The effects of whey, pea, and collagen protein supplementation beyond the recommended dietary allowance on integrated myofibrillar protein synthetic rates in older males: a randomized controlled trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2024 Jul;120(1):34-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2024.05.009. Epub 2024 May 16.


Background: Skeletal muscle mass is determined predominantly by feeding-induced and activity-induced fluctuations in muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Older individuals display a diminished MPS response to protein ingestion, referred to as age-related anabolic resistance, which contributes to the progression of age-related muscle loss known as sarcopenia.

Objectives: We aimed to determine the impact of consuming higher-quality compared with lower-quality protein supplements above the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) on integrated MPS rates. We hypothesized that increasing total protein intake above the RDA, regardless of the source, would support higher integrated rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis.

Methods: Thirty-one healthy older males (72 ± 4 y) consumed a controlled diet with protein intake set at the RDA: control phase (days 1-7). In a double-blind, randomized controlled fashion, participants were assigned to consume an additional 50 g (2 × 25g) of whey (n = 10), pea (n = 11), or collagen (n = 10) protein each day (25 g at breakfast and lunch) during the supplemental phase (days 8-15). Deuterated water ingestion and muscle biopsies assessed integrated MPS and acute anabolic signaling. Postprandial blood samples were collected to determine feeding-induced aminoacidemia.

Results: Integrated MPS was increased during supplemental with whey (1.59 ± 0.11 %/d; P < 0.001) and pea (1.59 ± 0.14 %/d; P < 0.001) when compared with RDA (1.46 ± 0.09 %/d for the whey group; 1.46 ± 0.10 %/d for the pea group); however, it remained unchanged with collagen. Supplemental protein was sufficient to overcome anabolic signaling deficits (mTORC1 and rpS6), corroborating the greater postprandial aminoacidemia.

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that supplemental protein provided at breakfast and lunch over the current RDA enhanced anabolic signaling and integrated MPS in older males; however, the source of additional protein may be an important consideration in overcoming age-related anabolic resistance. This trial was registered as NCT04026607.

Keywords: aging; muscle anabolism; nutrient requirements; plant-based protein; protein nutrition; sarcopenia; stable isotope tracers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Collagen* / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myofibrils / metabolism
  • Pea Proteins
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Whey Proteins* / administration & dosage
  • Whey Proteins* / pharmacology


  • Whey Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Collagen
  • Pea Proteins

Associated data