Science - November 29, 2012

Muscles benefit from extra protein

Extra protein helps build muscles. All age groups benefit.

The elderly benefit from additional protein for muscle development
The elderly benefit from additional protein for muscle development

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If you eat extra protein as well as training, your muscles will develop faster, a large meta-analysis has shown. This insight should lead to more effective training programmes, especially for the elderly. The joint Wageningen-Maastricht team based their conclusion on a combination and fresh analysis of all the existing data. They published an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition at the beginning of November.
It has long been suspected that additional protein is a helpful complement to training, but the many small-scale studies on the subject have never managed to establish a hard correlation. Putting all the small studies together shows that all the test subjects benefit, whether young or old, fit or unfit. Each group ends up being able to lift more kilos on the fitness apparatus, and having developed greater muscle mass. On average they were given about 50 grams of extra protein per day, from whey, eggs, milk or a mixture of protein sources.
Sarcopenia
A striking fact is that the participants already ate more than enough protein. They got an average of 1.2 grams of protein per kilo bodyweight per day - well over the recommended level of 0.8 grams. The current norms are enough to maintain health, explains Lisette de Groot, associate professor of Human Nutrition. 'But they might be on the low side for muscle development.' That is why in practice sportspeople, especially those in sports demanding strength, eat more protein than the recommended norm.
De Groot herself does not particularly focus on sport, but is looking for solutions to sarcopenia, or the loss of muscular strength and mass due to aging. This weakens elderly people, making them more vulnerable to fractures. PhD student Michael Tieland recently carried out an experiment that showed that a combination of training and extra protein consumption was more effective than training alone. The current study confirms these findings. This kind of meta-analysis examines all the relevant articles on a particular topic to reach an overall assessment. Researchers Naomi Cermak and Peter Res looked at 3112 experiments, of which 22 turned out to be relevant. These monitored test subjects who trained twice a week for at least six weeks in a row.

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