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Posted on 06-17-2011

Leucine-A Powerful Muscle Builder

Leucine is part of branched-chain amino acid found in certain foods. It serves multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism, which causes protein to be created and builds your muscle. You need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of leucine in order to reap the optimal effect.

The highest concentrations of leucine and other branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are found in dairy products; particularly quality cheese and whey protein.

However, even though leucine is relatively abundant in our food supply, it is often wasted as an energy substrate or used as a building block rather than an anabolic agent. This means that to establish the right anabolic environment, you should try to increase leucine consumption beyond maintenance requirements.

But beware that only FOOD BASED leucine can benefit your muscles without side effects. Using leucine as a free form amino acid can be highly counterproductive.

Intravenous administration of free form amino acids including leucine has shown to cause severe hyperglycemic reactions and insulin resistance. Apparently, when free form amino acids are artificially administrated, they rapidly enter your circulation while disrupting insulin function, and impairing your body's glycemic control.

This proves again that we're programmed to benefit from whole food nutrition only.

So how much leucine in the form of foods, NOT supplements, do you need to consume to get results?

Based on nitrogen-balance measurements, the requirement for leucine to maintain body protein is 1-3 grams daily. And to optimize its anabolic pathway, it has been estimated that leucine requirement should be about 8g - 16g daily. The following chart presents leucine content in common foods:

Leucine Content in food / per 100g

Whey Protein Concentrate 8.0g
Raw Cheddar Cheese 3.6g
Lean Beef 1.7g
Salmon 1.6g
Almonds 1.5g
Chicken 1.4g
Chick Peas 1.4g
Raw Eggs 1.0g
Egg Yolk 1.4g
Sheep Milk 0.6g
Pork 0.4g
Cow Milk 0.3g

This means that to get the minimum 8 gram leucine requirement for anabolic purposes, you need the following amounts of food:

  • a pound and a half of chicken
  • three pounds of pork
  • over a pound of almonds (over 3000 calories)
  • over a pound and a half of raw eggs (16 eggs)
  • half a pound of raw cheddar cheese

and remarkably, only 3oz of high-quality whey.

As you can see, whey protein supplementation can effectively allow you to get the minimum leucine you need to build muscle without consuming excessive amounts of food and calories.

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