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Staying fit and healthy as you get older is a challenge in even the best of circumstances, but when you find that you’re losing muscle mass due to sarcopenia, the task only gets harder. For many seniors, sarcopenia represents a significant long-term risk, especially if it goes untreated for years or decades. As muscle continues to waste away, older adults often find that they can’t get around as easily, and their risk of falling increases dramatically as they lose strength in their legs. Fortunately, sarcopenia is one health issue that can be effectively addressed by taking a few simple steps. One beneficial compound in the treatment of sarcopenia is leucine, an essential amino acid. If you or someone you know is suffering from sarcopenia, keep reading as the experts at ENU – makers of protein shakes for seniors – discuss the benefits of leucine for sarcopenia.
The Health Benefits of Leucine for the Body
In all of us, there are unnumerable amino acids that play virtually every role imaginable, from carrying signals throughout the brain to forming the hormones and enzymes that keep our systems functioning. However, all of these proteins and amino acids stem from a set of 21 basic amino acids known as the “proteinogenic” amino acids, which are combined to create the various compounds our bodies require.
Within this group of 21, there are nine amino acids that the body can’t make on its own, so it has to get them from the things we eat or drink; these are the “essential” amino acids, a group that includes leucine.
As one of the three branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs – a group of essential amino acids known for their exercise-enhancing benefits – leucine is often sought after by everyone from bodybuilders and professional athletes to casual gym members and weekend warriors. The benefits these fitness buffs seek from leucine are not limited to young, athletic individuals; many of the same effects can be applied to aid seniors suffering from sarcopenia.
Using Leucine to Help with Muscle Loss from Sarcopenia
Like other amino acids, leucine is used to meet a number of the body’s needs, but the most prominent use of this compound is to aid muscle growth and repair. When our bodies make new muscle cells, they do so through the process of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), and it’s this process that leucine directly stimulates.
While MPS is constantly happening, regardless of whether you’re taking in extra amounts of leucine, the presence of this amino acid can help send MPS into overdrive, causing the body to create more muscle tissue than it otherwise would. This benefit is huge for those with sarcopenia, as one of the main drivers of the condition is believed to be the slowing of MPS with age.
A 2006 study in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism looked at the effects of leucine on patients with sarcopenia. Researchers took four groups of participants – two young groups and two groups of seniors – and gave them amino acid supplements that contained either 26% leucine or 41% leucine. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that an amino acid mixture with a high proportion of leucine could reverse the slowdown of MPS in the elderly, showing leucine’s value to those with sarcopenia.
The benefits of this amino acid for treating sarcopenia don’t stop there, however. Leucine – along with isoleucine and valine, the two other BCAAs – has been shown to help protect the muscles from damage during exercise, so if you work out as part of your sarcopenia treatment, leucine should be able to help you keep the muscle mass you have while boosting the production of new muscle and improving your strength at a greater rate.
Where to Get Leucine for Sarcopenia
Now that you know how helpful leucine can be for fighting sarcopenia, let’s talk about how to get more of this amino acid in your diet. As an essential amino acid, leucine is available from any source of complete protein, which includes all protein from animal-based sources – think red meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs. Although a few plant-based protein sources are also complete – namely soy, quinoa, and various grains and seeds – most plant protein is lacking at least one essential amino acid.
By adding more complete protein to your diet, you can up your leucine intake, slowing or even reversing the march of sarcopenia and improving the results of exercise. That said, many seniors find it tough to fit more food into their diets each day, whether because of a lack of appetite, digestive issues, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. ENU products aim to address those limitations by providing convenient and palatable sources of protein that older adults can more easily integrate into their diet.
A single ENU nutrition shake offers 20 grams of protein from whey and soy isolates, two of the easiest forms of protein to digest, as well as 400 calories for added energy and easier weight maintenance. If drinking a whole weight management shake seems like a bit much, however, we also offer our Pro3+ nutrition powder, a flavorless, protein-rich supplement that can be mixed into moist foods or your favorite beverage for an added dose of leucine without increasing the volume of your food or drink.
Try ENU Nutrition Shakes or Powders and Get More Leucine Every Day
Fighting a condition like sarcopenia can seem like an uphill battle at times, but with a little help from ENU supplements, you can get more of the nutrients your body needs to turn things around. Learn more about the benefits of our meal replacement shakes and powders by visiting ENU online or calling (855) 266-6733 today.