L-Valine is an essential amino acid liked to muscle growth, glucose support to the muscles, and the prevention of fatty liver disease. You may know it as one of the three branch chain amino acids, the other two being isoleucine and leucine.
While the studies surrounding l-valine are limited, we do know that valine is essential to our health, muscle repair, and well-being as it’s classed as ‘essential‘ for optimal health. Meaning, we need to obtain it from our diet in order for our body to repair itself efficiently.
You can find l-valine in dairy products, nuts, chicken, beef and seeds. Some of the highest concentrations of valine can be found in cheese, dairy, and eggs. (01)
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We all know that protein is essential for the rebuilding of muscles. However, it’s also worth understanding that proteins (more specifically amino acids) are also linked to stress reduction, and detoxifications within the body – L-valine is one of those amino acids.
As previously discussed, not a lot is known in regards to l-valine compared to leucine for example (an anabolic inducing amino acid), but we do know that it’s essential to our health in a number of ways.
Let’s look into the studies surrounding l-valine, and how it’s important for our health.
Increased Muscle Protein Synthesis
When taken individually, l-valine may not provide much benefit when it comes to muscle growth, this is why it’s suggested to take valine with isoleucine and leucine – to enhance its effectiveness at repairing damaged muscles.
According to Robert R. Wolfe from theUniversity of Arkansas for Medical Sciences:
“The availability of valine and isoleucine may therefore become rate limiting for muscle protein synthesis when leucine alone is consumed”. (02)
In plain English, this means that one amino acid alone may not provide the desired outcome, therefore, supplementing with a sports supplement such as a complete BCAA formula, or a whey protein which contains all three essential amino acids is preferred.
Provides Glucose And Nitrogen To The Muscles
Okay, the above statement may not be entirely true in regards to l-valine not being efficient on its own accord.
L-valine DOES provide some benefit when taken individually. This comes in the supply of glucose to the muscles when taking part in intense activity.
“Valine helps prevent the breakdown of muscle by supplying the muscles with extra glucose for energy production during intense physical activity. Valinealso helps remove potentially toxic excess nitrogen from the liver, and is able to transport nitrogen to other tissues in the body as needed.” (03)
The extra glucose supplied to the muscles from l-valine typically comes from the amino acid itself, whereupon injury, such as those put on the body during exercise and during the ‘recovery‘ period, l-valine increases its own release of glucose to the muscles for muscle tissue restoration. (04)
Why is having more glucose and nitrogen important?
Let’s look at it this way. Say you’re taking part in an event, a triathlon for example, or even a power sport such as Olympic Lifting.
During these sports, there will be times when the body is required to work at its peak… giving everything you have into the final sprint, or your last clean and jerk.
L-valine will allow for more glucose (stored in the liver and muscles), along with nitrogen, which has the ability to shuttle more oxygen and nutrients into the muscles for extended performance – helping you to push ahead of your competitors.
The Importance Of Glucose For Performance
While a lot has been said in regards to high-fat diets for athletes, ultimately, if an athlete does not have enough glucose stored in the muscle (the preferred power source for intense activity) the athlete in question would simply run out of steam in the final effort.
Yes, fats are useful for long duration exercises as we can become fat adapted to steady-state exercise…
But, for explosive movements, where the use of creatine via ATP production along with glucose (which is stored in the muscles and liver) is the last and most recommended source of energy for these ‘power‘ moments in sport.
How L-Valine Prevents Fatty Liver Buildup
By eliminating valine, or those who may be taking part in intense activity, such as professional athletes where the dietary needs may be harder to meet. Or perhaps vegans/vegetarians who fail to meet their l-valine needs could be at risk of inducing a condition which is similar to fatty liver disease.
A study which removed l-valine in rats noticed lipid droplet formation in the liver (which shows signs of fatty liver formation). (05)
Therefore, using BCAA’s or making sure your diet is full of the necessary amino acids through a varied and well-balanced diet is key to preventing liver degradation.
Also, the lack of l-valine is also linked to leukopenia (reduction of white blood cells), hypoalbuminemia (low levels of blood albumin), hair loss, and weight loss. (06)
Considerations When Using L-Valine
The metabolic route of valine is that of carbohydrates. This means; l-valine interacts with glucose to be utilized throughout the body. (07)
If you’ve ever heard anyone say, ‘no foods should be excluded from your diet when pairing is concerned‘ may be in reference to the functions and metabolic routes each nutrient takes.
Meaning; different types of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats work together to improve absorption rates.
Okay, this may not always be ideal in some circumstances. Such as a triathlete who may need a fast supply of glucose that will prevent stomach issues. But where possible, a variety of foods should be eaten together to help their effectiveness at restoring the body’s energy system after exercise.
