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Leucine is an essential amino acid, which simply means our bodies cannot produce it and we must get it from dietary sources. Leucine is the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in muscles (the other two are isoleucine and valine). BCAAs make up a high proportion of the amino acids in muscle. They are unique because they are the only amino acids burned by muscles as fuel; thus, both blood and muscle levels of BCAAs decrease after exercise.
In the past, researchers viewed amino acids simply as substances needed to make muscle and other body proteins—sort of like the bricks needed to build a house. In the case of leucine, recent investigations have shown this amino acid has multiple roles that go well beyond simply providing material to build muscle.
Isoleucine is an amino acid that is best known for its ability to increase endurance and help heal and repair muscle tissue and encourage clotting at the site of injury. This amino acid is especially important to serious athletes and body builders because its primary function in the body is to boost energy and help the body recover from strenuous physical activity.
Valine is a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that works with the other two BCAAs, isoleucine and leucine, to promote normal growth, repair tissues, regulate blood sugar, and provide the body with energy. Valine helps stimulate the central nervous system, and is needed for proper mental functioning.
Valine helps prevent the breakdown of muscle by supplying the muscles with extra glucose for energy production during intense physical activity. Valine also helps remove potentially toxic excess nitrogen from the liver, and is able to transport nitrogen to other tissues in the body as needed. Valine may help treat liver and gallbladder disease, as well as damage to these organs caused by alcoholism and drug abuse. Valine may help treat or even reverse hepatic encephalopathy, or alcohol-related brain damage.