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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Valine

What is valine? What do we need it?

Valine is an essential amino acid. It belongs to a special group of amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are needed to help maintain and repair muscle tissue. Valine also helps prevent muscle proteins from breaking down during exercise.

While there is still some question as to whether valine and other branched-chain amino acids improve exercise performance or enhance the effects of physical training, supplements may be beneficial under certain conditions. Some studies have shown that valine and other BCAAs prevent muscle loss at high altitudes and may prolong physical endurance under extreme heat. People with liver and kidney failure may also benefit from valine supplementation. In addition, a trial published in 1988 found that BCAA supplements help patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease maintain muscle strength; other studies have refuted these findings, however.

How much valine should I take?

The recommendad daily dosage of valine and other branched-chain amino acids is 25-65mg per pound of body weight. Most diets provide an adequate amount of BCAAs. Competitive athletes sometimes take larger amounts — up to four grams of valine (and 11 grams of BCAAs overall) per day.

What are some good sources of valine? What forms are available?

All protein-containing foods have some amount of valine/BCAAs. The best sources include red meat and dairy products such as eggs, milk and cheese. Whey protein and egg protein supplements are other good sources. Valine is usually sold in conjunction with other amino acids.

What can happen if I don't get enough valine? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Only individuals who are deficient in protein would become deficient in valine. However, since most Western diets provide more than enough protein, valine deficiency is extremely rare. High intake of valine and other BCAAs could cause these substances to be converted into other amino acids (or to fat for storage). Individuals with kidney or liver disease should not consume large amounts of valine or other BCAAs without first contacting a qualified health care practitioner.

At the time of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with valine.

References

  • Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition 1996;12:485—90.
  • Freyssenet D, Berthon P, Denis C, et al. Effect of a 6-week endurance training programme and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on histomorphometric characteristics of aged human muscle. Arch Physiol Biochem 1996;104:157—62.
  • Kelly GS. Sports nutrition: A review of selected nutritional supplements for bodybuilders and strength athletes. Med Rev 1997;2:184—201.
  • Tandan R, Bromberg MB, Forshew D, et al. A controlled trial of amino acid therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: I. Clinical, functional, and maximum isometric torque data. Neurology 1996;47:1220—6.
  • Van Hall G, Raaymakers JSH, Saris WHM, Wagenmakers AJM. Supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and tryptophan has no effect on performance during prolonged exercise. Clin Sci 1994;87:52.

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