Interplay of stress and physical inactivity on muscle loss: Nutritional countermeasures

J Nutr. 2006 Aug;136(8):2123-6. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.8.2123.


Inactivity-mediated protein catabolism occurs in many circumstances ranging from catastrophic events such as severe illness or injury, to unique environments such as spaceflight/microgravity, to more insidious causes such as physical frailty and the progression of aging. Nevertheless, regardless of the etiology, the consequences of inactivity are readily observable and debilitating. Mechanistically, the loss of lean body mass during inactivity is the result of a chronic imbalance between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown. When inactivity is accompanied by the stress of trauma or disease, the rate of muscle protein catabolism can increase several fold. Bed rest studies in healthy volunteers provide a unique opportunity to examine the mechanisms contributing to muscle loss and evaluate strategies for intervention that may slow muscle catabolism and promote anabolism. The prerequisite for muscle protein synthesis and the most readily adaptable stimulus is dietary-derived amino acids. This review focuses on the role of amino acid supplementation in the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass during age-related and clinically mandated inactivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amino Acids, Essential / administration & dosage
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism*
  • Bed Rest*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Muscle Proteins