Compounds known as amino acids are responsible for a wealth of critical bodily functions. Often called protein’s building blocks, amino acids are vital in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and hormones. There are numerous amino acids and are even categorized into non-essential and essential. One such essential amino acid that is important in the growth of muscle tissue is leucine. Learn more about the other essential amino acids as well as leucine benefits and sources.
What are Amino Acids?
As mentioned, amino acids are the vital segments of protein. These organic compounds contain hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, plus a variable chain branched to the side. Amino acids are vital for various bodily processes such as regulating immune function and building muscles.
There are around 20 amino acids needed by the body. These can be differentiated as non-essential and essential amino acids. While the body naturally produces non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids are obtained from food such as poultry, eggs, and meat. The essential amino acids can also be absorbed via supplements.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
There are 11 non-essential amino acids which occur in the body by natural means. This means that an individual no longer needs to take supplements that contain these amino acids. The non-essential amino acids include the following.
- Glutamic Acid
- Aspartic Acid
Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids are compounds that are absorbed from food. It differs significantly from non-essential amino acids that are created by the body. There are nine essential amino acids, and each plays an integral part in the body.
This amino acid is essential for maintaining nitrogen balance. It is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. This neurotransmitter regulates one’s mood, sleep, and appetite.
Phenylalanine is the precursor for norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine. Aside from being precursors for these neurotransmitters, it plays a significant role in the function and structure of enzymes and proteins. It is also responsible for the construction of other amino acids.
This amino acid plays a vital part in the structural proteins, elastin, and collagen. Both are significant components not only of the skin but of the connective tissue as well. Furthermore, threonine is vital for immune system function and fat metabolism.
The neurotransmitter called histamine is responsible for one’s sleep-wake cycles, sexual function, digestion, and immune response. For histamine to be produced, there is a need for histidine. In addition, this amino acid is essential in the maintenance of the myelin sheath which is the protective barrier surrounding the nerve cells.
When it comes to detoxification and metabolism, methionine plays a considerable role. Methionine also aids in tissue growth. Moreover, this amino acid aids in the absorption of selenium and zinc, both of which are essential minerals needed for various functions in the body.
For the absorption of calcium, lysine is needed. Moreover, it aids in enzyme and hormone production as well as in the synthesis of proteins. Lysine is beneficial in energy production, elastin and collagen production, and immune function.
In the essential amino acids, three out of nine are branched-chained. This means that in the molecular structure, it has one chain that branches off to the side. The first of the three is valine which is involved in the production of energy. Valine is also responsible for stimulating muscle regeneration and growth.
Another branched-chain amino acid is isoleucine which plays a part in muscle tissue and muscle metabolism. It is also vital for its role in energy regulation, hemoglobin production, and immune function.
The last of the branched-chain amino acids is leucine. It plays a critical role in muscle repair and protein synthesis. Moreover, leucine aids in the production of growth hormones, blood glucose level regulation, and the stimulation of the wound healing process.
Benefits of Leucine
In addition to muscle repair and muscle growth, leucine offers numerous health benefits. Some of these include the following.
- Controls Obesity
- Controls Blood Glucose Levels
- Improves Liver Function
- Lowers and Controls Levels of Cholesterol
- Offers Positive Effect on Muscles and Liver
Leucine is vital for stable growth. Moreover, for individuals hoping to gain more muscle mass, leucine is the best muscle stimulant for workouts.
As mentioned, essential amino acids which include leucine are sourced from food. These amino acids do not occur by natural means in the body. Some of the most abundant sources of leucine include the following, which also includes the recommended dietary intake (RDI) provided by each.
Raw Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is tasty and healthy, plus it is also by far the most abundant source of the branched-chain amino acid. This type of cheese offers 121 percent of the RDI.
The standard method practiced when it comes to preparing beef is by grilling it. Meat that is grilled is not only high in protein, but it is also packed with leucine, approximately 116 percent of the RDI.
In addition to beef, pork is also a good source of leucine. It contains 94 percent of the RDI. However, take note to control portions of pork as an excess of it may lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Pork is rich in calories and trans-fat.
White meat that is healthy and packed with nutrients is chicken. No matter how it is prepared, chicken offers 97 percent of the RDI needed.
This type of seafood offers 77 percent of the RDI.
Opt for fresh tuna rather than canned tuna. Cooked fresh tuna is packed with 84 percent of the RDI.
These offer 87 percent of the daily RDI.
A serving of peanuts offers 66 percent of the RDI.
Vegetables are not really good sources of leucine, save for roasted soybeans. It is packed with at least 118 percent of the needed RDI. Apart from being rich in leucine, soybeans are also bursting with antioxidants.
These contain at least 22 percent of the RDI.