Skeletal muscle is an integral body tissue playing key roles in strength, performance, physical function, and metabolic regulation. It is essential for athletes to ensure that they have optimal amounts of muscle mass to ensure peak performance in their given sport. However, the role of maintaining muscle mass during weight loss and as we age is an emerging concept, having implications in chronic disease prevention, functional capacity, and quality of life. Higher-protein diets have been shown to: (1) promote gains in muscle mass, especially when paired with resistance training; (2) spare muscle mass loss during caloric restriction; and (3) attenuate the natural loss of muscle mass that accompanies aging. Protein quality is important to the gain and maintenance of muscle mass. Protein quality is a function of protein digestibility, amino acid content, and the resulting amino acid availability to support metabolic function. Whey protein is one of the highest-quality proteins given its amino acid content (high essential, branched-chain, and leucine amino acid content) and rapid digestibility. Consumption of whey protein has a robust ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In fact, whey protein has been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to a greater degree than other proteins such as casein and soy. This review examines the existing data supporting the role for protein consumption, with an emphasis on whey protein, in the regulation of muscle mass and body composition in response to resistance training, caloric restriction, and aging.
Keywords: caloric restriction; hypertrophy; muscle; protein; sarcopenia; whey.
© 2015 Institute of Food Technologists®