Never heard of leucine? Up until a few years ago, few people had, but the truth is that it’s a truly amazing chemical. Leucine is the most anabolic (aka muscle-building) amino acid, and understanding it will help you build more muscle, boost your strength, and maximise your fat loss!
What is Leucine?
Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that stimulates the production of skeletal muscle proteins. It activates a chemical that signals to your body’s cells that there is enough protein to create new muscle. This triggers your body to produce new muscle fibres, which in turns lead to greater strength and energy storage.
You can find leucine in a number of foods, such as:
- Eggs (1.1 g/egg)
- Seaweed/Spirulina (5.5 g/cup)
- Elk/moose/game meats (3.4 – 3.7 g/cup)
- Tuna (3.5 g/cup)
- Turkey/chicken (3.5 g/cup)
There are MANY leucine-rich foods, some containing more of this amino acid than others. Of course, you can also get leucine from whey protein and soy protein isolates–two of the most popular sources of this BCAA.
How to Use Leucine
Take a look at your current diet:
- Are you eating protein at every meal? You should be getting at least 2.5 grams of leucine in each meal for maximum protein synthesis. If you’re not eating protein with each meal, it may be time to start.
- How often do you eat? You need leucine every 4 to 4½ hours to maximise your muscle-building potential. If your meals are spaced too far apart, you may not be getting that leucine-induced muscle-building stimulus frequently enough.
Pretty much EVERY animal protein on the planet contains leucine, but the ones listed in the previous section are the best sources of this BCAA. Try to add at least one of those proteins to every meal in order to ensure you’re getting enough of this vital amino acid.
Whey protein is the best source of leucine. For every 10 grams of whey protein, you get about 1 gram of leucine. In order to get the recommended 2.5 grams of leucine, you’ll need to consume 25 grams of whey protein powder. Not too hard, right?
You can also take Branch-Chain Amino Acid supplements, which contain up to 50% leucine (read the nutritional facts on the label to find out as this varies from product to product). You’ll only need 5 or 6 grams of BCAAs in order to get the 2.5 grams of leucine recommended every 4 hours or so.
You might want to choose BCAAs over whey protein if you are on a reduced calorie diet (i.e. cutting), or if you are allergic to the lactose in whey protein.
Can Leucine Help Fat Loss?
It certainly can!
A study conducted at Columbia University discovered that feeding rats leucine as part of a high-fat diet resulted in a 25% weight reduction. Leucine:
- Promotes better blood sugar control
- Reduces total and LDL cholesterol
- Promotes muscle growth and prevents muscle catabolism (breakdown) during weight loss
- Increases resting metabolism levels, causing your body to burn more energy instead of storing it as fat
As you can see, leucine is an amino acid that offers A LOT of benefits, both in terms of weight loss and muscle gain. It’s the most important branch-chain amino acid, so it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet!