Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid essential for the body. Unfortunately, our bodies do not produce it. Therefore, we need to take it through the foods we eat. Leucine has many benefits. Leucine may be present in many foods that you have in your kitchen. For example, leucine is present in protein-rich foods. They also come in the form of supplements.
Amino acids are essential for maintaining muscle strength. They also improve skin health. They are also beneficial for weight loss, diabetes management and prevention of heart diseases. Nowadays, leucine supplementation is a buzzword among the health-conscious. So let us understand how leucine may benefit us.
Essential Acids and Their Benefits
Amino acids form proteins, the building blocks of the body. Proteins are essential to build muscles and also offer other benefits. For proper functioning, our body requires 20 amino acids. It produces some of them. They are known as non-essential amino acids. However, the body cannot make some others. They are essential amino acids. Therefore, you need to get them through a balanced and proper diet that provides these. Some food sources that contain essential amino acids are egg, meat and dairy products.
There are eleven non-essential amino acids and nine essential ones. These amino acids offer considerable benefits to our health. But on the other hand, deficiency of amino acids leads to poor immunity and digestive disorders, mental illness, depression, and fertility problems. Hence keeping track of amino acid intake is essential. One can prevent essential amino acid deficiency by eating a diet rich in amino acids.
What is Leucine?
Leucine is an essential branch chained essential amino acid. Studies suggest that they enable controlling of blood sugar levels. Leucine also helps in wound repairing. In addition, it improves the secretion of growth hormones. Leucine also improves skin quality. In general, it plays a vital role in the growth and functioning of bones and muscles. Some good sources of leucine are eggs, fish, milk, and meat.
Recommended Daily Intake of Leucine
The recommended protein intake is for a sedentary adult is approximate:
- Men: 56 grams per day
- Women: 46 grams per day
However, one needs to consider other parameters like lifestyle, health, lifecycle, dietary restrictions, food tolerance, etc. It meets approximately 30% of daily calorie intake. A study suggests that the daily requirement of leucine is 39mg/kg per day for adults. However, the study also indicated that the need would be more for young adults and children in the growing stages.
Leucine deficiency leads to impaired functioning of muscles and the liver. Due to leucine deficiency, the body experiences extreme tiredness. Leucine deficiency may cause specific symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
- Poor muscle gain
- Poor wound healing
- Weight gain
Leucine deficiency is common in people who suffer from eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Also, an unbalanced diet can lead to leucine deficiency. For example, it results from consuming more fast foods and not enough protein. In addition, sometimes people who tend to be under pressure and emotional stress due to long working hours may require more leucine. Such lifestyle issues also lead to a deficiency.
Studies suggest that intensive aerobic activity and strength training may increase the daily intake of leucine. There are suggestions to increase the currently recommended usage of leucine from 14mg/kg body weight daily to 45 mg/kg body weight in sedentary adults. It needs to go up for individuals who are into intensive physical exercise and strength train for better protein synthesis. Otherwise, it affects their muscle strength and performance. In addition, people with liver disorders are prone to leucine deficiency. Therefore, people from these categories require high levels of leucine. To sum it up, lutein helps repair tissues, heal wounds, build muscles, muscle repair and prevention of muscle loss.
Benefits of Leucine
1. Controls Blood Glucose Levels
Leucine helps people with diabetes by improving insulin secretion. It occurs when you get it from your meals. In addition, research suggests that leucine controls blood sugar levels.
2. Helps in Growth and Development
Children need leucine during growing years as it produces specific growth hormone secretion. In addition, protein-rich foods contain reasonable amounts of leucine. Therefore, it is essential to increase leucine-rich foods such as eggs, lentils, sesame seeds, chickpeas, and soybeans in forms like tofu, tempeh, edamame, brown rice, and nuts a child’s diet.
3. Leucine Aids in Muscle Building
Our bodies need leucine for bone health. In addition, it improves muscle growth and strength. Bodybuilding is one of the primary areas where people use branched amino acids. These acids break down during protein synthesis and thereby stimulate muscle growth. Apart from muscle building, leucine also has other benefits for sportspersons.
Research proves that they delay the process of muscle damage. It is widespread in sportspersons or anyone who does intense physical activities. Leucine also helps repair mechanisms apart from muscle building. It is effective for older adults to prevent injury and muscle loss in sarcopenia.
4. Aids in Weight Loss
Leucine also plays a role in weight management. It helps in reducing food cravings by giving a feeling of fullness. In addition, studies suggest that leucine increases the response to the hormone leptin, responsible for appetite regulation. Leucine also prevents the loss of muscle during weight loss. On the contrary, it preserves muscle mass while losing fat. They additionally avoid spikes in blood sugar levels.
