Leucine is an essential amino acid, and it cannot be synthesized by the human body. It is one of the three branch-chained amino acids. It makes up one of the components of the collective term protein. The human body is roughly 16 percent protein. Protein plays an essential role in every cell of our body.
There are 20 amino acids used by the human body and eight of them cannot be synthesized. Leucine is one of those that must be acquired by diet. Leucine is manufactured by plants and microorganisms. Leucine can be found in high concentrations in the following foods: soybeans, lentils, cowpeas, beef, peanuts, fish, chicken, nuts, almonds, and eggs.
What does l-leucine do?
Leucine slows muscle degradation by facilitating the creation of muscle proteins. Leucine is used by the liver, body fat, and muscle. Leucine increases energy and endurance. It also plays an important role in the synthesis of hemoglobin. Leucine helps maintain proper blood sugar and plays a role in human growth hormone synthesis.
As we age, the process of protein synthesis (rebuilding new and existing tissue) begins to slow. Unfortunately the process of breaking down existing tissue continues at a normal pace. A study performed with eight month and 22-month old rats showed that increased intake of l-leutine actually reversed the imbalance of protein sysnthesis and breakdown.
When we consume protein, our body begins to breakdown the protein that already exists and replaces it with the newly synthesized protein. As we age, the process of synthesizing newly consumed protein slows. However, the process of breaking down protein in our muscles and bones does not. This leads to muscle loss and bone frailty as a result. Increased consumption of l-leucine has shown promise in that it helps to rebalance this equation in rats. This research suggests that it would have a similar affect in humans.
Who needs l-leucine and how much should be taken?
Based on current research everyone needs l-leucine. It is an essential amino acid that slows muscle degradation, helps regulate blood sugar levels, helps in the manufacturing of hemoglobin, and aids in the production of hgh. It is probably most beneficial for older people as it helps balance out the breakdown and rebuilding of tissue.
Athletes and bodybuilders can benefit from increased intake of l-leucine because of its direct affect on muscle and bone health. As always you should consult your physician before beginning any supplementation regiment.
Are there any side effects or symptoms of deficiency?
Symptoms of general protein deficiency may include muscle loss ,fatigue, suppressed immune system, weight loss, and slow wound healing. The FDA recommends a daily intake of 50 grams of protein based on a 2000 calorie diet. This recommended daily intake is for adults and children over 4 years of age. There are no known side affects associated with l-leucine. Let us recall that it is an essential amino acid.