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J Nutr Biochem. 1999 Feb;10(2):89-95.

Nonessential amino acids are not necessary to stimulate net muscle protein synthesis in healthy volunteers.

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  • 1Metabolism Unit, Shriners Burns Institute and Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77550, USA.


The present study was performed to test the hypothesis that orally administered essential amino acids, in combination with carbohydrate, will stimulate net muscle protein synthesis in resting human muscle in vivo. Four volunteers ingested 500 mL of a solution containing 13.4 g of essential amino acids and 35 g sucrose (EAA). Blood samples were taken from femoral arterial and venous catheters over a 2-hour period following the ingestion of EAA to measure arteriovenous concentrations of amino acids across the muscle. Two muscle biopsies were taken during the study, one before administration of the drink and one approximately 2 hours after consumption of EAA. Serum insulin increased from normal physiologic levels at baseline (9.2 +/- 0.8 microU/mL) and peaked (48 +/- 7.1 microU/mL) 30 minutes after EAA ingestion. Arterial essential amino acid concentrations increased approximately 100 to 400% above basal levels between 10 and 30 minutes following drink ingestion. Net nitrogen (N) balance changed from negative (-495 +/- 128 nmol/mL) prior to consumption of EAA to a peak positive value (416 +/- 140 nmol/mL) within 10 minutes of ingestion of the drink. EAA resulted in an estimated positive net N uptake of 307.3 mg N above basal levels over the 2-hour period. Muscle amino acid concentrations were similar prior to and 2 hours following ingestion of EAA. We conclude that ingestion of a solution composed of carbohydrates to stimulate insulin release and a small amount of essential amino acids to increase amino acid availability for protein synthesis is an effective stimulator of muscle protein anabolism.

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