Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the branched-chain amino acids, which are required by the body for protein synthesis, muscle metabolism, and tissue repair. The supplements of these essential amino acids are increasingly used by athletes to increase exercise performance, and prevent muscle breakdown during a workout session.
The branched-chain amino acids are the essential amino acids which possess non-linear aliphatic side chains. There are three branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which play a crucial role in protein synthesis. These three essential amino acids make up about one-third of the skeletal muscles in the human body. Like other essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine cannot be synthesized by our body, and hence, they have to be obtained from food or supplements. Presently, the supplements of these amino acids have become immensely popular among athletes.
Importance and Benefits
These essential amino acids are basically required for protein synthesis, and for the repair and maintenance of the muscle tissues. When the adequate amounts of these amino acids are not present in the body, our body can start to break down muscles to derive them. This can happen during a workout session or a period of extreme stress, when the body needs these three amino acids in larger amounts.
These three amino acids are concerned with some specific functions. For example, leucine plays a crucial role in insulin secretion, and the repair of skin, bones, and the muscle tissues. Isoleucine is known to regulate the level of blood sugar, and is also required for hemoglobin production. Valine, on the other hand, facilitates muscle metabolism and tissue repair. It helps maintain the balance of nitrogen in the body.
In general, these three branched-chain amino acids are believed to increase endurance. This is the reason why their supplements are widely used by the athletes to increase exercise performance. Presently, these essential amino acids are used to treat burns, tardive dyskinesia in men, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. They may prove beneficial in conditions, like liver cirrhosis, and acute hepatic encephalopathy, or brain swelling due to liver diseases or severe injuries and infections. However, the most important benefit of these nutrients is that they prevent muscle breakdown, help repair muscle tissues, and conserve the glycogen stored in the muscles.
Dangers of Amino Acid Supplements
The excessive intake of these three amino acids may reduce the level of some other essential amino acids in the body. Moreover, some people can develop an allergic reaction after taking the supplements of branched-chain amino acids, which in turn can manifest in itching, skin rash or hives, chest pain, and breathing difficulty. On observing any of these signs, be sure to discontinue the use of the supplements, and talk to your health care provider.
Some other minor side effects of these supplements are, an increase in ammonia in the body, excessive tiredness, vomiting, and indigestion. People with certain health conditions, like liver and kidney diseases should be more cautious while using these amino acid supplements.
Generally, these three essential amino acids can be found abundantly in foods, like meat and dairy products, beans and legumes, brown rice, whole wheat, eggs, fish, mushrooms, soy protein, lentils, nuts, and chickpeas. So, you can get the required amount of these amino acids by including these foods in your diet. However, their supplementation may also be required at times. But be sure to take the supplements only under the supervision of a health care provider.