Sports nutrition is becoming very sophisticated and the benefits are not reserved only for athletes. Everyone can benefit from the advances. In particular, it is very important to use nutritional strategies to enhance the effects of exercise in battling sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is to our muscle mass what osteoporosis is to our bones. The combination of osteoporosis and sarcopenia results in the significant frailty often seen in the elderly population. The degree of sarcopenia as we age is predictor of disability and is linked to decreased vitality, poor balance, gait speed, falls, and fractures. One strategy that is particularly beneficial is consuming whey protein after exercise.
Benefits of Whey Protein:
- Whey protein has the highest biological value of any protein.
- Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise.
- Whey protein is an excellent source of the essential amino acid, leucine. Research has shown that individuals who exercise benefit from diets high in leucine and have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat compared to individuals whose diet contains lower levels of leucine. Whey protein isolate has approximately 50% more leucine than soy protein isolate.
- Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest protein and is efficiently absorbed into the body.
A recent study investigated compared the effects of consuming protein plus carbohydrate (PRO) or carbohydrate alone (CHO) immediately after a session of aerobic exercise on whole body protein turnover (WBPT) in older individuals. Twelve healthy older adults (age, 59 ± 4 years) were studied on 2 separate occasions after 1 hour of exercise at approximately 50% of maximal rate of oxygen uptake, followed by 4 hours of recovery. Immediately following exercise, subjects ingested a CHO (60 g) or a PRO beverage (40 g carbohydrate, 20 g whey protein). Results indicated that consumption of a PRO beverage after aerobic exercise increased WBPT to a greater extent than a CHO beverage. The take away message is that whey protein helped improved muscle response to aerobic exercise similar to its benefit in weight training exercise.
Murphy C, Miller BF. Protein consumption following aerobic exercise increases whole-body protein turnover in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010 Oct;35(5):583-90.