I recently read wonderful articles in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and Nutritional Reviews regarding the physiology behind muscle mass wasting and how to attenuate this process with nutrition.

Why is this topic important? We all experience periods in our lives during which we are unable to exercise. The good news is that we can slow down the loss of muscle tissue with proper nutrition strategies!

To provide a bit of background:
“Several situations, such as the recovery from injury and illness, necessitate periods of muscle disuse or unloading in (otherwise) healthy individuals. Under such conditions, rapid skeletal muscle atrophy, reduced functional strength, the onset of insulin resistance, a decline in basal metabolic rate and an increase in body fat mass have been reported.” 1

“During disuse, skeletal muscle loss occurs at a rate of approximately 0.5% of total muscle mass per day. This translates into approximately 150 g of muscle tissue lost per day in a healthy adult, resulting in more than 1 kg [2.2 lbs] of muscle mass lost after a single week….The substantial loss of skeletal muscle mass during disuse is accompanied by a decline in strength that ranges between 0.3% and 4.2% per day.” 2

How do we prevent this loss?

  1. Proper Protein Intake. Ensure that you consume 25-35 grams of protein 3 times per day. If you are regularly intaking 35 grams of protein 3 times per day, add a fourth serving of 25-35 grams. Please also ensure your snack(s) contains 10-20 grams of protein.
  2. Proper Protein Sources. The branched chain amino acid leucine is known to elicit the greatest anabolic response in muscle tissue. Protein sources rich with leucine include whey protein concentrate, lean beef, salmon, and chicken.
  3. Proper Protein Timing. Ingesting protein every 3 hours maximizes muscle growth.

If you are anticipating a period of disuse, please feel free to contact me, and we can discuss more in depth.

1 Wall BT, Snijders T, Senden J MG, etal. Disuse impairs the muscle protein synthetic response to protein ingestion in healthy men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. doi.10.1210/jc.2013-2098.
2 Wall BT and van Loon L JC. Nutritional strategies to attenuate muscle disuse atrophy. Nutrition Reviews. 2013;71(4):195-208.