How to Use Leucine for Weight Loss

A diet with leucine may help you lose weight more effectively

leucine weight loss supplement
Protein powders with more leucine for weight loss. Brian Balster/ E+/ Getty Images

Some dieters use leucine for weight loss. You've probably seen leucine supplements on store shelves at your local vitamin shop or drug store. Many of them advertise that a high leucine diet can help you lose weight. But do you really need a supplement to take advantage of leucine weight loss benefits?

What is Leucine?

Leucine is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

Protein helps your body to build and maintain muscle. An essential amino acid is an amino acid that must be provided in your diet because your body doesn't make it on its own. 

But leucine is special kind of essential amino acid called a branched chain amino acid (BCAA). Researchers believe that BCAAs, like leucine, can be used more effectively by the body to improve health and boost athletic performance. 

Leucine and Weight Loss

For several years now, researchers have been studying the impact of leucine on weight loss. Some scientists believe that leucine can help your body hold on to muscle mass when you are dieting. Maintaining muscle mass is important for both initial weight loss and for weight maintenance because those muscles help your body burn more calories every day.

So why isn't every dieter running to the store for leucine supplements? Because many of the studies about leucine supplements have been done on rats and mice.

So if your rat needs to lose weight, then a leucine supplement may be in order. But research into supplements has been able to show conclusive results that leucine will necessarily aid in weight loss or weight maintenance in humans.

Should You Supplement With Leucine to Lose Weight?

Even though conclusive evidence has evaded researchers, you may still be tempted to take a leucine supplement just in case it might help.

There are plenty of supplements available. But, many of them are targeted to weight lifters who want to gain weight, not lose weight. As a result, those products may contain significant calories.

A better option is to eat leucine foods to help you lose weight. Chicken, eggs, salmon and beef are all good sources of leucine. You can also get leucine from beans, soybeans and cheese. If your goal is to lose weight, you should choose leucine foods that are lower in calories and prepare the foods with as little added fat and calories as possible.

You should also make sure that you consume enough protein in your daily diet. Even though researchers have not found a direct link between leucine and weight loss, many studies now support the use of a higher protein diet to lose weight.

And lastly, you can incorporate strength training into your weight loss workouts. Build muscle with simple exercises that you do at home. The muscles you build will help you maintain a healthy metabolism and help to shape a lean, tight body.

Sources:

American Chemical Society. " Research from Everest: Can leucine help burn fat and spare muscle tissue during exercise?"

Amino Acids. Medline Plus. Accessed: July 20, 2013. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002222.htm

Donald K. Layman. " The Role of Leucine in Weight Loss Diets and Glucose Homeostasis." Journal of Nutrition January 1, 2003.

Donald K. Layman. " Potential Importance of Leucine in Treatment of Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome"Journal of Nutrition January, 2006.

Layman D.K. " Role of leucine in protein metabolism during exercise and recovery.." Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology December 2002.

M.S. Westerterp-Plantenga, A. Nieuwenhuizen, D. Tomé, S. Soenen, and K.R. Westerterp. " Dietary Protein, Weight Loss, and Weight Maintenance." Nutrition August 2009.

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