1. Builds Muscle
L-leucine is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and athletes due to its powerful effects on muscle gaining. As one of the key amino acids involved in muscle synthesis, it may help trigger muscle building to optimise your workout.
However, research has turned up mixed results on the potential effects of this amino acid. One long-term study out of France, for example, found that leucine was much more effective in promoting muscle growth and enhancing performance when it was combined with other amino acids rather than consumed alone. Including a good variety of protein foods in your diet can help maximise the effects of leucine by providing a wide array of amino acids and essential nutrients to fuel muscle growth.
2. Prevents Muscle Loss
As you get older, there are a lot of changes that happen in your body. Sarcopenia, the gradual deterioration of skeletal muscles, is one of the most notable effects of advanced age. This condition can cause weakness and decreased stamina, leading to a decline in physical activity.
Leucine is believed to help slow muscle deterioration to decrease the effects of ageing. One study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Internal Medicine and published in Clinical Nutrition showed that it helped improve muscle synthesis in older adults consuming the recommended amount of protein per meal. Another human model, conducted in France and referenced above, had similar findings, reporting that leucine supplementation was also able to limit weight loss caused by malnutrition in elderly participants.
3. Improves Performance
In addition to using leucine for bodybuilding, both professional and novice athletes alike often turn to this essential amino acid looking to bump their physical performance up to the next level.
One study conducted at the Institute of Sport and Exercise Science at James Cook University in Australia and published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology reported that taking leucine supplementation for six weeks significantly improved both endurance and upper-body power in competitive canoeists. Similarly, another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 showed that leucine supplementation enhanced lean tissue mass and improved functional performance in older adults.
4. Aids in Fat Loss
If you’re looking to build muscle and simultaneously shed some extra body fat, leucine may be just what you need. In fact, several studies have found that it can have some powerful effects when it comes to fat loss.
An animal model out of the University of São Paulo’s Department of Food Science and Experimental Nutrition in Brazil showed that supplementing rats with a low dose of leucine for a six-week period resulted in increased fat loss compared to a control group. According to a 2015 review in Nutrients, this amino acid has also been shown to decrease fat accumulation during ageing and prevent the development of diet-related obesity.
5. Promotes Muscle Recovery
Cramps and sore muscles are pesky problems that many people face after hitting the gym. Following an especially intense workout, these muscle aches can sometimes even be enough to keep you from the gym a few days, completely throwing off your schedule and delaying your fitness goals.
Studies have found some promising results on the potential role of leucine in muscle recovery. A review from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois reported that consuming leucine right after working out can help stimulate muscle recovery and muscle protein synthesis. Another study conducted at the School of Sport and Exercise and the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey University in New Zealand demonstrated that supplementation with this amino acid improved recovery and enhanced high-intensity endurance performance in male cyclists after training on consecutive days.
6. Stabilises Blood Sugar
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can wreak havoc on your health. In the short term, high blood sugar can cause symptoms like fatigue, unintentional weight loss and increased thirst. Left unchecked for even longer, high blood sugar can have even more serious consequences, including nerve damage, kidney problems and a higher risk of skin infections.
Some research suggests that leucine may be able to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. A human study out of the VA Medical Centre’s Endocrine, Metabolism and Nutrition Section in Minneapolis and published in Metabolism showed that leucine taken alongside glucose helped stimulate insulin secretion and decrease blood sugar levels in participants. A 2014 in vitro study out of China also showed that leucine was able to facilitate insulin signalling and glucose uptake to help keep blood sugar levels in check.
7. Reduces the Risk of Hardening of the Arteries (Atherosclerosis)
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is linked to high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), while high-density lipoproteins (HDL) reduces the risk of atherosclerosis due to their role in reverse cholesterol transport (the process of returning cholesterol from the tissues to the liver).
In rat studies, leucine supplementation decreased LDL by 41% and increased HDL by 40%.
Leucine supplementation also decreased atherosclerotic lesions (by 58%).
Both high cholesterol levels and chronic inflammation are linked to atherosclerosis. Leucine supplementation reduced liver cholesterol by 52% and decreased inflammation