Leucine is one of the basic and most important amino acids necessary for building muscle tissue. Like valine and isoleucine, it is one of the branched chain amino acids known as BCAAs. Leucine inhibits catabolic processes and regulates anabolic processes in the body, it also supports muscle regeneration.
Leucine - what exactly is it?
It is an exogenous amino acid, i.e. one that the body cannot synthesize on its own. Therefore, leucine must be supplied with food. The source of the amino acid is food products such as legumes, milk, cheese, yoghurts, eggs and meat.
Covering the demand for leucine only from food is possible among people with moderate physical activity. Among athletes or regularly training people for whom this demand is increased, natural sources of leucine may not be enough. A good solution is then to supplement the deficiencies of the amino acid with the help of appropriate dietary supplements.
Leucine - effects
What planes in our body does leucine affect? These include:
Leucine is called an exercise amino acid because it acts as a fuel for muscles, especially during increased physical activity. Together with isoleucine and valine, it plays a significant role in the body, namely:
- increases the amount of ATP, providing muscles with energy to work,
- protects against muscle catabolism,
- supports the rapid regeneration of muscle tissue.
Moreover, leucine initiates anabolic processes. It affects mTOR kinase, an enzyme that causes the release of anabolic hormones, and thus the process of protein synthesis is accelerated. This, in turn, allows you to gain muscle mass. Moreover, leucine influences the synthesis of growth hormone.
In addition, in the process of metabolic transformation of leucine, HMB is formed, i.e. a compound that inhibits the action of enzymes responsible for the breakdown of structural proteins in muscles. Thus, any damage caused during exercise is quickly repaired, and the athlete recovers the lost strength.
Although leucine is the most important of the amino acids, it should be remembered that the development of muscle tissue occurs thanks to the supply of all exogenous amino acids to the body, not just leucine.
Leucine is recommended not only to athletes, but also to people who want to lose weight. The amino acid intensifies the thermogenesis process and thus accelerates fat burning. What's more, leucine helps regulate blood sugar levels, stimulating glycogen production and also increases insulin sensitivity. In this way, the amino acid facilitates survival on reduction diets, reducing hunger pangs and mood swings.
It is worth noting that the best effects of reducing body fat can be observed when combining leucine supplementation with a high-protein diet.
Recommended dose of leucine
Appropriate amount of leucine to be supplemented among physically active people depends on gender, body weight and level of training.
Among men, the recommended dose oscillates between 8 - 10 g per day, while among women this value is about 5 g per day.
It is recommended to take the preparation around the training time and also immediately after waking up.
However, it all depends on the recommendations placed on the packaging by the manufacturer. The most reasonable solution is to follow the information on the supplement's leaflet.
It is worth remembering that leucine will work properly if it is delivered to the body in the right company: along with other BCAA amino acids and carbohydrates.
Leucine deficiency and excess
Leucine deficiency is a very rare phenomenon that we can only deal with in cases of malnutrition. Insufficient amount of amino acid is manifested by headaches and dizziness, muscle weakness and depressed mood.
Also, the excess of leucine in the body is an unusual phenomenon. It sometimes happens among impatient fans of physical exertion. An excess of the amino acid may cause an imbalance of the nitrogen balance, which may lead to liver disorders. Another effect of leucine overdose may also be pellagra, i.e. the occurrence of swollen erythema.
Luckily, these situations are rare and only happen in extreme cases.
Possible side effects
Among people using leucine according to the manufacturer's recommendations, no undesirable side effects were observed. However, taking too large portions of the supplement may lead to concentration disorders, mood swings and chronic fatigue. It is therefore recommended to read the leaflets attached to the products used and to follow the information on them.