muscle building and optimize your workout. BCAAs are a type of supplement that contain a variety of amino acids, including leucine. One long-term study out of France found that BCAAs were much more effective in promoting muscle growth and enhancing performance when they were consumed together rather than when leucine was consumed alone. This suggests that including a variety of protein foods in your diet, such as BCAAs supplements, can help maximize the muscle-building effects of leucine by providing a wide array of amino acids and essential nutrients.
Prevents Muscle Loss
As we get older, our bodies start to change in a variety of ways. One of the most noticeable changes is sarcopenia, the gradual deterioration of skeletal muscles. This condition can cause weakness and decreased stamina, leading to a decline in physical activity. Leucine is believed to help slow muscle deterioration to decrease the effects of aging. One study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Internal Medicine and published in Clinical Nutrition showed that it helped improve muscle synthesis in older adults consuming the recommended amount of protein per meal. Although more research is needed, this initial study shows promise for those looking for ways to combat the effects of aging.
As any athlete knows, there is always room for improvement. Whether you're a professional looking to edge out the competition or a novice hoping to take your performance to the next level, turning to essential amino acids like leucine can give you the boost you need. Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of leucine supplementation on both endurance and power. For example, one study conducted at the Institute of Sport and Exercise Science at James Cook University in Australia found that six weeks of leucine supplementation significantly improved both endurance and upper-body power in competitive canoeists. Similarly, another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 showed that leucine supplementation enhanced lean tissue mass and improved functional performance in older adults. So, if you're looking to take your performance up a notch, consider adding leucine to your supplement regimen.
Aids in Fat Loss
Just like protein, amino acids are the building blocks of your muscles. So, it's no wonder that leucine, in particular, has been shown to have some pretty powerful effects when it comes to fat loss and building muscle. In fact, a 2015 review in Nutrients found that this amino acid has been shown to decrease fat accumulation during aging and prevent the development of diet-related obesity. In one study, rats that were given a low dose of leucine for six weeks ended up losing more fat than a control group.
Promotes Muscle Recovery
Cramps and sore muscles are pesky problems that many people face after hitting the gym. Following an especially intense workout, these muscle aches can sometimes even be enough to keep you from the gym a few days, completely throwing off your schedule and delaying your fitness goals. Studies have found some promising results on the potential role of leucine in muscle recovery. A review from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois reported that consuming leucine right after working out can help stimulate muscle recovery and muscle protein synthesis.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Anyone who has ever suffered from low blood sugar knows that it can be a real pain. You feel shaky, sweaty and just plain out of energy. But what about when your blood sugar is too high? This condition, called hyperglycemia, can be even more dangerous to your health. In the short term, it can cause symptoms like fatigue, unintentional weight loss and increased thirst. Left unchecked for even longer, it can have even more serious consequences, including nerve damage, kidney problems and a higher risk of skin infections. Fortunately, there may be a way to help keep blood sugar levels in check. Some research suggests that leucine may help maintain normal blood sugar levels. A human study out of the VA Medical Center’s Endocrine, Metabolism and Nutrition Section in Minneapolis showed that when participants took leucine alongside glucose, it helped stimulate insulin secretion and decrease blood sugar levels.
- Leucine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in the body. It is a key component of protein synthesis, and it helps to preserve muscle mass. In addition, leucine has been shown to boost metabolism and promote fat loss. Although leucine is found naturally in food sources such as meat and fish, it can also be taken as a supplement.
- Leucine has become a popular supplement for athletes and bodybuilders because been shown to promote and preserve muscle mass, improve athletic performance, increase fat loss, stabilize blood sugar levels and support muscle recovery.
- It can be taken in supplement form or consumed through protein foods like meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds.
ProLab BCAA Plus is comprised of the three branched-chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Making it beneficial for increased muscle growth, reduced muscle soreness, reduced fatigue after working out, and preventing muscle breakdown.