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Most effective leucine dose may be as high as 20 g

Do you add leucine [structural formula shown below] to your protein shakes to give them more bite? And are you satisfied with the results? You'll probably be even more satisfied if you increase your dose. In a review article on the anabolic effects of amino acids we came across a couple of pretty interesting facts about the muscle-strengthening effect of leucine.

Leucine is an interesting amino acid. If you give muscle cells leucine they start to produce more muscle proteins. How this works is not yet known, but the effect is noticeable enough that sports nutrition manufacturers have introduced leucine products onto the market.

Leucine retains muscle mass if you are unable to use your muscles. If you add leucine to a shake containing carbs and proteins, it'll boost your muscle protein production. Adding extra leucine to meals reduces muscle breakdown in the elderly.

Leucine only works if you use it in combination with proteins or amino acids. If you consume it on its own, or in combination with carbs, it has no effect. Not even in strength athletes. [J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug; 24(8): 2211-9.]

It's still not clear, however, what the optimal dose should be. The earlier studies suggested a minimum dose of 3 g for healthy people and probably a higher intake for elderly people. Since then natural bodybuilders have started taking 5-8 g doses of leucine. But in an article that researchers at the University of Nottingham published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006, we found a figure that suggests that even these doses are on the low side.

Most effective leucine dose may be as high as 20 g

The figure is based on experiments in which the researchers fed their inactive subjects leucine intravenously. Their muscle tissue rate of production increased most when they were given an hourly dose of 0.261 g per kg bodyweight. Suppose that all the leucine you take orally reaches your bloodstream, then someone weighing 85 kg would need about 22 g leucine to derive maximum benefit from it.

The article also mentions that amino acids will only increase your muscle protein production by a factor of 2-3. Whether this remark is relevant for all three readers of this web magazine, we have our doubts. Athletes' muscles are continuously recovering and growing.

J Nutr. 2006 Jan; 136 (1 Suppl): 264S-8S.

Leucine retains muscle mass when you're not training 30.08.2010
Leucine increases anabolic effect of post-training meal by 16 percent 16.08.2010
Getting older? Extra leucine boosts anabolic stimulus of proteins 07.03.2009