Although the world of sports is vast, few events are as taxing to competitors as triathlons. The first leg of the competition alone – swimming a mile or more in open water – is enough to give anyone pause; to follow it up with two further events, each almost as grueling, is to demand almost superhuman endurance from those competing in the event. In the face of all these physical trials, many triathletes turn to fitness supplements as a way to boost the results of their training; however, the supplement market is saturated with products making all sorts of outlandish claims about their benefits or efficacy, so it can be tough to find the supplement that’s right for you. For instance, BCAAs have become widely popular among athletes and fitness buffs in recent years, but can triathletes benefit from the leucine in BCAA supplements? To find out, keep reading as the team at aminoVITAL® explains.
The Benefits of Leucine for Triathletes
When you take a BCAA supplement, you’re consuming three distinct compounds known as the branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. While all three of these amino acids have been shown to aid a person’s effort to get more fit, the star of the trio is leucine, by a wide margin.
Not only is this BCAA added to more products and promoted more heavily in those that offer it, but it has also been the subject of the greatest number of studies, virtually all of which support its numerous benefits for triathletes and others focused on raising their fitness levels. Below, we’ll look at each of those benefits and discuss how they can help triathletes improve their performance at their next race.
Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis
It’s no secret that working out builds muscle, but few know about the process within the body that leads to those gains. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is that process, and it’s a necessary part of increasing the size and strength of muscle tissue. As the amino acid responsible for stimulating MPS after exercise, leucine can improve the results of this process, increasing the benefits it provides to triathletes – namely, bigger, stronger muscles1 – and aiding recovery as part of a post-workout supplement.
Preserves Muscle Mass
While synthesizing new muscle tissue is undoubtedly an important part of getting fit, equally important is the ability to keep your hard-won muscle mass intact in the face of intense exercise. When a triathlete works out, their body burns through a lot of fuel, and once that fuel has run out, their system will start to break down muscle proteins for use as energy. Leucine helps to limit this degradation1 so you can focus on building new muscle instead of replacing what your body has destroyed.
Helps Fight Fatigue
Every triathlete knows what it’s like to feel fatigue creeping up on them while pushing through a tough workout, but the three BCAAs, including leucine, can help to address this loss of energy and motivation when used as a mid-workout supplement. This fatigue – which is called central nervous system fatigue, or simply “central fatigue” – is believed to be caused by a rise in the concentration of serotonin in the brain, which happens when your muscles use up the BCAAs in your bloodstream and allow more tryptophan to enter the brain. By using a leucine-rich BCAA supplement, triathletes can restore the balance of amino acids in their blood and slow the movement of tryptophan, limiting the production of serotonin in the process and fighting fatigue before it starts.
Helps Burn Fat
Along with the desire to grow bigger muscles, triathletes and other fitness fans often seek to trim their body fat as well – an objective that may be easier to attain with the help of leucine. Studies3,4 have shown that those who supplement with leucine-rich BCAA mixtures when exercising tend to experience, in the words of one researcher, a “significant and preferential” loss of body fat, which can be very helpful to those triathletes looking to get lean and mean before their next competition.
Provides Useful Metabolites
When the body processes certain substances, the result often includes the creation of other compounds – things called metabolites. In the case of leucine, the substances alpha-ketoisocaproate (KIC) and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) are produced, each of which can help improve the effects of leucine for triathletes; this includes leucine’s ability to create muscle proteins, limit the destruction of muscle tissue, and regulate energy in the body5.
How Much Leucine Should Triathletes Take?
At the end of the day, the amount of leucine a particular person needs to take will depend on their diet and how often they exercise. Presumably, any triathlete will work out frequently, as triathlons demand a high level of fitness, so these athletes may need a fair amount of leucine, which is typically consumed as part of a BCAA mixture. For sedentary individuals, experts recommend at least 9 grams of BCAAs per day for women and 12 grams for men, but someone as active as a triathlete may benefit from as much as 20 grams. However, BCAAs are contained in many types of dietary protein, so – presuming you have a balanced diet – you likely won’t need more than five to ten grams of BCAAs to get the results you want.
BCAA Supplements with Leucine Available for Triathletes from aminoVITAL®
There are a lot of benefits to adding a leucine-rich BCAA supplement like those from aminoVITAL® to your routine; take our Action mid-workout mix, for example. With only 15 calories, no sugar, and a blend of five amino acids – including the BCAAs – this supplement can help improve performance without undermining your diet or slowing you down. To learn more, visit aminoVITAL® online or call (888) 264-6673 today.