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Why you need Leucine when bodybuilding

Leucine an essential amino acid which means that it cannot be synthesised by the body and so therefore we must get it through dietary sources, says nutritionist Charlotte Mullins. In the past amino acids have been viewed simply as substances needed to make muscle and other body proteins—sort of like the building bricks. In the case of leucine, research has shown this amino acid to have multiple roles that go well beyond simply providing material to build muscle. But what does it do exactly and how should you use it when bodybuilding or training?

Leucine stimulates protein synthesis to build muscle

Leucine, like other essential amino acids, helps build and maintain muscle mass. Protein synthesis is the creation of new skeletal muscle proteins. When the process by which our muscles get bigger occurs on a large scale, it is known as skeletal muscle hypertrophy (growth). It's easily supplemented using Leucine Tablets or Leucine Powder. Stimulating protein synthesis and hypertrophy is essential whether you want to build muscle or simply prevent muscle loss caused by ageing or prevent muscle loss when dieting. Consuming protein supplements after exercise is popular as it does just that; a higher level of amino acids in the blood directly induces an increase in muscle protein synthesis. In particular, this amino acid is most highly correlated to protein synthesis, therefore many athletes and people that train regularly add additional leucine to their diets on top of their protein shakes.

An essential BCAA

Among the amino acids, there are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These make up a high proportion of the amino acids in muscle. They are unique because they are the only amino acids burned by muscles as fuel which is why we see a decrease in the levels of BCAAs after training and exercise. Leucine is the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in muscle. Taking it before a workout will means your body will burn that leucine as fuel, rather than breakdown leucine from the muscle cells. This means that it helps to prevent muscle breakdown during your workout.

Leucine activates mTOR to switch on muscle building

Leucine plays a special role in activating of a major compound in the anabolic (muscle-building) pathway called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). mTOR is sensitive to leucine concentrations and acts as a switch that tells the body to produce muscle proteins. This means as well as being a building block for protein synthesis, leucine is critical in the regulatory process. All in all adding additional leucine to your diet is an effective strategy to maximise muscle growth after resistance exercise.

How much leucine do you need to get results?

Much of protein's benefits may be attributable to leucine due to its ability to stimulate protein synthesis. The ideal amount to take has many variables, we know that protein synthesis is stimulated with as little as 2.5 grams. Proteins from animals that naturally contain all the essential amino acids are the best food sources. Whey, which contains around 10 grams of leucine per 100 grams of protein has the highest leucine content of any protein source. For those that drink a whey protein shake you would get around 2.5 grams of naturally occurring leucine from the average 25 gram scoop.

What happens if you’re not getting enough leucine?

Leucine deficiency will mean that you cannot use protein that you consume, regardless of how much you have. So basically, without leucine, your protein consumption is wasted. Leucine can also be taken in a BCAA blended formula or as a single amino acid. Increasing leucine intake can have a number of benefits. It provides an essential building block for muscle protein, activates key events in the intricate process of protein synthesis, augments weight loss, improves body composition, and corrects metabolic imbalances such as elevated cholesterol and glucose levels.

How to take your leucine

GoNutrition™ leucine comes in both tablet and powder form and for the most part it’s really down to personal preference in which form you choose to take your supplement. Tablets deliver a more precise dosage however, the ability to vary the dosage on a sliding scale, as you can with a powder, can’t be done with a tablet. Your dosage will be in steps equivalent to the content of one tablet. In powder form leucine is not fully soluble and doesn't mix well in water, therefore some people find a tablet form easier and more convenient to take. Ultimately, leucine is a highly effective supplement in both powder and tablet format.
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