Objectives: To investigate the effect of whey protein plus potassium bicarbonate supplement on disused skeletal muscle structure and proteolysis after bed rest (BR).
Methods: Soleus (SOL) and vastus lateralis (VL) biopsies were sampled from ten (n=10) healthy male subjects (aged 31±6 years) who did BR once with and once without protein supplement as a dietary countermeasure (cross-over study design). The structural changes (myofibre size and type distribution) were analysed by histological sections, and muscle protein breakdown indirectly via the proteolysis markers, calpain 1 and 3, calpastatin, MuRF1 and 2, both in muscle homogenates and by immunohistochemistry.
Results: BR caused size-changes in myofiber cross-sectional area (FCSA, SOL, p=0,004; VL, p=0.03), and myofiber slow-to-fast type transition with increased hybrids (SOL, p=0.043; VL, p=0.037) however with campaign differences in SOL (p<0.033). No significant effect of BR and supplement was found by any of the key proteolysis markers.
Conclusions: Campaign differences in structural muscle adaptation may be an issue in cross-over design BR studies. The whey protein plus potassium bicarbonate supplement did not attenuate atrophy and fibre type transition during medium term bed rest. Alkaline whey protein supplements may however be beneficial as adjuncts to exercise countermeasures in disuse.