Lose Fat, Not Muscle: I Love Leucine?

No, That's Leucine, Not Lucy! Though She Is Pretty Darn Adorable.

Happy Friday, folks!

So this is just a quick follow-up post for those thousands of four readers who read the last lazy-links round up, and may have caught that bit about leucine, one of the trendier amino acids, helping preserve muscle mass when people are losing weight.

Did any one else then find themselves driven to go google leucine and investigate? Or am I the only nutrient-obsessed nutbucket who takes every passing study seriously in the quest for easy muscle-building/fat blasting tricks and has to go check 'em out?

Anyone?.... Anyone?... Sigh.

But it's all good, because: it turns out there may be something to the leucine-muscle building connection after all!

Does Leucine Helps Preserve Muscle?

Were you thinking of climbing Everest anytime soon? Well, the recent study that initially triggered my interest was mainly about mountain climbers. And despite the headline, the article is frankly pretty damn confusing as to whether they got anything conclusive on whether leucine helped preserve muscle or not. Apparently the leucine-packed bars they gave the climbers tasted like crap, and the researchers discovered they had some serious work to do on the "palatability of the leucine food vehicle."

But what the article did reveal was that the study was based on a bunch of previous research that says leucine helps people on calorie-restricted diets retain muscle mass while losing weight. And for those trying to gain muscle, leucine supplementation seems to help. For those of us not planning on climbing Everest, this is a tad more practical.

Food Sources of Leucine

Some commonly mentioned food sources of leucine are, (in no particular order): whey, soy, eggs, milk, seafood, meat (particularly game meats), poultry, lentils, peanuts, cheese etc. Lots of protein powders and bars contain it. There are several big-ass lists of where to get it, such as this leucine list, but seriously: bearded seal? Whale meat? Elk? My grocery store ain't gonna be much help on some of these. Self Magazine also has a nutrient data-base with lists of food high in leucine. Men's Health tout's whey protein as a source of leucine for muscle-building purposes.

When Should You Consume Leucine To Build Muscle?

Looks like during or right after a workout. According to this leucine research, a large dose of leucine consumed immediately after exercise "increased muscle protein synthesis more than when periodic smaller doses of protein were consumed." It was also reported that "muscle protein synthesis was 33% greater after consumption of the leucine-enriched protein beverage than after a lower-leucine drink."

Should You Bother With Any of This Leucine Stuff?

Well, that depends. Leucine is naturally in a lot of stuff we eat anyway. But if you're really watching your calories, and are worried about losing muscle while doing it, you may want to be strategic about your post exercise meal. For example, before I read up on leucine, I'd been giving second thoughts to the egg whites and whey protein I'd been adding to my post workout smoothie. Were they really worth the calories? Now I'm thinking: well, yeah, maybe so! But on the other hand, I'm probably not going to run out and buy a bunch of crappy tasting leucine-filled power bars. I don't Love Leucine that much.

Anyone else curious about leucine? Or are you folks better at letting this research come and go without running around changing your diet every 5 minutes?

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