5. Improves Skin Health
Leucine is good for the skin as it has anti-ageing properties. It reduces wrinkles and fine lines. Aged skin comes with muscle loosening and sagging. Therefore, dietary intake and applying leucine based products control skin ageing. As a result, the skin becomes firm, smooth and healthy.
Foods Rich in Leucine
Since assimilation and absorption are always better with food sources, including nutrients through foods is always the best choice. In addition, food sources are more convenient and sometimes affordable than supplements. Supplements are suitable for specific needs. However, supplements may cause side effects. You should combine leucine supplements with valine and isoleucine, the other branched-chain amino acids. You can avoid them by consuming them through your diet. The concentration of protein and amino acids is generally not well known. It is one of the reasons for essential amino acid deficiencies. Such details are missing even in the nutrition labels of food packs. Thus, knowledge of rich sources of leucine is vital.
Non-vegetarian foods contain high amounts of protein. Therefore, chicken, pork, steak, tuna fish, salmon fish are excellent sources of leucine. These meat sources meet about 60% of the daily leucine requirement. Steak is the richest source of meat as they provide 90% of the RDI. However, since red meat is high in saturated fat and sodium, you should consume it in moderation. Excess of red meat could lead to several health complications.
Eggs are a wholesome food because they have many nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals. One large egg contains about 0.5 grams of leucine. Eggs are a protein-rich food crucial for everyone, including individuals engaged in bodybuilding and strength training. In addition, research suggests that including whole eggs help with muscle growth. It is, therefore, a life-saver for gym freaks.
Oats are famous as a breakfast food. They are popular in many forms, like overnight smoothies and granola bars. In addition, oats help exceptionally with weight reduction. That is because one cup of oats provides 0.5 grams of leucine. Leucine in oats promotes heart health. Also, studies suggest that oats are a rich source of B-glucan. This component is beneficial in cholesterol management.
Lentils are a type of legume rich in fibre, protein, and antioxidants. One cup of lentil provides 1.3 grams of leucine and is excellent for heart health. Lentils also contain probiotics, aiding in good gut microbiota. You can put lentils in soups and curries and get a power-packed dish for yourself and your children.
Pea beans contain a good amount of leucine. People also call them navy beans. You will primarily find them in canned forms or soups. One hundred grams of these beans has 0.7 grams of leucine. Pea beans are a source of many other nutrients like vitamin B, iron, magnesium and manganese. Navy beans are heart-healthy foods. Studies show that these beans are good for curbing obesity. It also helps control blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels.
Cottage cheese or paneer is a great vegetarian high-protein food. For example, 100 grams of cottage cheese contains about 1.27 grams of leucine. In general, cottage cheese is a rich protein source for vegetarians and nutrients like calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamins. In addition, studies suggest that cottage cheese give a feeling of fullness. Therefore they help in weight loss.
Peanuts are rich in various nutrients. In addition, peanuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats. Approximately 28 grams of peanut provide 0.5 grams of leucine. In addition, peanuts help regulate blood pressure and are a good source of cholesterol. Therefore, have a handful of peanuts as a snack and reap maximum benefits. However, if your quest is weight loss, we recommend talking to your nutritionist about how much peanuts are good for you.
Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds are great for health apart from giving you a fair amount of leucine. You can add these seeds to dishes like salads, smoothies, desserts and pasta. Sesame seeds are also rich in fibre vitamin B. Furthermore, they also have fair amounts of minerals like calcium, zinc and manganese. Studies show that these seeds help control blood sugar levels. Similarly, pumpkin seeds are also a high source of fibre, unsaturated fatty acids, iron and zinc.
Hemp seeds offer various health benefits because they have nutrients like vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids and fibre. In addition, hemp seeds are good for heart health. Moreover, they may reduce cholesterol levels. Furthermore, the also improve indigestion.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in water bodies. Some of these are consumable. They provide numerous health benefits. Spirulina is an excellent source of antioxidants and reduces oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Leucine in spirulina has anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, it improves muscle repair. You can add spirulina powder to smoothies or juices. One spoon of spirulina provides 350 grams of leucine approximately.
Several foods contain substances called antinutrients. These reduce the absorption of leucine from foods. However, it is not a problem in the case of supplements. They are available in the form of powders and capsules. Supplements are easily and quickly absorbed.
