Know Your Nutrients: Leucine

Leucine Survival

The limiting nutrient

As a branched chain amino acid, leucine has many important functions related to muscle growth and recovery. According to some it is the most important of the branched chain amino acids – going so far as to call it the ‘limiting nutrient’. The benefits of leucine have been known in bodybuilding circles as the most important essential amino acid for growth. But the opposite has also been observed.

Removing leucine has been observed to create the effects of calorie restriction (ie starving) even in the presence of an otherwise complete diet. While some have looked to this as a way to lose weight (and an unhealthy one I might add) this is horrible news for anyone trying to survive in a disaster scenario. Wasting away while still eating calories is an absolute worst case scenario and one that can be avoided by eating complete sources of protein.

Blood sugar and glycogen

Leucine’s effect on muscles goes beyond structure: it also plays a role in the metabolism of fuel. Your muscles use a form of sugar called glycogen in order to move. During and after strenuous events, the glycogen in your muscles is depleted. This leads to less than optimal functioning of the muscles and fatigue.

Leucine has been shown in research to increase the synthesis of glycogen within the muscles. Faster synthesis means faster recovery, during and after activity. What’s more, this has a positive effect on blood sugar, which the glycogen is drawn from. Research has also verified that leucine both lowers blood sugar levels and modulates effective insulin response.

It should be no surprise that leucine has been linked to increased muscular performance. In a recent study by researchers at James Cook University, only 6 weeks of leucine supplementation resulted in significant increases for competitive rowers. In addition to endurance, overall power

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output was also increased. When it comes to self-defense or evasion situations, extra endurance and power output can make the difference between life and death. There are the quick, and the dead.

Growth Hormone

Leucine has been shown to increase secretion of human growth hormone in addition to these effects. Despite the obvious importance of this hormone to growing children, it has many important effects in adults. HGH has been used to aid in recovery after surgery for many years and has been linked to joint health as well.

In a survival situation, the ability to adapt and recover is critical. Giving your body what it needs in order to bounce back is critical, which is why you should consider leucine in your emergency supplies.


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by JP Martin