Pairing L-Valine With Other BCAA’s And Foods
As already mentioned; Foods that are paired together such as chicken, nuts, and seeds (which offer a healthy supply of valine) along with carbohydrates, will allow for a greater absorption rate – all because each nutrient carries with it a different metabolic route that benefits the body in some way. (08)
To summarise this point, eating protein alone along with fats may be an option for people wishing to lose weight, however, by doing this, there is a limiting factor in the amount of protein to be absorbed. Why?
This is due to the way in which proteins bind to carbohydrates to be shuttled around the body where needed. This is where balanced, and well-timed nutrition comes into play.
Understanding that l–valine alone has its benefits – it’s much better utilized when paired with isoleucine and leucine, along with healthy carbohydrates and fats.
If you’ve ever heard or seen a BCAA ration of 2:1:1, this is referring to the split of branch chain amino acids that are found in supplement form – L-Leucine – Isoleucine – L-Valine.
There have been some manufacturers dosing their BCAA supplements at 4:1:1 or even up to 10:1:1. What’s the problem with this? While more may seem better in terms of l-leucine (the main anabolic inducing amino acid) there hasn’t been enough research to determine its safety at these higher ratios.
Therefore, using a supplement which contains 300-800mg of valine is recommended – either individually, or as part of the remaining BCAA formula.
According to the health world organization, adults need 26 milligrams per day of valine for each kilogram of body weight to remain healthy. (09)
L-Valine In Foods
Below is a list of foods which contain the highest amounts of l-valine: (10)
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Valine (g)|
|Buckwheat Groats||1 cup||567||0.984|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||0.954|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||0.917|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||0.89|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||0.804|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||0.798|
|Pistachio nuts||0.5 cup||344||0.768|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||0.735|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||0.723|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||0.713|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||0.575|
|Rye Grain||1 cup||571||0.536|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||0.533|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||0.528|
|Brazil nut||0.5 cup||438||0.505|
|Pine nuts||0.5 cup||454||0.464|
|White potato||1 large||255||0.31|
Curtsey of vegfaqs.com
As valine is naturally occurring in the foods we eat, it’s safe to say that supplementing with or eating a diet rich in valine would not cause any side effects for most people.
However, just like with all foods and supplements, more doesn’t always mean better. According to one source in regards to l-valine side effects:
“An excessively high intake of valine may cause a skin crawling sensation and even hallucinations. Too much valine in the diet can also disrupt liver and kidney function and increase the amount of ammonia in the body. People with impaired liver or kidney function should not take isoleucine without first consulting a physician, as large doses of amino acids may aggravate these conditions.” (11)
Taking the above statement into consideration; as most people will find it difficult to ingest these larger amounts from supplementation or even foods for that matter, valine looks to be a safe sports supplements, being widely used for enhanced muscle repair within the fitness community.
While l-valine appears to be a useful ‘health-aid’ on its own accord, it may be a more viable option to pair valine with other amino acids and other food groups to get the most out of this ‘essential’ amino acid.
With benefits ranging from muscle growth, glucose support while training and post-training (repair stage), l-valine is just another piece of the whole picture which makes up sports nutrition.
No one ingredient or food group will answer your questions when it comes to performance, everything must work in synergy.
By taking a holistic approach when using supplements (or altering your diet to get the most out of your performance) it’s worth remembering that valine, along with the other essential amino acids, work together to enhance each other’s ability to restore the body – ultimately, making you a stronger athlete.
L-Valine has been shown to increase muscle growth by assisting in the delivery of glucose to the muscles. L-Valine has also been shown to prevent the formation of liver diseases.
Not only that; when paired with leucine and isoleucine it may offer cognitive support for increased mental performance (12) – making l-valine a well-rounded amino acid which shouldn’t be forgotten where health and performance goals are concerned.
(01) My Food data – Top 10 Foods High In Valine. (source)
(02) Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? (source)
(03) VitaminStuff.com – Valine. (source)
(04) The Conversion of L-Valine to Glycogen and Carbon Dioxide in Rats Receiving p-Dimethylaminoazobenzene. (source)
(05) Effect of valine-depleted total parenteral nutrition on fatty liver development in tumor-bearing rats. (source)
(06) Anti-cancer therapy with valine-depleted amino acid imbalance solution. (source)
(07) drugbank.ca – Valine. (source)
(08) Study on the essential amino acid’s supplements with absorption patterns in the improvement of the performance for sportspeople: GFS AMINO. (source)
(09) World Health Organization Amino Acid Recommendations. (source)
(10) The Top 30 Vegan Valine Food Sources. (source)
(11) VitaminStuff.com – Valine. (source)
(12) Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropic. (source)