The recommended dose of leucine supplement is 2-5 grams. To improve efficacy, you should take it with other amino acids like valine and isoleucine. You should preferably take leucine supplements on an empty stomach. However, you can consume it at any time of the day. Consult a nutritionist or a healthcare professional regarding how to take them.
Benefits of Leucine Supplements in Exercise
- When taken 30 minutes before a workout, leucine stimulates muscle activity. Therefore, it helps in bodybuilding and endurance training. It also aids in fat loss without muscle loss.
- When taken after a workout session, leucine improves protein synthesis. In addition, you can add leucine to protein shakes. It enhances muscle gain.
- If taken between the workout, leucine acts as a good energy source. Also, it delays the protein breakdown process.
- Leucine is a healthy addition to your meals.
- Its supplementation before bedtime aids muscle recovery after an exercise.
Leucine overdose means the presence of excess leucine in the body. This case is rare. Leucine overdose does not occur through food intake. However, it is possible through leucine supplements. Athletes and bodybuilders tend to consume excess leucine supplements. Some symptoms of leucine overdose include:
- Stomach pain
Studies suggest that the tolerable upper limit for leucine is 500 mg per day. Therefore, it is not advisable to consume above this limit.
Excess intake of amino acids can be dangerous. It disrupts the nitrogen balance and interrupts metabolism. In addition, it disturbs several processes in the body. For example, studies suggest that it affects eating behaviour and food intake.
One of the uses of leucine is in controlling blood glucose levels. But when the supplementation level increases, it can lead to hypoglycaemia. In this condition, there are low sugar levels in the blood. In worst cases, the patient may become unconscious. Talk to your doctor and dietitian before including them in your diet.
Pregnant women should not use leucine supplements as it involves hormone stimulation.
Essential amino acids are crucial in maintaining human health because their role is as important as other nutrients. Leucine is beneficial in several health conditions. Therefore, leucine is a buzzword among the health-conscious. They are especially essential for muscle building and repair. Even though leucine deficiency is rare, you need to monitor its intake. Some foods rich in leucine include eggs, oats, lentils and seeds. Many interested in physical fitness opt for leucine supplements, which are available as powders and pills. However, you should always consult a medical nutritionist to avoid possible side effects before starting supplements. Additionally, dietary sources of leucine may be the best option.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What plants are high in leucine?
A. Plants rich in sources of leucine are legumes (soy products), spinach, nuts, taro, and vegetables like watercress and purslane. In addition, wheat, oats, and rice plants contain leucine in different forms.
2. How do you increase leucine?
A. To increase leucine content in the body, take eggs, oats, lentils, pea beans, cottage cheese, seeds, and spirulina. You can also take leucine supplements. Leucine supplements are prevalent these days among the fitness enthusiast community.
3. What happens if you lack leucine?
A. Leucine has a lot of good properties. Lack of leucine can result in poor wound healing and weight gain. In addition, if you lack leucine in your body, you can experience decreased appetite, poor growth, hair loss, lethargy, and skin rashes.
4. What proteins have the most leucine in them?
A. Leucine is an essential amino acid. Protein-rich food like eggs, fish, milk and meat are rich in leucine. They help weight loss, improve skin condition and control blood sugar levels.
5. Do lentils have leucine?
A. Yes, lentils are rich in leucine. For example, 1 cup of lentils contains 1.3 grams of leucine. Lentils are plant-based foods with all nine essential amino acids.
6. How do vegans get leucine?
A. Vegans can opt for foods like beans and legumes. In addition, soybeans, lentils, and nuts are some vegan food rich in leucine content. Add this food to your daily diet to get leucine into your body.
7. Does peanut butter have leucine?
A. Yes, peanut butter contains leucine. One ounce of peanut butter consists of 0.5 grams of leucine. Peanut butter is also rich in healthy fat and proteins.
8. How much leucine is in Greek yoghurt?
A. Greek yoghurt is rich in leucine. For example, 250 grams of greek yoghurt contains 2.5 grams of leucine. It is the leucine content that you get in more than four eggs.
9. Does tofu have leucine?
A. Yes, tofu contains leucine. For example, 1 ounce of tofu consists of approximately 0.25 grams of leucine. Tofu is also rich in calcium, phosphorus, and other proteins.
10. Do black beans contain leucine?
A. Yes, black beans contain leucine. All kinds of beans are rich in leucine. For example, 100 grams of black beans contain 0.71 grams of leucine and are one of the richest sources of leucine.
11. Does pea protein have leucine?
A. Yes, pea protein contains leucine. Pea protein carries 9% leucine by weight. Pea protein contains less leucine than whey protein but can be an equally good source.
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