What is leucine?
Leucineis one of the threeamino acids that, together with L-isoleucine and L-valine, constitute the group ofbranched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), used by cells to synthesize proteins.
It is classified as essential, becausethe body is not able to generate it on its own, so diet must be used to ensure adequate amounts of this amino acid in our body.
Note: Leucineparticipates in the processes of muscle gainand blood sugar control, due to its stimulating action the production of protein, as well as favors the obtaining of nutrients and can also serve as an initiator of alanine and glutamine, two other amino acids necessary in the muscular recoveryof thebody.
What does leucine do in the body?
The function of leucine is more related tothe preservation of tissue and muscle mass, as well as energy supply, however, it has other functions which we mention below:
1. Intervene in muscle growth
One of the most important characteristics of this amino acid is topreserve muscle tissue, preventing its degradationduring the aging process. So leucine is highly appreciated among athletes, as it helpsstrengthen muscle mass, encouraging the production of growth hormone.
Important: A study on “Effects of protein supplements and branched-chain amino acids in strength training: bibliographic review” , concludes that leucine favors the increase in muscle mass in the elderly population. (1)
2. Control metabolic alterations
The consumption of leucine helps in the control of metabolic disorderssuch as diabetes, cholesterol or liver disorders. Therefore, this amino acidimproves body composition and helps in weight loss processes.
In this sense, in an article titled “Increased leucine can cause fat loss and improve glucose metabolism” , it tries to explain the mechanism by which leucine promotes weight loss, prevents hyperglycemia and hypercholesterolemia in in vitro experiments. (two)
3. Stimulate protein synthesis
Muscle fibers are made up of protein, and these proteins in turn are made up of amino acids. Thanks to leucine as an essential amino acid,the creation of new proteins for the manufacture of new muscle tissue is promoted, acting as a muscle mass recovery, especially after training.
Important: A study on “Regulation of protein synthesis by leucine” , demonstrated that leucine regulates gene expression through multiple mechanisms, consequently favoring protein synthesis. (3)
4. Promote the absorption of nutrients
Because leucine is an essential amino acid, it must be acquired through the consumption of different foods of plant and animal origin, mainly those with a high protein value.
But these meats or vegetables do not only come with this amino acid, since the nutritional composition of these foods includes Vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated oils , which together with leucine contribute to the generation of the energy necessary for the body to carry out its activities. .
5. Prevent muscle deterioration
One of the functions of this element is the prevention of muscle deterioration due to causes such as muscle damage caused by intense sports activities and in others due to old age, where diseases such as Sarcopenia arise.
To highlight: A study on “Protein supplements in the treatment and prevention of sarcopenia in the elderly. Systematic review”, indicates that leucine can improve theMuscular anabolic response in the elderly.(4)
6. Provide energy to organs and muscles
Leucine is capable of rapidly entering energy cycles(Krebs cycle), creating usable chemical energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Leucinecan also replace glucose in the case of its deficiency in the muscles as an energy molecule, thus delaying the use of glycogen contained in the muscles.
It is also very important in energy recovery after training , since it accelerates glycogen resynthesis, decreasing recovery time after physical activity.
What foods contain leucine?
Leucine is present in many foods for daily consumption, so its intake in the daily diet should not represent a problem. We present below, the richest foods in this amino acid:
All protein foods contain leucine to a greater or lesser extent, but Dairy Products (whey, cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and milk) are considered especially rich in this branched-chain amino acid.
In fact, an article on “Characterization of a spreadable melted cheese made from fresh cheese (antioqueño cheese)” , describes the Leucine Content in this dairy product. (5)
This food contains 9 essential amino acids in its composition,with leucine being the amino acid with the highest presence in the egg with approximately 1069 mg. for each serving of 100 grms.
Meat is high in proteinand approximately 40% of it is made up of essential amino acids, including leucine. This includes beef, pork, turkey or chicken, among others.
Important: An article in the magazine “Venezuelan Annals of Nutrition” performs a nutritional study of chicken meat and Determine the presence of leucine as one of the most important amino acids present in this type of meat. (6)
Another important source of this amino acid is fish, where its presence is very prominent. Species such as cachama, snapper, or trout are the main contributors of leucine.
To highlight: An article entitled “Proximal analysis, essential amino acid content and calcium/phosphorus ratio in some fish species” , details the amounts of leucine in some fish. (7)
In fact, in an article from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , the presence of leucine in quinoa is detailed . (8)
Legumes are vegetables widely consumed by the population, mainly due to their easy access. Dried beans, lentils, soybeans, and peas are the most commonly known and consumed types of legumes.
In this sense, an article on the web highlights the presence of leucine in some of the main legumes most consumed in the world, where the aforementioned ones are found. (9)
- Leucine is an essential amino acid , present in foods with high protein value from the animal and plant kingdoms.
- It can be consumed through the daily diet or in nutritional supplements.
- Its main function is to preserve and develop muscle tissue, as well as provide energy to the body.
- It helps in the control of certain pathologies related to human metabolism.
- It is one of the twenty amino acids necessary for protein synthesis.
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.