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How does Leucine work?

March 21, 2022 3 min read

How does Leucine work?

Everyone knows that protein is an important thing to look out for in one’s diet – and especially after a workout.

It is responsible for restoring muscle tissues after exercise and plays a minor role in producing energy under more extreme training. It helps increase the impact of your workout, making it even more effective when mixed with carbohydrates to absorb the protein and turn it into more muscle growth. The complete proteins we consume found in the likes of meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are made up of the same amino acids that fuel our muscle growth. One of these amino acids is Leucine, one out of nine essential amino acids.

“Essential” means it cannot be created by the body and is considered a key stimulator of protein synthesis, making it the best compared to any other amino acid. Leucine is often called the ‘King of Aminos’ for this reason.

How Leucine works in the body

Taking Leucine supplements can regulate several cellular processes, such as tissue regeneration and metabolism. Leucine may help in healing the skin and bones as well as increase muscle growth and lean body mass which is great after a full-on workout. Paired with consistent training, flicking on the leucine switch will help you to see improvement in muscle growth.

Who should take Leucine and how much do I need to take?

A study took place at the University of Texas in Galveston aiming to see just how effective leucine intake can be in two different age groups. In younger participants, aged 28 to 30, changes observed in muscle protein metabolism were similar whether the amount of leucine was 26 percent or 41 percent of the total amino acids. There were also significant increases in blood levels of amino acids that occurred very rapidly.

Meanwhile, the older age group, aged 66, saw an increase in protein synthesis only with a 41 percent solution. Due to a possible decrease in sensitivity to leucine, individuals 65 years and older should aim to ingest extra leucine to activate muscle protein synthesis.

For most adults, however, the current recommendation for leucine is a minimum daily intake of 25 mg per pound (55 mg per kg) of body weight.

When do you take Leucine?

It is best to take leucine 30 minutes or less after any resistance training to encourage an anabolic stimulus. Taking it a few minutes post-workout will help your body to start repairing muscles and enhance muscle protein synthesis after training.

For those looking for more dietary options containing leucine and other BCAAs, other than the powder supplement, healthy sources of amino acids may be found in foods like:

  • salmon
  • chickpea
  • brown rice
  • eggs
  • soybeans
  • nuts
  • beef

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Side effects and risks of taking Leucine

Very high doses of leucine may cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It may also cause pellagra. Symptoms of this can include:

  • skin lesions
  • hair loss
  • gastrointestinal problems

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use leucine supplements either. If you’re unsure whether to take any supplements, always consult your doctor.


Amino acids, like the branch-chained Leucine, can be used by skeletal muscle to give energy during exercise. Eating foods that have complete protein gives enough of these amino acids.

Taking Leucine supplements are safe as well when used appropriately as oral supplements like those in powder form.

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