Reaping the full benefits from your workouts should always be a priority, regardless of your skill level or how much weight you are putting up. Despite what you might see on social media, it takes much more than lifting weights or doing sprints to reach your goals. Understanding what is happening inside your muscles during and after a workout is crucial to gaining strength. More importantly, knowing how to trigger skeletal muscle protein synthesis can be of huge benefit when it comes to maximizing the effects of the two hours you just put in at the gym. To do this, you need to understand the essential amino acid Leucine and the role it plays in your body.
Before we dive into how Leucine works, let’s first establish what happens while you are at the gym. When you lift weights, your muscle fiber suffers from very small rips called micro tears. How to maximize these micro tears is a whole topic of its own, but if you are pushing yourself to lift challenging weights and focusing on time under tension, it’s fairly safe to say you are achieving micro tears in skeletal muscle fiber. These micro tears are essentially the foundation for increasing size and strength; however, they do not trigger protein synthesis.
Activating Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis
After a lift or resistance training session (assuming an increase in strength or growth is the goal), you need to signal to your body that you want protein synthesis to activate. To do this quickly, most serious athletes use whey protein, partly due to its high concentration of Leucine, one of the three essential branched chain amino acids (additional supplementation of Leucine in the form of a BCAA powder may be necessary to activate protein synthesis).
When you ingest Leucine, you activate what is called the mechanistic target of rapamycin or mTOR for short. mTOR is essentially a sensor within cells that gages the availability of amino acids and is highly sensitive to Leucine levels. When mTOR is activated, it alerts your body that an ample amount dietary protein is available and thus turns on protein synthesis.
When Protein Synthesis is turned on, muscle hypertrophy can finally begin. Those micro tears that occurred while you were lifting are repaired and in this process, the muscle becomes bigger, stronger and more dense. The growth from the continual repair of the micro tears you purposefully inflict on your skeletal muscle fiber is what we have come to call “gains”.
What else do BCAAs and Leucine do?
In addition to being a key marker for the initiation of muscle protein synthesis, BCAAs and Leucine provide your body a number of other benefits. Take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to BCAAs to learn more!
While the timing and dosage of Leucine can differ from athlete to athlete, it is widely accepted that 5g either during or post workout is enough to open the mTOR pathway.
Whether you take a BCAA powder mix or add Leucine directly to your post workout regimen, it is essential to be mindful of your Leucine intake to reap the full benefits of your workout. True Nutrition is proud to offer athletes a pure source of Leucine as well as a number of BCAA powders and capsules. As always, we use third party testing to guarantee that you get the highest quality product possible. We know how hard you work in and out of the gym, and helping you reach your full potential is our obligation. Stay focused. Stay educated. Stay true.
Yours in health,
Team True Nutrition