Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans
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Amino acids are major nutrient regulators of muscle protein turnover. After protein ingestion, hyperaminoacidemia stimulates increased rates of skeletal muscle protein synthesis, suppresses muscle protein breakdown, and promotes net muscle protein accretion for several hours. These acute observations form the basis for strategized protein intake to promote lean mass accretion, or prevent lean mass loss over the long term. However, factors such as protein dose, protein source, and timing of intake are important in mediating the anabolic effects of amino acids on skeletal muscle and must be considered within the context of evaluating the reported efficacy of long-term studies investigating protein supplementation as part of a dietary strategy to promote lean mass accretion and/or prevent lean mass loss. Current research suggests that dietary protein supplementation can augment resistance exercise-mediated gains in skeletal muscle mass and strength and can preserve skeletal muscle mass during periods of diet-induced energy restriction. Perhaps less appreciated, protein supplementation can augment resistance training-mediated gains in skeletal muscle mass even in individuals habitually consuming 'adequate' (i.e., >0.8 g kg⁻¹ day⁻¹) protein. Additionally, overfeeding energy with moderate to high-protein intake (15-25 % protein or 1.8-3.0 g kg⁻¹ day⁻¹) is associated with lean, but not fat mass accretion, when compared to overfeeding energy with low protein intake (5 % protein or ~0.68 g kg⁻¹ day⁻¹). Amino acids represent primary nutrient regulators of skeletal muscle anabolism, capable of enhancing lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating the loss of lean mass during periods of energy deficit, although factors such as protein dose, protein source, and timing of intake are likely important in mediating these effects.