Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are amino acids having aliphatic side-chains with a branch (a carbon atom bound to more than two other carbon atoms). Out of twenty common amino acids, there are three with branched-chains (leucine, isoleucine and valine).
The BCAA are among the nine essential amino acids for humans, accounting for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals.
BCAA’s have been used clinically to aid in the recovery of burn victims and are often used as a sports supplement in order to peak performance.
L-Leucine is released through the breakdown of protein by pancreatic enzymes during digestion. Being an essential amino acid, Leucine cannot be synthesized by the body – rather, it must be obtained through the foods that we eat. While Leucine so far has not been in use as a therapeutic agent, it plays a very significant role in supporting several important bodily functions.
- lowers elevated blood sugar
- promotes the healing of skin, muscle tissue and bones
- fights infection
- aids blood sugar synthesis in the liver during stress and starvation
- helps maintain muscle mass
- is essential for hemoglobin production
- increases growth hormone production
Since Leucine helps the body maintain its muscle mass, many bodybuilders use supplements that contain Leucine to help with muscle recovery. Leucine is also used as an experimental treatment for liver disease.
Leucine can be found in beans, brown rice, corn, dairy products, eggs, fish, legumes, meat, nuts, seafood and other protein-rich foods.
Although Leucine deficiency is rare, it can occur in individuals without adequate protein intake such as vegans or vegetarians. Symptoms of Leucine deficiency include hypoglycemia (resulting fatigue, headaches and dizziness) and insulin shortage.