Whole-body net protein balance plateaus in response to increasing protein intakes during post-exercise recovery in adults and adolescents

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018 Sep 24:15:62. doi: 10.1186/s12986-018-0301-z. eCollection 2018.


Background: Muscle protein synthesis and muscle net balance plateau after moderate protein ingestion in adults. However, it has been suggested that there is no practical limit to the anabolic response of whole-body net balance to dietary protein. Moreover, limited research has addressed the anabolic response to dietary protein in adolescents. The present study determined whether whole-body net balance plateaued in response to increasing protein intakes during post-exercise recovery and whether there were age- and/or sex-related dimorphisms in the anabolic response.

Methods: Thirteen adults [7 males (M), 6 females (F)] and 14 adolescents [7 males (AM), 7 females (AF) within ~ 0.4 y from peak height velocity] performed ~ 1 h variable intensity exercise (i.e., Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test) prior to ingesting hourly mixed meals that provided a variable amount of protein (0.02-0.25 g·kg- 1·h- 1) as crystalline amino acids modeled after egg protein. Steady-state protein kinetics were modeled noninvasively with oral L-[1-13C]phenylalanine. Breath and urine samples were taken at plateau to determine phenylalanine oxidation and flux (estimate of protein breakdown), respectively. Whole-body net balance was determined by the difference between protein synthesis (flux - oxidation) and protein breakdown. Total amino acid oxidation was estimated from the ratio of urinary urea/creatinine.

Results: Mixed model biphasic linear regression explained a greater proportion of net balance variance than linear regression (all, r 2 ≥ 0.56; P < 0.01), indicating an anabolic plateau. Net balance was maximized at ~ 0.15, 0.12, 0.12, and 0.11 g protein·kg- 1·h- 1 in M, F, AM, and AF, respectively. When collapsed across age, the y-intercept (net balance at very low protein intake) was greater (overlapping CI did not contain zero) in adolescents vs. adults. Urea/creatinine excretion increased linearly (all, r ≥ 0.76; P < 0.01) across the range of protein intakes. At plateau, net balance was greater (P < 0.05) in AM vs. M.

Conclusions: Our data suggest there is a practical limit to the anabolic response to protein ingestion within a mixed meal and that higher intakes lead to deamination and oxidation of excess amino acids. Consistent with a need to support lean mass growth, adolescents appear to have greater anabolic sensitivity and a greater capacity to assimilate dietary amino acids than adults.

Keywords: Amino acids; Athlete; Growth; Lean body mass; Maximal anabolic response; Muscle protein synthesis; Postprandial; Youth.