If you’re trying to bulk up and improve your physique, you have almost certainly considered using sports supplements to help you reach your goal a great deal quicker. If used correctly, supplements can provide a whole variety of different health and fitness benefits, although choosing the right supplements for the task at hand is where things prove awkward. Leucine is one of the most popular supplements in the bodybuilding world, and it is now a staple ingredient found in most people’s bodybuilding supplement stacks. Leucine helps build muscle, it assists with recovery, it helps initiate and speed up protein synthesis, it helps to regulate a person’s weight, and it even helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. If you’re looking to get jacked and to take your physique to the next level, here’s a look at leucine supplementation, and why you may wish to include this supplement in your next bodybuilding stack.
What is leucine?
Leucine is one of several essential amino acids required by the human body. It is known as an essential amino acid, due to the fact that, although the body needs it, it is unable to naturally synthesize it like it can with other amino acids (non-essential), so leucine must instead come from dietary sources, which in this case, would come from supplement form. Leucine also happens to be one of three BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids), with the other two being isoleucine, and valine. In whole foods, leucine is commonly found in sources such as: meat, dairy, nuts, eggs, soy beans, and other beans and protein sources. Leucine is an amino acid, which means that it is a building block for protein molecules. As we require protein in order to build muscle, leucine is obviously very useful for bodybuilders and athletes. Leucine however, is often made a priority by many bodybuilders, as it has been found to be arguably the most anabolic of all amino acids, due to the fact that it has such a profound effect on protein synthesis. Leucine, like other aminos, bypasses the liver once consumed, so it is actually metabolized within our muscles, making it a great deal more potent and powerful, as it can fuel the muscle cells directly. If leucine is found in whole foods rich in protein, what is the point in using leucine supplements? Well, from whole food sources, leucine can take hours upon hours to be processed, broken down, and used effectively, and as you probably know, when it comes to bodybuilding, speed is of the essence.
What are the benefits of leucine supplementation?
There are many benefits associated with leucine supplementation, with some of the most prominent examples including:
Muscle growth and repair
As mentioned previously, leucine is considered to be arguably the most anabolic of all amino acids, and this is largely because of the fact that it has such a profound effect on protein synthesis levels. Leucine has been found to enhance protein synthesis levels, which basically means that it allows the body to synthesize a great deal more muscle proteins than it would ordinarily have been able to manage. What’s more, it functions as a building block for several other amino acids within the body, so it also helps to assist with muscle recovery and repair as well.
Another very promising benefit associated with supplementing with leucine, is the fact that experts have found leucine to be one of the most effective weight loss amino acids currently available. Leucine assists with fat metabolism, which essentially means that it assists with the breakdown of fat stores within the human body. Best of all is the fact that it utilizes stored body fat to burn off excess body fat, which is obviously exactly what you want.
Increased energy levels
As mentioned, by utilizing stored body fat as a primary source of energy, our metabolisms actually get a kick start and they function a great deal more efficiently than usual. In simple terms, we are using fat stores to create more energy, which means we become more active, and we can use this to burn more fat, and be more productive in the gym as well.
Regulates cholesterol levels
In the body, there are two types of cholesterol. There is LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the dangerous cholesterol that blocks the arteries and can lead to heart attacks etc, whereas HDL cholesterol is actually a healthy cholesterol that provides health benefits to the human body, plus it actively lowers harmful LDL cholesterol levels as well. Studies have found that leucine supplementation can increase HDL cholesterol, and subsequently lower dangerous LDL cholesterol levels as a result.
Other benefits include:
- Easy to use
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased strength levels
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced body fat
- Regulates cholesterol levels
- Strengthens the immune system
- Increases the metabolism
- Speeds up and enhances protein synthesis rates
- Improved athletic ability
- Very cost efficient as only a small dosage is required each day
- One of three BCAAs
- Essential amino acid supplement
- And more…
What is the suggested dosage and how should it be used?
For optimal results, experts recommend consuming leucine on an empty stomach, as this will speed up the absorption rates. Ideally the optimal dosage that you consume will be between 2.5g and 5g per day. The best thing is that there are several ways to use leucine to get the best from it. Some popular examples include:
Before you begin training, add 5g of leucine powder to the water that you sip on during your workout. Sipping on leucine intra-workout will function as an anabolic trigger and will help your muscles to perform better as it slows down the breakdown of protein in your skeletal muscles. This has also been found to reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and to increase energy levels as you train.
Before you begin a workout, take 2.5g of leucine powder, and add it to your pre-workout beverage, whatever it may be. Consume 30 minutes before you train and when you do begin your workout, your muscle cells will now be packed full of this amino acid, which will help keep them in an anabolic state, and it will enhance recovery rates as well.
Some people prefer to consume leucine after they train, usually in their post-workout protein shake, because it speeds up protein synthesis, and therefore, muscle recovery. Ideally you should include a simple carbohydrate source such as dextrose as well, as this will spike insulin levels and force everything into the muscle cells a great deal quicker.
On days when you don’t train, experts have found that 5g of leucine consumed before bed, is ideal for keeping your body in an anabolic state, especially when combined with a slow-digesting protein such as casein. This helps to regulate hormone levels, and assist with muscle growth and repair, as it allows the body to repair damaged muscle tissues a great deal quicker.
What can it be stacked with?
Leucine is very much a bodybuilder-friendly supplement, and as a result, it stacks very well with other staple bodybuilding supplements. A great muscle-building stack idea, could include: Leucine, BCAAs, whey protein, pre-workout, dextrose, omega fish oils, a multivitamin, and casein protein.
Potential leucine side effects
As with all new supplements, always consult your doctor before using any new products, and discontinue usage if you experience any adverse side effects, no matter how small or insignificant they may be. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use this supplement, as not enough is yet known about its safety. Although leucine is very safe, and is all natural, some users have experienced adverse side effects, especially when the recommended daily intake was exceeded. To ensure this is not an issue for you, always make sure that you never exceed the recommended daily intake. Potential side effects associated with leucine, include the following:
- Stomach cramp
- Dizzy spells
- Pins and needles
- Stomach cramp
- Light headedness