Preventative medicine is becoming a hot topic. Why? Because governments have finally realized that an aging population is a very expensive one. Sarcopenia (the age-related loss of muscle mass) costs the United States health care system over 18.4 billion dollars every year. For bodybuilders, that’s really good news. It means that the science of how to build muscle is receiving an ever-increasing amount of attention from the scientific community. This is very exciting simply because the science of “building muscle” is a topic that has been ignored by the biomedical communities.
One of the most significant breakthroughs in preventative medicine you’re going to hear about in the next few years has to do with the branch chain amino acid (BCAA), leucine and its remarkable ability to preserve lean muscle tissue, stimulate the mechanisms that build muscle and promote healthy glucose metabolism. What is revealing for bodybuilders, athletes and those of us that want more than to simply be “average,” the latest studies confirm that leucine has a number of unique and very powerful benefits that speed muscle recovery and growth as well as promote more effective fat loss.
In fact, the concentration of leucine in your diet appears to determine not only the quality of your results from training but how fast you’ll achieve your strength and physique goals. In this report, I’m going to give you a brief rundown on some of the latest findings on this truly unique amino acid and then show you how to apply this information to speed your recovery and results from Max-OT training.
Scientists have known for a long time that leucine is a key regulator of muscle protein metabolism.1 Basically, this means the amount of leucine within muscle cells governs your ability to synthesize new proteins. Let me repeat this, the amount of leucine within muscle cells governs your ability to synthesize new proteins. Stimulating an increase in the synthesis of new protein is the only way to increase muscle mass6 and leucine is the critical substrate in this process.
State-of-the-art molecular research has confirmed that supplementation with leucine actually accelerates the rate at which muscle synthesizes new protein. Leucine does this by enhancing the activation (phosphorylation) of the transduction pathways – mTOR – involved in the synthesis of new tissue. This has been demonstrated consistently in studies involving animals and humans.2-5
In particular, supplementation close to a weight lifting workout is shown to actually intensify the anabolic response by providing a higher phosphorylation of key molecules that step-up the rate of muscle protein synthesis after exercise.5 The bottom line is that a high concentration of leucine within your system will ensure a greater muscle-growth response from each workout resulting in faster gains in muscle mass.
The marketers of nitric oxide supplements will have you believe the pump is the essential component to gaining lean mass. However, the research on this topic shows this is not true.7 Regarding the molecular pathways that lead to gains in muscle mass, nitric oxide production isn’t one of them. Stimulating a high rate of muscle protein synthesis (via intelligent training and selective supplementation) is the fastest way to increase muscle mass.2-7 To achieve this response, the presence of an abundant supply of leucine appears to be all-important.
The Latest Research
Several new studies have provided some valuable insights on how bodybuilders and strength athletes can supplement their diet to intensify the anabolic response from training and build muscle faster.
First, the bad news. It appears as though aging reduces the anabolic effect that protein-rich meals have on our muscles.8 The older we get, the less effective protein meals become at stimulating protein synthesis and preventing muscle breakdown. This age-related diminished anabolic response to meals is one reason why older people have less muscle mass and find it tougher to build muscle with weight training. However, the latest research suggests that a diet rich in leucine can correct this defect.8
One recent study has shown that supplementing meals with leucine restored the anabolic effect of meal consumption in older rodents, by restoring the mechanisms that block muscle breakdown.8 Leucine not only appears to accelerate the molecular production of new muscle protein, but it also serves to prevent excessive muscle breakdown. For athletes, that’s a double anabolic effect. Leucine is both anabolic and anticatabolic.
However, in addition to enhancing the anabolic response from training, leucine also appears to promote better fat loss. Leucine does this by regulating glucose oxidation (utilization) in muscle. Leucine appears to stimulate glucose recycling via the glucose-alanine cycle.9 This process not only results in a protein-sparing (anticatabolic) effect in muscle, it also provides a more stable blood glucose environment with lower insulin responses. This is the most conducive environment for shedding fat and preserving lean mass during energy (calorie)-restricted diets.9
Leucine’s ability to promote healthy glucose and insulin metabolism (that ensures better fat loss) is so clear that supplementation is now being considered for the treatment of obesity, type-2 diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome X.9 (A little information about Metabolic Syndrome X, it is something you don’t want to mess with. Metabolic Syndrome X is the step just before full-blown diabetes and heart disease which are two of the main causes of premature death. Metabolic Syndrome X is a condition that’s characterized by a sedentary lifestyle, a fat gut, and high blood pressure; symptoms that over 60% of the American adult population have).
Leucine and Muscle Growth
On a more positive note, I’ve saved the best information for last. Another recent study suggests that adding leucine to your protein shake can improve its muscle-building potential and provide an even greater anabolic punch.10
This study used healthy young males given repeated doses of a protein/carbohydrate supplement with or without additional leucine for 5-hours after a weight training workout.10 Whole body and muscle protein synthesis rates were assessed simultaneously to determine the anabolic response to supplementation and training. The results showed that the extra leucine ensured a higher net gain in protein in response to training.10 A higher net gain in protein within the body, each day will provide faster gains in lean muscle mass.
However, it is important to note that the total amount of leucine in the supplements administered in the trials varied substantially. For example, the protein supplement provided only 0.02g of leucine/kg/hr (a 1.6-gram dose for an 80kg individual). This is much lower than the leucine-enriched supplement which provided a total of 0.12g/kg/hr (or 9.6 grams for an 80kg person). However, despite these differences, this research provides us with some very important information we can apply.
Firstly, when leucine is added to a protein supplement, it appears to be well-absorbed and can deliver a potent anabolic effect within the muscle. Secondly, it appears as though leucine may stimulate protein synthesis in a dose-dependant manner. That is, the anabolic response to training can be significantly increased by the concentration of leucine in your post-workout shake. The more leucine in your post-workout shake means a greater anabolic response from training.
What is the exact amount of leucine that is required to achieve this effect? That’s unclear at this stage. However, I can tell you one thing; to me, this research was so compelling that I immediately started taking BCAA 4500 with my VP2 Whey Isolate post-workout shake. Timing your intake of BCAA-4500 with VP2 Whey Isolate right after training takes advantage of this research for better gains in anabolic activity.
No doubt that VP2 Whey Isolate is the richest source of bioavailable leucine on the planet. (It’s probably one reason why VP2 is shown in several studies using actual experienced bodybuilders to significantly improve lean muscle and strength gains). However, if you’re like me, you’re always after that extra edge that will improve your performance or results from training.
That’s why I always make sure I throw down 6 or 8 capsules of BCAA 4500 with my VP2 shake before or after my workout.
BCAA 4500 is a high-leucine BCAA supplement. It’s an easy, effective way to increase the leucine content and anabolic potency of my pre- and post-workout shake.
I don’t know about you, but the entire reason I lift weights is to build muscle. I don’t make the time to workout for the social scene. If I’m going to put myself through the pain of intense training, I sure as hell want the greatest muscle-building response I can get from every single workout. The research on this topic shows that increasing the concentration of leucine in your diet will deliver this.
The best results possible from every single workout; isn’t that what training’s all about?
1. Am J Physiol 263: E928–E934, 1992
2. J Nutr 130: 139–145, 2000
3. Diabetes 51: 928–936, 2002
4. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 86: 2136–2143, 2001
5. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287: E1–E7, 2004
6. Am J Physiol 276: C120-C127, 1999
7. Nitric Oxide Supplements- Big Claims – Zero Science
8. J Physiol 569:489-99, 2005
9. J Nutr. 136(1):319S-23S, 2006
10. Am J Physiol 288:E645-53, 2005