What is leucine?
Leucine is an essential amino acid. This means the body can’t produce it, and you must get it from your diet. There are nine essential amino acids, and leucine is one of the most important for its role in muscle protein synthesis.
If you have watched our videos, you understand the importance of all amino acids, especially the essential ones. The body can synthesize nonessential amino acids, but when it comes to essential amino acids, we have to get them through our diet.
What does leucine do for the body?
As a Functional Nutrition Counselor, I have learned a great deal about amino acids, particularly the essential amino acids. Leucine is particularly important for the body to be able to synthesize proteins. It enables muscle growth and lean body mass and increases the production of human growth hormone (HGH).
Essential amino acids not only help build and repair muscle, they also help build and repair organs and cells, something I’m really interested in as I age. In fact, leucine is so important when it comes to muscle growth and maintenance that many athletes and bodybuilders are very familiar with it. You might have heard of BCAAs, which are popular in the fitness industry. Leucine is one of the BCAAs that is vital for enhancing muscle growth and repair.
A mini-lesson on the mTOR system
Dr. Don Layman, a leading amino acid researcher at the University of Illinois, shared how it works. He explains that after a protein-rich meal, the amount of leucine in the blood will increase, triggering a signaling system in the muscle known as mTOR. The mTOR system then stimulates the process involved in protein synthesis.
The function of the mTOR signaling pathway is quite complex. This pathway heavily promotes cell survival by upregulating protein and lipid synthesis, boosting cellular metabolism, and downregulation of apoptotic pathways that would typically cause a cell to rupture.
There are four main functions of the mTOR signaling pathway; cell growth and proliferation, angiogenesis, bioenergetics through nutrient availability, and boosting metabolism and cell survival through DNA repair and decreasing autophagy and apoptosis.
What happens if you don’t get enough leucine?
A lack of leucine can hinder muscle growth. If we don’t get the right amount of leucine, our cells can’t grow and survive the many attacks we put on them each day. If we’re not getting enough leucine through the food we eat, it’s our cells that pay the price.
Many diet, lifestyle, and environmental decisions we make each day either build cells or destroy them. The goal is to help keep cells as healthy as possible as we age, and hopefully be able to lengthen our lives, staying healthy while living longer.
Leucine and hair analysis
I found out through a hair analysis test that my body wasn’t synthesizing protein, even though I was eating sufficient healthy sources of it. If you’re not synthesizing protein, it may be that an environmental stressor is blocking your body’s ability to do it. It can also mean that you’re not getting enough leucine in your diet.
First, I eliminated environmental stressors (I had a fungus I had to get rid of; learn more about that here). I also focused on eating foods that were high in leucine and added a leucine supplement to my diet.
Is leucine making a difference?
The results are in. It worked! In a follow-up hair analysis test, protein synthesis was no longer flagged as a concern. In addition, when I went for my follow-up Dexa Body Scan, it showed I had put on four pounds of muscle in just four months. I’s pretty remarkable that a woman my age can do that.
It’s so important to maintain muscle as we age. Research shows that muscle mass helps slow down or even reverse the aging process. I have a goal to add another four pounds of muscle by the end of this year. I’m doing it by adding more essential amino acids to my diet and with weight-bearing exercises. (Read more about that in Tip #22, The Health Benefits of Strength Training).
Research shows that leucine supplementation, combined with resistance training, results in significant muscle mass and strength gains.
How much leucine should I take a day to build muscle?
Eating whole foods that are rich in protein is the best way to meet your daily leucine requirements.
What is the best source of leucine?
Foods that are rich in leucine include:
- Brown rice
- Navy beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Cottage cheese
Here is a chart that shows how much leucine is in some of the leucine-rich foods:
|Food||Amount of Leucine|
|Soybeans||3.3 grams per 100 grams|
|Pumpkin Seeds||2.4 grams per 100 grams|
|Chicken||2.3 grams per 100 grams|
|Hemp Seeds||2.2 grams per 100 grams|
|Tuna||1.0 grams per 100 grams|
|Lentils||1.8 grams per 100 grams|
|Beans||1.7 grams per 100 grams|
|Peanuts||1.7 grams per 100 grams|
|Salmon||1.6 grams per 100 grams|
|Almonds||1.5 grams per 100 grams|
|Chickpeas||1.5 grams per 100 grams|
|Beef||1.3 grams per 100 grams|
|Cottage Cheese||1.1 grams per 100 grams|
|Eggs||1.1 grams per 100 grams|
|Oats||1.0 grams per 100 grams|
As you can see, plenty of foods will increase your leucine and many of the other nine essential amino acids.
Is there a good leucine supplement?
Since we’re trying to get more of all the essential amino acids, we not only eat many of those foods on that list, we also supplement with a product called Optimal Muscle RX. David and I believe this is a big reason we’ve seen the results we have the past six months.
Are you deficient in leucine?
With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report looking at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and foods you should avoid. It also includes a 15-minute consultation with me where we review the results and recommend 3 or 4 things you can do to help improve your health.
Go to our website to learn more. You can schedule a local hair analysis or order it online to be mailed to you today.
We always enjoy hearing from you. If you have health questions on anything we’ve discussed or really any issue, find us @morethanhealthyliving on Facebook or Instagram. We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.
Note: Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re sharing with you what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.