Objective: Ursolic acid administration following resistance exercise increases mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity and skeletal muscle IGF-1 concentration in murines in a manner similar to l-leucine yet remains unexamined in humans. This study examined serum and skeletal muscle insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and Akt/mTORC1 signaling activity following ingestion of either ursolic acid or l-leucine immediately after resistance exercise.
Methods: Nine resistance-trained men performed 3 lower-body resistance exercise sessions involving 4 sets of 8-10 repetitions at 75%-80% one repetition maximum (1-RM) on the angled leg press and knee extension exercises. Immediately following each session, participants orally ingested 3 g cellulose placebo (PLC), l-leucine (LEU), or ursolic acid (UA). Blood samples were obtained pre-exercise and at 0.5, 2, and 6 hours postexercise. Muscle biopsies were obtained pre-exercise and at 2 and 6 hours postexercise.
Results: Plasma leucine increased in LEU at 2 hours postexercise compared to PLC (p = 0.04). Plasma ursolic acid increased in UA at 2 h and 6 hours postexercise compared to PLC and LEU (p < 0.003). No significant differences were observed for serum insulin (p = 0.98) and IGF-1 (p = 0.99) or skeletal muscle IGF-1 receptor (IGF-1R; p = 0.84), Akt (p = 0.55), mTOR (p = 0.09), and p70S6K (p = 0.98). Skeletal muscle IGF-1 was significantly increased in LEU at 2 hours postexercise (p = 0.03) and 6 hours postexercise (p = 0.04) compared to PLC and UA.
Conclusion: Three grams of l-leucine and ursolic acid had no effect on Akt/mTORC1 signaling or serum insulin or IGF-1; however, l-leucine increased skeletal muscle IGF-1 concentration in resistance-trained men.
Keywords: branched-chain amino acid; cell signaling; muscle protein synthesis; resistance exercise.