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FASEB J. 2011 Sep;25(9):3240-9. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-186437. Epub 2011 May 25.

Long-term synthesis rates of skeletal muscle DNA and protein are higher during aerobic training in older humans than in sedentary young subjects but are not altered by protein supplementation.

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  • 1Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1582, USA.


Consuming protein following exercise has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis acutely in skeletal muscle and has been recommended to prevent sarcopenia. It is not known, however, whether acute stimulation persists long term or includes muscle cell division. We asked here whether consuming protein following exercise during aerobic training increases long-term protein and DNA synthesis rates in skeletal muscle of adult humans. Sixteen previously untrained participants (50 ± 8 yr) consumed either a carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein drink following each session during 6 wk of treadmill training. A younger untrained group provided a nonexercising comparison. Participants were administered heavy water (²H₂O; deuterium oxide) continuously for 6 wk to isotopically label newly synthesized skeletal muscle proteins and DNA. Muscle biopsies were performed after 6 wk of training. Contrary to acute studies, consuming protein after exercise did not increase skeletal muscle protein synthesis rates. In contrast, muscle protein synthesis, DNA, and phospholipid synthesis were significantly higher in the older exercise groups than the younger sedentary group. The higher DNA replication rate could not be attributed to mitochondrial DNA and may be due to satellite cell activation. We conclude that postexercise protein supplementation does not increase rates of mixed protein synthesis over 6 wk and that aerobic exercise may stimulate long-term cell division (DNA synthesis) in skeletal muscle of humans. Measurements of long-term synthesis rates provide important insights into aging and exercise adaptations.

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