Leucine is one of three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that have been proven to be helpful for achieving fitness goals with an emphasis on muscle building and recovery.
Given the benefits of leucine you’ll naturally want to ensure you have high enough levels of leucine throughout the day.
BCAA and leucine supplements are great but it’s always best to try and get as many nutrients as possible from whole foods instead of supplements.
So here are 11 leucine foods loaded with leucine:
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- Chicken breast
- Lean pork chops
- Pumpkin seeds
- Canned tuna
- Cooked cod
- Egg whites
1: Shredded Parmesan Cheese
What’s an Italian meal without shredded parmesan cheese?
Outside of whey protein supplements, parmesan cheese takes the crown for the food with the most leucine.
Per 100 grams (3.5 ounce) serving, you’re getting 4 grams of leucine – That’s more than most BCAA supplements!
Watch out though:
Eating this much parmesan cheese is going to quickly fill up your recommended daily allowance for fat and cholesterol.
- 100 grams of shredded parmesan cheese contains: 4 grams of Leucine
Animal products are the best sources of leucine so it should be no surprise that steak ranks near the top of the list.
Steak is packed with protein as well as creatine, an amino acid that is essential for energy production.
Red meat can pose problems for those with cardiovascular and digestive issues so eat this one sparingly.
- 100 grams of steak contains: 2.9 grams of Leucine
3: Chicken Breast
A bodybuilding staple, a lean chicken breast is an excellent source of leucine without the fat content found in cheese and steak.
- 100 grams of chicken breast contains: 2.6 grams of Leucine
4: Lean Pork Chops
Coming in just behind chicken breasts are pork chops.
Switching it up between these three animal meat choices will give you some variety and allow you to access your digestive tolerance.
For example, if you have trouble digesting red meat, not only will you experience stomach pain, but you won’t be absorbing all of the nutrients within the food.
- 100 grams of lean pork chops contains: 2.5 grams of Leucine
5: Pumpkin Seeds
Let’s jump into our first plant-based food with pumpkin seeds.
This food is so potent in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, that is makes up the foundation of many plant-based protein supplements.
Great as a midday snack, pumpkin seeds taste great and give your body a nice break from consuming animal-based foods all day.
- 100 grams of pumpkin seeds contain: 2.3 grams of Leucine
Soybeans are another great plant-based source of leucine.
For those who are vegetarian or who have digestive issues with meat, soybeans let you get in an impressive 2.3 grams of leucine within a 100-gram serving.
- 100 grams of soybeans contain: 2.3 grams of Leucine
7: Canned Tuna
For those who tend to enjoy seafood more than meat, canned tuna is a convenient and cost-effective source of leucine.
For 100 grams of canned tuna, you’ll be getting 2.1 grams of leucine.
The healthy fats in tuna will also benefit your weight loss and cognitive health.
- 100 grams of canned tuna contains: 2.1 grams of Leucine
8: Cooked Cod
Another excellent seafood option is cod.
If you like fish but aren’t a big fan of the strong taste of tuna, go with cod as it absorbs the flavor you cook it in.
Just like tuna, it’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- 100 grams of cooked cod contains: 2 grams of Leucine
If you want a great snack option in between meals, I recommend pairing pumpkin seeds with almonds.
Not only do almonds provide you with healthy plant-based fats, but they also contain plenty of leucine.
- 100 grams of almonds contains: 1.4 grams of Leucine
An ideal option for the vegetarian eater (or anyone who wants more plant-based foods in their diet) tofu can be prepared with any condiment or side dish because it completely absorbs that flavor.
Providing you with 1.3 grams of leucine per 100-gram serving, tofu is a heart-healthy way to get your BCAAs.
Make sure you purchase fermented tofu as the overly processed stuff is void of nutrients.
You can also make your own tofu at home with fermented soybeans and a food processor.
- 100 grams of tofu contains: 1.3 grams of Leucine
11: Egg Whites
This breakfast necessity provides over a gram of leucine.
- 100 grams of egg whites contain: 1 grams of Leucine
So those are the top 11 foods high in leucine so that you can get as much of it as possible from whole, healthy foods.
You’ll get the maximum benefits of leucine if it’s also combined with other essential amino acids such as Valine and Isoleucine which is why we recommend using a BCAA powder supplement, especially if you workout.
The benefits of BCAAs are numerous including being great for recovery, weight loss and muscle growth.
Read next: The top 3 best BCAA powders money can buy