Here’s an older article from our archives that talks about the unique benefits of leucine. Note that this wasn’t about the structured peptide version available now, which are absorbed faster, utilized better, and produce 250 percent greater muscle growth than free-form amino acids, but the info is still good. This is why many believe that leucine is the “best” amino acid and choose to only use it.
Unleash the Full Anabolic Potential of Food
For weeks, Tim Patterson and I have been pimping out our food. I’m talking about doing something to our food that unleashes all its anabolic might. I’m talking about doing something to our food that increases its anabolic potential by 70 percent! I’m talking about doing something to our food that makes bad food good and good food great!
We either sprinkle one scoop of snow-white, tasteless powder onto our meal, or mix one scoop in a glass of water and drink it down before we eat. Add a scoop to a protein drink and you can practically hear the “bricks” of muscle being slapped on.
And it’s all so simple. It’s so simple it’s beautiful. It’s so simple it might even be hard to believe, but the research is bulletproof.
It’s something we started to slowly realize a couple of years ago. Whenever we studied the effects of protein, it seemed that one specific amino acid, one specific branched-chain amino acid, was almost entirely responsible for muscle protein synthesis.
That means that no matter how little or how much protein you ingested, its muscle-building effects (or lack thereof) were almost entirely controlled by the amount of one specific amino acid you had in your bloodstream.
And the name of that specific amino acid?
Regardless, we didn’t act on our suspicions because there wasn’t enough real-world research on animals or humans to verify it. That, however, has changed in the last couple of years.
It seems clear now that Leucine stimulates protein synthesis and translation initiation and is likely the major amino acid responsible for the anabolic effects of a meal.(1)(2)
“At this point, it seems clear that most of the effects of amino acids on protein synthesis are mediated by Leucine.”
– Martha Stipanuk, PhD, Cornell University
Just adding a few grams of Leucine to a meal, high protein or not-so-high protein, increases muscle protein synthesis by 50-70 percent in humans (3)(4) and increases protein turnover by over 500 percent!(5)
Apparently, orally administered Leucine stimulates muscle-protein synthesis by itself, independent of the insulin surge you get from a meal. However, it does seem that the role of insulin is permissive in that some rise in insulin is necessary to allow Leucine to do its work. (6)
The message is that Leucine is best used with a meal, rather than taken in-between meals by itself.
Additionally, adding Leucine to a 100% carbohydrate meal isn’t the best idea, either. It seems the effects of Leucine are rate-limited if other amino acids aren’t present.(6) That means that Leucine, while anabolic all on its own, won’t do its best work unless there are at least some other amino acids present.
In short, a protein meal is good, but adding Leucine to it makes it much, much better.
Furthermore, it seems the change in Leucine concentration in the blood may be more important than the actual amount of Leucine in the blood, so you don’t want to take Leucine non-stop.(1) It’s better to take a scoop of it (about 5 grams) with a meal, let blood levels drop, and then take another scoop about 4 hours later.
“Supplemental Leucine allows for the muscle to achieve maximum protein synthesis and anabolic recovery.”
– Layne Norton and Donald Layman, University of Illinois
So here’s what we did. We acquired the purest, most highly regarded L-Leucine in the world from the Ajinomoto Corporation in Japan (this is the stuff hospitals use in IV drips) and we packaged in 450-gram containers. (That’s 90 servings.)
Just add one 5-gram scoop to water, a protein shake, your workout drink, or just sprinkle it over your food. Just don’t exceed four scoops (20 grams) per day.
L-Leucine is simple, it’s economical, and by increasing the anabolic quality of food by 70%, it’s oh-so effective.
If food is the ultimate anabolic drug, we’ve just pimped it out and made it a whole lot better.
Norton LE and Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006; 136(2):533S-537S.
Stipanuk, Martha H. Leucine and protein synthesis: mTOR and beyond. Nutrition Reviews. 2007;Mar;Vol. 65, No. 3:122-9.
Padden-Jones D, et al. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;286(3):E321-8.
Tipton, KD, et al. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999 Apr;276(4 Pt 1):E628-34.
Rasmussen BB, Phillips SM. Contractile and nutritional regulation of human muscle growth. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2003 Jul;31(3):127-31.
Rieu, Isabelle. Leucine supplementation improves muscle protein synthesis in elderly men independently of hyperaminoacidaemia. J. Physiol. 2006;575;305-15.
One more article: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/supplement_research_update_leucine_and_protein_synthesis
In short, if you’re confused, just go with leucine.