You don’t need to take extra leucine powder with meals if you eat high-quality proteins. Extra leucine above 2-3 grams won’t stimulate protein synthesis further.


  • Leucine powder taken above 2-3 grams of leucine will not further increase protein synthesis.

  • 30-40 grams of regular whey protein is sufficient to stimulate protein synthesis. Leucine protein powder will likely not be beneficial if you are already consuming 2-3 grams of leucine in your whey protein powder.

  • Leucine powder may be beneficial for those such as older adults who have anabolic resistance and vegans who are not eating foods rich in leucine.


Resistance exercise muscles are exposed to tension. Some lifters will use an exercise bar with resistance bands to add further tension. Whether the tension is from manual resistance exercise with weights or body weight resistance exercise, the total resistance exercise should accumulate over weeks for muscle growth. Resistance exercise is the best protein synthesis powder!

Muscle growth occurs when muscle protein synthesis (MPS) exceeds muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Inadequate essential amino acids can cause muscle breakdown. To build muscle, protein balance must favor muscle anabolism. MPS and MPB are responsive to diet, specifically protein feeding and the subsequent elevation of amino acids and mechanical loading, including resistance exercise (1, 2).


Dieting can cause one to lose muscle due to skeletal muscle proteins being broken down and used as an energy source. Increasing protein synthesis requires an elevation of insulin levels and adequate leucine intake. Bodybuilders will often take either branched chain amino acids (i.e., BCAA supplements) or leucine supplementation to increase MPS.

Essential amino acids are required in the diet, which is why some amino acids are called essential. The best essential amino acid supplement should contain a full spectrum of amino acids.

The body can make nonessential amino acids. Incomplete proteins are missing at least one essential amino acid. There has been much controversy regarding branched chain amino acids vs. essential amino acids.

BCAAs do not contain the full spectrum of EAAs. When an essential amino acid is lacking in the diet/if diet is lacking an essential amino acid, this is not optimal for protein synthesis.


The “leucine hypothesis” suggests that the magnitude (amplitude and rate) of meal increase in blood leucine concentrations, termed leucinemia, serves to regulate the magnitude of post-meal MPS response to an ingested protein source(3, 4).

For example, whey protein results in a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis than soy protein and casein due to higher amounts of leucine in whey. Some lifters advocate leucine pre workouts powders combined with an essential amino acid supplement powder to stimulate MPS.

A lifter may conclude that adding some leucine powder to your meals and protein shakes can increase muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. If you eat 20-30 grams of high-quality protein per meal, you should save money by adding leucine.

The maximum amount of leucine to stimulate MPS significantly above resting levels is approximately 2 grams for younger adults and 3 grams for older adults.


Older adults need more leucine due to anabolic resistance, in which they become desensitized to the anabolic actions of leucine and need a larger dose for optimal effects. However, some studies are showing above 3 grams stimulated muscle protein synthesis more(5, 6). Muscle protein synthesis is increased when a complete spectrum of essential amino acids is present compared to leucine alone. For example, low dosages of leucine combined with other essential amino acids result in greater protein synthesis than leucine alone.

Thus, protein synthesis is only partially dependent on leucine availability. Instead, an abundant supply of amino acids, including EAAs (and potentially nonessential amino acids) is also needed post-workout to provide additional substrate for the synthesis of new muscle proteins under conditions of higher “anabolic drive” stimulated by resistance exercise than feeding alone.

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The ingestion of whole foods is also potent for stimulating post-exercise MPS rates despite not facilitating a rapid rise in leucinemia during the immediate post-exercise period. Whole eggs increase protein synthesis more than egg whites, despite similar leucine content(7).

Whole milk stimulates muscle protein greater than skim milk despite a similar leucine content(8). Specifically, ingesting protein-dense whole foods results in a prolonged release of dietary amino acids into the circulation, with plasma amino acid concentration values peaking at ~ 120 min of the postprandial period in healthy adults(9).

Many lifters are becoming keenly aware of the importance of when an essential amino acid is missing from the diet and its consequences. An essential amino acids Reddit thread has questions such as Does broccoli have all the essential amino acids? Does cottage cheese have all essential amino acids?

Leucine Powder and Protein Synthesis

Many people get caught up in the rate of protein synthesis, but they should be more concerned about the total protein in their diet. For example, whey protein results in a faster rise in muscle protein synthesis than casein in response to resistance exercise; both stimulate muscle growth similarly. Furthermore, whole eggs have a slow rise in muscle protein synthesis, yet numerous studies have found them to result in muscle growth.

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1.         Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E122-9.

2.         Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E99-107.

3.         Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009;107(3):987-92.

4.         Burd NA, Yang Y, Moore DR, Tang JE, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Greater stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis with ingestion of whey protein isolate v. micellar casein at rest and after resistance exercise in older men. Br J Nutr. 2012;108(6):958-62.

5.         Park S, Jang J, Choi MD, Shin YA, Schutzler S, Azhar G, et al. The Anabolic Response to Dietary Protein Is Not Limited by the Maximal Stimulation of Protein Synthesis in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Nutrients. 2020;12(11).


6.         Macnaughton LS, Wardle SL, Witard OC, McGlory C, Hamilton DL, Jeromson S, et al. The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiol Rep. 2016;4(15).

7.         van Vliet S, Shy EL, Abou Sawan S, Beals JW, West DW, Skinner SK, et al. Consumption of whole eggs promotes greater stimulation of postexercise muscle protein synthesis than consumption of isonitrogenous amounts of egg whites in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(6):1401-12.

8.         Elliot TA, Cree MG, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR, Tipton KD. Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(4):667-74.

9.         Beals JW, Sukiennik RA, Nallabelli J, Emmons RS, van Vliet S, Young JR, et al. Anabolic sensitivity of postprandial muscle protein synthesis to the ingestion of a protein-dense food is reduced in overweight and obese young adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(4):1014-22.


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