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Leucine


It is a commonly-known fact that proteins are vital to a healthy functioning human body. There are thousands of different proteins in the human body, each with a specific function. For example, skin, hair and muscle tissue are all made up of different types of proteins. Proteins are coded for their particular role in the body by the different sequences of 20 different amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. There are eight amino acids that are considered “essential” because our bodies cannot manufacture them. Of those eight, there are three, called BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids, that are of particular importance to body builders and athletes for their role in the production of muscle tissue. The three BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine and valine. It is known that these amino acids work best together in synergy to create muscle, but each has its own specific function in addition to the duties performed by BCAA’s as a whole.

Leucine for Muscle Mass Leucine is often considered to be the “king” of the BCAA’s. Leucine carries out numerous functions in the body. These different tasks are carried out depending on how much leucine is available in the body. While difficult to concretely determine leucine’s functions by priority, it seems leucine’s main concern is protein synthesis. When the minimum amount of leucine for protein synthesis is met, leucine becomes available to contribute to the production of alanine and glutamine or to impact the signaling pathway. Leucine’s role in the production of alanine is of particular importance to bodybuilders and athletes as alanine is released from muscle tissue during prolonged exercise to fuel the alanine-glucose pathway. During periods of exercise, the body makes energy in the form of glucose, with the help of alanine, which is released from muscle tissue, thus causing a break-down of muscle tissue. Leucine helps maintain enough alanine in muscle tissue to fuel the alanine-glucose pathway and still sustain muscle mass. Thus, suggesting that dietary levels of leucine influences the maintenance of muscle mass during weight loss.

Leucine for Weight Loss Leucine has is also considered useful in helping to suppress appetite, aiding in weight loss. According to an article published in “New Scientist” leucine can enter the hypothalamus, a central gland in the brain which regulates metabolism and hunger. Leucine tricks the hypothalamus into thinking you have received enough protein in your stomach, thus suppressing hunger and making you feel full. High levels of leucine in the brain can also suppress serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Low levels of serotonin can suppress appetite and control hunger. Such a role may be beneficial to individuals trying to lose weight.

Leucine can be found in quality pre and post workout dietary supplements that contain BCAA’s. It is also possible to supplement one’s diet with pure dietary leucine in the form of a powder to be mixed with any medium.