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The reduced ability of muscles to respond to anabolic stimuli is involved in the underlying mechanism for muscle loss associated with aging. Essential amino acids (EAA), whey protein and leucine have been shown to have beneficial effects in the stimulation of acute muscle protein synthesis in older adults.
The present study assessed if a particularly devised nutritional supplement in older adults is able to promote muscle protein synthesis acutely to a greater extent in comparison with a conventional dairy product. The combined effect with resistance exercise was also investigated using a unilateral resistance exercise protocol.
In a randomized, controlled, double blind design, older adults were administered a single bolus of a high whey protein, leucine-enriched supplement (EXP: 20 g whey protein, 3g total leucine, 150 kcal; n = 9) or an iso-caloric milk protein control (CONTROL: 6g milk protein; n = 10), immediately following unilateral resistance exercise. Postprandial mixed muscle protein fractional synthesis rate (FSR) was assessed over 4h.
FSR was found to be significantly higher after the whey protein supplement (0.078 ± 0.007%/h) compared to the milk-protein control [0.057 ± 0.007%/h (EMM ± SE); (Fig. 1)] (p = 0.049). There was no interaction between treatment and exercise (p = 0.519). Higher postprandial concentrations of EAA and leucine seem to mediate the FSR response. Expressing the protein intake from the supplements per kg leg lean mass (LLM), there was a significant correlation with resting postprandial FSR.
Consumption of a high whey protein, leucine-enriched supplement was thus shown to result in greater postprandial muscle protein synthesis rate in older adults, when compared with a conventional dairy product. The findings seem promising for long-term effects on parameters of muscle mass, strength and function in sarcopenic older people, and require further exploration.
Fig. 1. Mixed muscle protein fractional synthesis rate following whey protein and control ingestion
- Luiking YC, Deutz NE, Memelink RG, et al. Postprandial muscle protein synthesis is higher after a high whey protein, leucine-enriched supplement than after a dairy-like product in healthy older people: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2014 Jan 22;13:9.