Dose-response effects of dietary protein on muscle protein synthesis during recovery from endurance exercise in young men: a double-blind randomized trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Aug 1;112(2):303-317. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa073.


Background: Protein ingestion increases skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates during recovery from endurance exercise.

Objectives: We aimed to determine the effect of graded doses of dietary protein co-ingested with carbohydrate on whole-body protein metabolism, and skeletal muscle myofibrillar (MyoPS) and mitochondrial (MitoPS) protein synthesis rates during recovery from endurance exercise.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group design, 48 healthy, young, endurance-trained men (mean ± SEM age: 27 ± 1 y) received a primed continuous infusion of l-[ring-2H5]-phenylalanine, l-[ring-3,5-2H2]-tyrosine, and l-[1-13C]-leucine and ingested 45 g carbohydrate with either 0 (0 g PRO), 15 (15 g PRO), 30 (30 g PRO), or 45 (45 g PRO) g intrinsically l-[1-13C]-phenylalanine and l-[1-13C]-leucine labeled milk protein after endurance exercise. Blood and muscle biopsy samples were collected over 360 min of postexercise recovery to assess whole-body protein metabolism and both MyoPS and MitoPS rates.

Results: Protein intake resulted in ∼70%-74% of the ingested protein-derived phenylalanine appearing in the circulation. Whole-body net protein balance increased dose-dependently after ingestion of 0, 15, 30, or 45 g protein (mean ± SEM: -0.31± 0.16, 5.08 ± 0.21, 10.04 ± 0.30, and 13.49 ± 0.55 μmol phenylalanine · kg-1 · h-1, respectively; P < 0.001). 30 g PRO stimulated a ∼46% increase in MyoPS rates (%/h) compared with 0 g PRO and was sufficient to maximize MyoPS rates after endurance exercise. MitoPS rates were not increased after protein ingestion; however, incorporation of dietary protein-derived l-[1-13C]-phenylalanine into de novo mitochondrial protein increased dose-dependently after ingestion of 15, 30, and 45 g protein at 360 min postexercise (0.018 ± 0.002, 0.034 ± 0.002, and 0.046 ± 0.003 mole percentage excess, respectively; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Protein ingested after endurance exercise is efficiently digested and absorbed into the circulation. Whole-body net protein balance and dietary protein-derived amino acid incorporation into mitochondrial protein respond to increasing protein intake in a dose-dependent manner. Ingestion of 30 g protein is sufficient to maximize MyoPS rates during recovery from a single bout of endurance exercise.This trial was registered at as NTR5111.

Keywords: carbohydrate; dietary protein; dose-response; endurance exercise; mitochondrial protein synthesis; myofibrillar protein synthesis; skeletal muscle; young men.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Endurance Training
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins