Article by Caitlin Adler, a vegan Accredited Sports Nutritionist, Strength & Conditioning coach and bodybuilder at Plant Forged Physique. Her passion is helping vegans achieve their health and fitness goals with evidence-based guidance and expertise. Check out their free Vegan Supplement Cheat Sheet and other resources.
Leucine is one of nine essential amino acids that our body must obtain from food.
It is most well known for its muscle-building properties – specifically as a catalyst for muscle protein synthesis. So when it comes to growing muscle, if you don’t have enough leucine it’s like trying to start a car without a key.
Leucine is most prominently found in animal-products, like chicken, beef, pork, tuna, dairy and eggs. So for non-vegan bodybuilders and strength athletes, leucine isn’t something that they need to focus on.
Consequently, leucine is not a well known topic because getting enough leucine happens easily for meat-eaters.
But vegetarians and vegans should take care to get consistent and adequate doses of leucine to optimise their muscle growth, repair, and recovery.
To optimise muscle growth, you want to eat an adequate amount of protein each day split relatively equally across 3-6 meals, with 2.5-3g of leucine in each of those meals.
But unlike animal proteins, the challenge is that plant proteins often have less than 1g of Leucine.
Thankfully, there are a few exceptions. Primarily, these are soy-foods and some legumes which have slightly higher quantities of leucine:
Include soy-foods regularly in your diet each day to ensure you’re consuming leucine regularly.
Note: See our article “Will soy give me man-boobs?“, which debunks the negative messaging you may have heard about soy products, particularly for men.
The reality is that most people don’t consume soy in every meal. This makes it difficult for vegans who are trying to build muscle to get enough leucine and frequently enough to optimise their muscle growth.
A solution is to supplement with 2-3g of leucine powder at each main meal that doesn’t contain soy. This could be useful primarily for vegan athletes and those wanting to make sure they’re getting as much muscle growth as possible.
Some vegan Leucine products include:
Leucine is one of nine essential amino acids that our body must obtain from food. When it comes to growing muscle, if you don’t have enough leucine it’s like trying to start a car without a key.
This handy evidence-based guide outlines exactly what supplements are needed to improve muscle gain, health, performance, recovery, and fat loss – and which ones are a waste of your time and money!