Leucine is one of the nine essential amino acids (meaning our body cannot produce it so we need to get it in our diet every day) and its one of three branched chain aminos. Research shows that leucine has unique actions on muscle protein synthesis and it may be the one that’s considered the limiting amino acid when it comes to helping us get leaner.[sws_divider_padding_small]
Using the USDA Nutrient Database, I searched the best sources of protein and how much leucine they provide. The results are in the chart below of many popular protein foods.
As you can see, dairy foods, fish, poultry and beef are good sources of the BCAA. This list isn’t comprehensive but it’s just a guide to show you how the various protein options stack up. While one study found that 2.5 grams leucine stimulated muscle synthesis, there are currently no guidelines for how much leucine is required for optimal muscle synthesis, but most researchers recommend 20 grams protein after exercise.
That’s easily achieved with having a cup of cottage cheese, a glass of milk with half a turkey or tuna salad sandwich. Of course, a whey protein supplement will work too, but it certainly won’t have the same nutritional benefits, taste or satiety value of real food. In addition, the leucine content of supplements vary greatly so you have to read ingredient labels closely to know what you’re actually busying.
When I recently evaluated several whey supplements, they contained varying amounts of leucine—many with downright puny amounts of the BCAA and often much less than what you get from eating or drinking ‘real’ foods or dairy-based beverages. The supplements labels use milligrams per serving, making it appear like they have much more of the amino acid than they do. Remember, 1,000 mgs equals 1 gram.
Leucine Load Your Muscles
|Food (serving size)||Leucine (grams)|
|Cottage Cheese (1 cup)||2.9|
|GNC’s AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 (1 scoop)||2.6|
|Turkey Breast (3.5 oz)||2.4|
|Chicken Breast (3.5 oz)||2.3|
|Wild Salmon (3.5 oz)||2.0|
|Canned Tuna (3.5 oz)||2.0|
|Haddock (3.5 oz)||1.9|
|Beef “Loin” Cuts (3.5 oz)||1.9|
|Skim Milk (1 cup)||.8|
|Yogurt (1 cup)||1.4|
|Red Kidney Beans (1 cup)||1.3|
|Lentils (1 cup)||1.3|
|Mozzarella Cheese (1 oz)||.67|
|Soybeans (1 oz)||.65|
|1 large Egg||.5|
|Almonds (1 oz)||.4|
|1 egg white||.3|