V is for Valine
By: Juliana Dewsnap (Dietetic Intern) & Olivia Morgan (RDN, LDN)
Protein, a macronutrient which contains 4 calories per gram, is often discussed in health and fitness settings as an important factor in muscle growth. Proteins are needed to repair muscle tissues and are made up of amino acids. Your body can create most of the amino acids it needs to form protein, except for essential amino acids, which must be obtained from food. Three of these essential amino acids are known as branched-chain amino acids (or BCAA’s): isoleucine, leucine, and valine.
While they all work closely together, valine is particularly important because it helps supply energy to your muscles during exercise, which stops them from breaking down. Valine is also detoxifying, has been shown to help remove excess nitrogen from the body, and plays a role in treating gallbladder and liver disease.
Deficiency of this amino acid is not common, and you should ask your doctor before taking a supplement. Too much valine has been shown to cause hallucinations and a tingling sensation under the skin. Adults likely get sufficient valine if they meet the recommended daily allowance for protein, which most Americans consume through a healthy and well-rounded diet. Studies examining supplementation of BCAA either pre or post workout have not proven a benefit on muscle mass.
If you are looking to add more valine to your diet, consider focusing on some of these whole foods instead of using supplementation. Mushrooms and egg whites are some of the largest natural sources of valine, and including nuts (paired with a carbohydrate like fruit or whole grain crackers) as a pre-workout snack can provide your muscles with an added benefit!
Sources of Valine:
Meat (chicken or fish)
Beans (soy, lima, black, pinto)
Grains (Brown rice, lentils)
Try our grilled salmon recipe paired with spinach as a natural source of Valine, or check back on Saturday for a great recipe that is particularly high in Valine.