What is Leucine and what are the best sources for vegans?

Leucine is an amino acid, it’s often under-looked and yet offers so much for those interested in health, fitness and bodybuilding. Read on to find out more & to discover some of the best sources for vegans.

Before we begin, it’s worth highlighting that leucine is known to play a crucial role in the formulation of lean muscle so if that’s your thing, you’ll definitely want to read on. Let’s start with a quick introduction, just to get you up to speed.

What is Leucine?

To understand Leucine, you first need to know what amino acids are. These are essentially the building blocks of protein in the body. They play an important part in processes like providing individual cells with their structure, the transporting and storing of nutrients, and repairing injuries.

Leucine is one of three, more specialist branch-chained amino acids. These are different from ‘normal’ amino acids in that they are not broken down by liver enzymes and enter body tissues such as muscle more easily. Research has indicated in particular that it leucine can:

  • Have an impact on muscle growth.
  • Produce a catabolic effect that ‘burns’ more fat.
  • Regulate sensitivity to insulin.

With these three functions, you can understand why Leucine rich foods have become part of the diet for many athletes and fitness buffs. There is a growing body of evidence that it can promote lean muscle development and help with recovery after exercise.

Unfortunately some of the main sources of Leucine tend to be in animal foods such as eggs, meat and dairy. As such, being a vegan does make it a little tricky to achieve the right levels. There are however, a wide range of Leucine plant sources that can be easily added to the diet. 

Adding Leucine to Your Diet

Those on a vegetarian diet, of course, have access to eggs and dairy products. There are also plenty of different plant based, vegan foods you can introduce into your diet. Here are just a few:

Vegan Protein Powder

Hemp Protein Powder 1kg



This is readily available from health food stores and online nowadays. The best products contain hemp (a good source of Leucine) which is more easily digested. Most plant protein aficionados will advise you to stay clear of any vegan protein powder that contains sugar as this is counter to creating lean muscle.

Quinoa

This contains a lot of other nutrients that are good for you health including magnesium, iron and B vitamins. Quinoa is a good source of amino acids and should be a staple in any vegan or vegetarian kitchen.

Oats

If you like your morning porridge, then you’ll be glad to hear that these contain a decent amount of Leucine too. It’s why bodybuilders in particular often have oats in their diet. They also have a positive effect on blood sugar and release energy at a gradual pace during the day.

Soy Beans

Widely available, soy is another good source of lean vegan protein and Leucine. Dry roasted soy beans tend to be higher in protein and slightly lower in sugar.

The truth is that there are lots of vegan lean muscle foods that can be incorporated into your daily diet. These include tofu and lentils, various beans such as adzuki and chickpeas. A cup of lentils, for example, will deliver around 1.295gms of leucine while a handful of cashew nuts might deliver about 0.7gms.

The good news is that, just because you are vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have to miss out on a lean muscle diet. Make the right food choices and you should be able to easily supplement your fitness routine.

Top picks for vegan leucine supplementation: