15 Best Vegan Foods High In Isoleucine

best sources of isoleucine

The most recurring challenge for any vegan bodybuilder creating a meal plan is attempting to have a protein-rich diet is getting their fill of amino acids in their diet. Most vegan foods are deficient in one amino acid or the other – which means that it can be challenging to incorporate all the necessary proteins in your diet – especially for athletes. Isoleucine is one such elusive amino acid found in plant-based protein sources and is highly crucial for sustenance

As you will see later, isoleucine helps in a variety of functions in the human body, such as muscle repair and lowering blood sugar levels – making this an important component for vegans who are focused on improving athletic performance. Let’s why and how you should incorporate isoleucine foods in your vegan diet. 

Firstly, it is important to understand what proteins and amino acids are and then the distinction between them. You may have heard of these terms synonymously, but they’re actually very different from each other.

Proteins are responsible for a variety of functions in the human body. But most importantly, they’re responsible for maintaining the sound structural framework of the human body. 

To put it simply, proteins repair bodily tissues and are present in every cell in the body – so naturally, they help in tissue strengthening and regeneration, which makes your body physically stronger and builds muscle. Other types of proteins are responsible for transporting oxygen through your bloodstream and keeping your metabolism intact. 

Amino acids, on the other hand, are what make up proteins in the first place. There are exactly twenty of these amino acids in your body, making up different types of proteins to perform their respective functions – whether it be breaking down substances with biochemical reactions or sending signals in the form of hormones to the rest of your body, or even helping in digestive functions.

Thus, it is important for the human body to have all 20 amino acids to assist the proteins to perform their functions with ease.

Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids

Now that you know the difference between amino acids and proteins and how crucial they are to the human body, it is now important to know that there are two kinds of amino acids in the human body. They can be primarily divided into essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.

Before breaking down the difference between the both of them, it is important to note that both of these types of amino acids are of paramount importance to the human body, no matter what the names might suggest. Non-essential amino acids are the constituents of protein that the body can synthesize on its own – and it is thus not mandatory to consume these amino acids through external means

Essential amino acids, then, are those that the body is unable to synthesize on its own and thus need to be consumed through dietary means. There are eight of these essential amino acids out of twenty that you need to supplement in your diet. 

What is Isoleucine? Why is it Important? 

Benefits of Isoleucine

Isoleucine is one of the eight essential amino acids that we’ve been talking about. Isoleucine, valine, and leucine are considered to be the top three most important essential amino acids since they’re present in almost all types of proteins and are extremely important for restoring energy and repairing muscle tear or any other kinds of wounds

This group is also referred to as the BCAAs, or Branch Chained Amino Acids. Isoleucine also forms many hormones in your body and keeps your immune system running and functional at all times. 

With all of these functions that isoleucine performs, it only makes sense that it is one of the most important amino acids for athletes and bodybuilders to consume. A deficit of isoleucine can lead to symptoms such as fatigue or even far-reaching consequences such as anemia since it also plays a huge role in hemoglobin formation in the body.

How Much Isoleucine Do you need A Day? 

This part largely depends on your own body weight and lifestyle – so if you’re someone who works out regularly or is engaged in physically taxing activities such as sports, it is best to get more isoleucine than the minimum required amount in your diet. 

Usually, however, it is best to get 19 mg of isoleucine per kilogram of your own body weight. For instance, if you’re an average adult weighing 70 kilograms, you will need to consume 1330 mg of isoleucine daily as a minimum quantity

Best Sources of Isoleucine for Vegans

foods high in isoleucine
Foods Rich in IsoleucineIsoleucine in gmServing Size
Asparagus0.38Four spears
Bamboo Shoot0.43One shoot
Black Beans0.30One cup
Bok Choy0.67One cup
Kale0.49Two cups
Kidney Beans0.30One cup
Lentils0.34One cup
Lima Beans0.36One cup
Rapini0.47Five stalks
Seaweed1.13One tablespoon
Soybeans0.38One cup
Spinach0.64One bunch
Swiss Chard0.78Ten leafs
Watercress0.77Ten sprigs
Water Spinach0.53One cup
*Note: Vegan Isoleucine Rich Foods Per 100 Calories

Isoleucine being one of the three branched-chain amino acids is scarcely found in strict plant-based diets. It is, therefore, of essence to strategically include isoleucine foods in your vegan diet. Below are some of the most convenient vegan food sources of isoleucine to rely on. 

1. Legumes

Understandably, legumes are by far the richest isoleucine plant sources that one can consume. This means that they’re high in isoleucine levels as well – so if you’re worried about your isoleucine intake, then there are several legumes that you can choose from and incorporate into your diet – products made out of soy, beans, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas (check the amino acid profile) can be good choices.

2. Seeds and Nuts

There are several nuts and seeds that you can instead incorporate into your vegan diet just as easy to get your fill of the best sources of isoleucine. Sunflower seeds and pumkin seeds are an excellent way to incorporate isoleucine even when eaten raw. Hemp seeds (check amino acid profile), peanuts, and almonds are all high in isoleucine.

3. Cereals and Grains

While this may not be the option for those looking for a completely fat and carbs-free alternative to get in their isoleucine content, it is still one of the greatest vegan food sources of isoleucine. This category has buckwheat groats, rye grains, and oats. 

4. Greens

A few leafy greens and vegetables are considered as some of the best vegan isoleucine foods. This category includes spinach, swiss chard, eggplant, peas – all of these are great for those who want to increase their isoleucine consumption and can be incorporated easily into most dishes.

5. Seaweed

Seaweed, especially dried seaweed, is quite rich in isoleucine – and is an excellent option for those who are trying to count their calories and cutting back on the consumption of carbs. Even one tablespoon of seaweed can offer a whole lot of vegan isoleucine to you, coupled with other amino acids as well.

6. Vegan BCAA Supplement

Lastly, you could consider adding a vegan BCAA supplement if you’re still worried about your isoleucine, leucine(check food sources of leucine), and valine (check food sources of valine) consumption. A great BCAA supplement that you can consider is one from Transparent Labs – which not only has the necessary BCAAs but is also rich in glutamine and has coconut water extracts to get any missing electrolytes back.

Verdict | Can Vegans Get Enough Isoleucine on a Plant-based Diet? 

While it is widely known that animal products are the richest in isoleucine and BCAAs overall, vegan or plant-based sources are not too far behind in terms of how much of these essential amino acids you can get from them. 

While you will have to consume a substantial amount of any of these foods or mix and match them up in varying capacities to get the minimum required isoleucine in your diet, it is quite possible to get enough isoleucine even on a plant-based diet. All you have to do is think of ways you can incorporate these foods high in isoleucine into your diet.

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