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September 2006, Muscle & Fitness

The Edge: Whey, Leucine Show Promise
By Jim Stoppani, PhD

Regular readers of Muscle & Fitness know we always recommend a whey protein shake before and after training because it increases muscle-protein synthesis (the process by which muscles grow) immediately after the workout ends. Whey protein provides a quick source of the critical amino acids used as the building blocks for muscle protein. Another supplement we frequently recommend is the amino acid leucine. Research shows leucine is an important amino that helps initiate the process of muscle-protein synthesis. Recently, a study from California State University, Fullerton, has reported new findings that support our long-standing recommendations.

Scientists instructed male subjects to train their non-dominant leg three times a week for eight weeks with single-leg extensions using 80% of their one-rep max (IRM). They performed three sets the first week of training, four sets the second week and five sets during the final six weeks. The 33 subjects were randomly split into one of three groups. Group I, the supplement group, consumed a shake containing 20 grams of whey protein and 6.2 grams of leucine 30 minutes before and immediately after each workout. On non-training days, they ingested one dose before breakfast. Group 2, the placebo group, ingested a shake containing 26.2 grams of the fast-digesting carbohydrate maltodextrin at the same times.

Group 3, the control group, took nothing and did not train. Researchers tested the subjects’ trained and untrained legs for IRM strength on the single-leg extension as well as the size increase of each of the four quadriceps muscles (vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and rectus femoris) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Not surprisingly, the findings revealed that the subjects taking the whey-and-leucine shake increased the strength of their trained leg by 30%, while the placebo group boosted the strength of theirs by only 22%. What did surprise scientists was the fact that subjects taking the whey-and-leucine shake increased strength in their untrained leg by 15%, while subjects in the placebo group gained only 3%. Although both groups increased the size of their trained vastus intermedius and vastus medialis by about the same amount, the whey-and-leucine group almost doubled the size gains of the trained vastus lateralis and rectus femoris.

Another shocking find: The whey-and leucine group increased the size of their untrained vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and rectus formis muscles by 3%, 3%, 6% and 1%, respectively, compared to the placebo group, whose subjects experienced just 1% gains in the first three muscles, while the rectus femoris actually decreased in size by 4%.

Based on these results, you’d be crazy to not use whey leucine supplements. Be sure to ingest 20 grams of whey protein 30 minutes before workouts and 20-40 grams immediately after. Also, try taking 5-10 grams of leuicine at the same times to lift your strength and mass gains to new heights.

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