What is valine?
L-valine is one of three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The other two are l-isoleucine, and l-leucine. These three amino acids are classified as BCAAs due to their unique structure and function.
They help to repair tissues, promote normal growth, regulate blood sugar levels and energise the body. Valine has the added role of supporting the central nervous system and cognitive function.
General benefits of valine include:
- Improving muscle health
- Regulating the immune system
- Helping in sleep disorders
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Suppressing appetite
Body builders and other athletes that rely on muscle, strength and endurance are all familiar with BCAAs. Valine in particular helps to stop muscles from breaking down during periods of strenuous exercise. This is because it supplies extra glucose to the muscles for extra energy during intense physical workouts.
Additionally, L-valine is important for removing toxins from the body. Specifically it helps to eliminate excess nitrogen. It can also help to transport nitrogen to other tissues throughout the body as required.
Furthermore l-valine may help to treat gallbladder and liver disease, including alcohol and drug abuse induced organ damage. There is also hope that this amino acid may play a role in reversing or treating alcohol-related brain damage or hepatic encephalopathy1, 2.
Valine deficiencies are usually rare. However some people are particularly susceptible to low valine levels. These groups include people that exercise a lot or are trying to build muscle mass as they have a higher demand for this amino acid. Also, people on low protein diets can have low valine levels.
Branched-chain ketoaciduria is a metabolic disease caused by the body’s inability to metabolise BCAAs. This is also called maple syrup urine disease (MSUD) due to urine smelling like maple syrup. People with a deficiency in valine may present with degenerative neurological conditions. This is because this amino acid helps to maintain and protect the myelin sheath. This is the insulating sheath which covers the nerves in the body.
As l-valine is an essential amino acid it is important that you include it in your diet. Good natural sources of this amino acid include dairy products, meat, fish, lentils, mushrooms, sesame seeds, leafy greens, soy protein and peanuts.
For body builders and other elite athletes valine supplements may be beneficial. This amino acid is available in preparations by itself, but it is also a part of mixed combination preparations which contain all BCAAs. Many people find this more convenient, and for best results l-valine should be taken with l-isoleucine and l-leucine. The recommended ratio is 2 milligrams of valine and leucine for each 1 milligram of isoleucine.
However it is important to stick to the recommended dosage and not take too much. Excessive amounts of this amino acid can cause hallucinations and a skin crawling sensation. Furthermore, too much valine can lead to reduced kidney and liver function, and high concentrations of toxic ammonia in the body.
Always consult a doctor before taking valine or BCAA supplements to assess suitability. Anyone with a compromised liver or kidney function may not be able to take these supplements.
L-valine is a very important amino acid. Part of the BCAA group, this essential amino acid is particularly influential in building muscle mass. This has made valine a popular supplement with athletes and body builders. Most people get enough of this amino acid in their diet and don’t need to take supplements. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
- Fanelli, et al (1986). Use of branched chain amino acids for treating hepatic encephalopathy: clinical experiences. Gut. Volume 27, Issue 1, (pp. 111-5). ↩
- Jellinger K et al (1978). Brain monoamines in hepatic encephalopathy and other types of metabolic coma. Journal of Neural Transmission Supplementum. Volume 14, (pp. 103-120). ↩