There are three amino acids that make up Branch Chain Amino Acids.
BCAA’s can not be made by the body, and must be acquired through food or dietary supplements.
L-Leucine comprises about eight percent of the total amino acid count in your body’s protein
structures; it is the fourth most concentrated amino acid in skeletal muscle tissue.
As one of the three BCAA’s, L-Leucine is essential for muscle growth.
L-Leucine has many beneficial effects on sports performance. It helps preserve lean muscle tissue, it supplies the body with energy when under stress (i.e. when engaging in athletic activity), it preserves muscle glycogen (glucose stored in muscle tissue used to power muscular contraction), it maintains nitrogen balance, and it enhances thinking abilities that can decline as physical activity becomes more intense.
As the strongest of the BCAA’s, L-Leucine is what’s known as a “limiting nutrient” meaning that you must have enough L-Leucine in proportion to other amino acids in order for your body to make use of what you eat. Simply: If you suffer from an L-Leucine deficiency, your body will not be able to make use of the protein that you give it – no matter how much protein you consume. And, unless you have enough L-Leucine, the money you spend on quality food and dietary supplements will be wasted.
To make the most of what you eat, you need two parts L-Leucine for every one part of L-Isoleucine and at least one part L Valine to complete the BCAA chain required by the body to grow muscle. In nature these ratios are naturally present in complete protein sources such as dairy foods. If you look at the amino acid profile per 100g of a quality whey protein you will find an approximate ratio of Leucine 10,000mg, Isoleucine 5,000mg and Valine 5,000mg. This is nature perfect and it is very important that these ratios are maintained in supplementation formulas. L Leucine is dominant as it is also required by other aminos to complete other structures which are needed by the body.
L-Isoleucine is an amino acid that is best known for its ability to increase endurance and help heal and repair muscle tissue. This amino acid is especially important to serious athletes and body builders because its primary function in the body is to boost energy when a muscle is under load and help the body recover from strenuous physical activity. L- Isoleucine will combine with L-Leucine to promote muscle recovery after exercise but is essential for creating muscle energy when the muscle is under load. A key to remembering this is the pre text Iso… Iso-metric… meaning energy required without motion when exercising.
L-Valine has a stimulating effect and is needed for muscle metabolism, repair and growth of tissue and maintaining the nitrogen balance in the body and can be used as an energy source in the muscles. In doing so it helps preserve the use of glucose. The amount of L-Valine should be increased if extended energy levels are required and in some cases endurance athletes will take equal parts L-Valine to L-Leucine to support muscle energy levels while slowing down the use of glycogen as a quick source of energy under stress. As with L Isoleucine, L Valine combines with L Leucine to complete the muscle building chain gang as we say.
All three amino acids must present in at least the 2:1:1 ratio as detailed above to maximise muscle growth, strength and performance.