When you’re a vegetarian you are always looking for easier ways to obtain the macro and micro nutrients you require. As I have been increasing my running training the past few weeks, I found myself feeling a bit tired and run down. After asking Dr Google and cross referencing my diet breakdown on Cronometer, I have found that by leucine was a little bit low (probably from now mixing my proteins enough). So instead of just increasing a little bit…. I wanted to know where the optimum was and what science can we find to back it up.
What does Leucine do?
Leucine is an essential amino acid that must be consumed (i.e the body can not reproduce it). When you do resistance training on your body, your body responds by synthesising new skeletal muscle proteins better known as Muscle Hypertrophy or put simply; when your body repairs after a workout, it repairs stronger. In Figure 1 we can clearly see that the level of leucine is most highly related to protein synthesis. Increased Leucine in the body has also been shown to increase mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin – one of the body’s protein synthesis regulators and energy sensors,). mTOR activation is linked to increased protein synthesis and Leucine is linked to mTOR activation. Therefore Leucine is linked to Protein Synthesis.
Long story short, it is a key amino acid for desired gains in the gym or for repair
Leucine for Recovery
As my running increased my recovery times were between 2 and 3 days which was unacceptable. When your body is pushing itself past it’s tolerance levels, micro tears in the muscles appear. These tears are then rebuilt stronger then before, in order to do this your body needs rest and the right nutrients in order to do this (your body will take these from other muscles otherwise). As we can see above; Leucine has been a major contributor in recent tests for building muscle, so It seems highly likely that Leucine is going to be my problem and solution to quicker repair and muscle growth without sacrificing my upper body long term.
How Much Leucine?
We have known about protein intake being associated with recovery and muscle growth for years but the recent analysis on separate amino acids is showing some great promise. Leucine as an essential amino acid and is part of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), these are unique as they are the only amino acids burned by muscles as fuel! So we see a direct decrease after exercise. This is all great but how much do we NEED!
It has been shown as little as 2.5g per day can stimulate protein synthesis but this is for the normal folk, not people who work under Mikes Law. Long term studies are showing intakes of up to 13g a day spread over the day as being an ideal amount to push your recovery time and muscle stimulation to the next level (assuming you’re not on the sofa all day).
As the body is going to be using this during and after exercise. It seems logical to split up the intake before and after your workout. I have just purchased L-Leucine amino acid (I doubt this is vegan) as a trial basis. I am taking 5g at night on all nights and 2.5g before training and 5g after training. This will ensure I have enough of this essential amino acid before a workout and after. The night time drink is to ensure I repair faster at night while I sleep!
Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted studies that examined weight loss diets containing 10 grams of leucine per day and 125 grams total of protein per day with a minimum of 2.5 grams of leucine at each meal. In the separate studies, the groups consuming high leucine diets had greater weight loss, greater fat loss and better preservation of lean body mass then the groups who just had protein. In another study, scientists from Columbia University studied rats that were fed high-fat diets. When given leucine supplements, their fat weight decreased by 25%. The leucine also promoted better blood sugar control and reduced total and LDL cholesterol. Leucine increased their resting metabolism by boosting levels of UCP3 (uncoupling protein 3), which causes the body to lose energy as heat rather than storing it as body fat.
This seems logical to me. When your body is doing an ace job of repairing and getting stronger (most of us are either too fat or skinny), your body will require more calories and your body will more than likely send for your fat reserves to meet the deficit.
Where do I get it!
The best food sources of leucine include any proteins from animals that naturally contain all the essential amino acids. The protein source with the highest leucine content is whey, which contains about 10% leucine or 10 grams per 100 grams of protein. If you drink a whey protein shake that has about 25 grams of protein, you would get about 2.5 grams of naturally occurring leucine. Now as a Vegetarian who also doesn’t consume dairy… I went and purchased a specific product to help me (it doesn’t say where it’s from but I am assuming it’s whey… so I will change over to something else when I run out)
WARNING: Do not just take Leucine by itself without an adequate protein source.. This is because other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) will be preferentially oxidized and lead to a BCAA imbalance that compromises anabolism. Therefore, if total protein intake is low, supplement with all three BCAAs.
Did it work?
for me? yes! I now have more energy after a workout and find that I have deeper and better sleeps. Mikes Law says to ensure you get enough Leucine! I would say min 5g a day on off days and up to 15g on training days all inclusive of your diet.
Let me know in the comments below if you have found any studies that show the maximum yield intake? Closest I can find is my recommendation but there is a few assumptions in there.
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