L-LEUCINE

 

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L-LEUCINE

 

Leucine is an essential alpha-amino acid with hydrophobic chemical properties.  Its molecular structure is incorporated in making buffer proteins, such as ferritin and astacin.  Plants and microorganisms have the capability of synthesizing leucine from pyruvic acid and numerous enzymes involved in reduction and dehydration to name a few.

 

Leucine is one of three amino acids that make up a group called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).  What define the BCAA are their aliphatic side-chains which are a carbon atom that is bound to more than 2 other carbon atoms.  Isoleucine and valine make up the other 2 BCAA.  The most effective results from leucine are seen when taken with isoleucine and valine in a ratio of 2:1:1, respectively.  Leucine and its BCAA associates have the potential to cause toxicity to the body’s blood and urine when taken in excessive amounts.  A condition  called Maple Syrup urine Disease can be observed in individuals who are deficient in a dehydrogenase enzyme responsible for decomposing the BCAA.

 

Approximately 8% of the body’s total amino acids come from leucine, most being concentrated in skeletal muscle tissues.  Athletes utilize dietary supplements containing leucine to decrease the degradation process of muscle tissue and promote muscle recovery after a workout.  Other benefits include increased endurance as a supply of energy is provided during physical activities, and the ability to maintain balanced nitrogen levels in the body.  Some evidence has shown that it has some cognitive benefits that enhance human thought processes that would normally decline during physically intense activities.

 

Natural sources of leucine come from high in protein foods.  Individuals consuming a primarily vegetarian diet may experience deficiencies in leucine if sufficient protein sources are not met.  Symptoms similar to hypoglycemia, such as fatigue and headaches can occur in leucine deficient individuals.  It is recommended that a daily required dosage per kilogram of body weight be 10-18 grams of leucine.  This can be consumed either through natural food sources or supplementation.  For athletes using leucine supplements, 20-40 grams is recommended before and after workout sessions.

 

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