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The consumption of
protein daily is vital for the maintenance of every organ and bone in the human
body. It is an important building block that develops parts of the body such as
bone, cartilage, skin, blood and most importantly muscle. Due to the fact that
our bodies are unable to store protein like it does fats and carbohydrates the
only way we are able to get it is through ingestion. Protein that is consumed
is often used to help build and repair various organs and tissue, this is
especially important when trying to build muscle. As well it is used to
synthesize hormones, enzymes and other chemicals found in the body.

            Within
the muscle specifically there is a network of fibres made of proteins such as
actin and myosin that require energy to function. Protein itself is made up of
carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. These four elements are the main
components of amino acids. It is the amino acids that lay down the foundation
for muscle development and aid in repair. When attempting to build muscle the
body must be in an anabolic state (which means there are is a positive nitrogen
balance), this often occurs after protein is consumed. Anabolism requires
energy in order to

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When attempting to build
muscle it is unclear whether increasing the amount of protein consumed will
actually help or if an increase in physical activity is enough to see results.

Athletes such as body builders believe an increase in protein consumption leads
directly to an increase in muscle mass, but it is there scientific data to
prove this? Or is it the combination of exercise and a moderate amount of protein
intake that leads to a significant increase in muscle function and thus mass?

Studies have been done
to prove how increasing the amount of protein an individual consumes as well as
exercising effect muscle function. One study in particular looked solely at how
muscles are effected through a higher than normal protein intake. It was
discovered that with greater amounts of protein being consumed there was a
spike in the available plasma amino acids within the body (R. Wolfe, 2012). This is important because this surge
of plasma amino acids causes a spike in muscle synthesis and therefore an
increase in muscle strength and mass, which directly proves the above stated
hypothesis.

While the consumption of
protein does improve muscle function in order to optimize this process an
individual is required to increase nutritional levels of protein and exercise.

When proving this theory scientists looked at changes in the levels of muscle
protein synthesis (MPS) as a way to measure the effects of both factors in vivo (L. Fiorotto, Sosa Jr and Davis, 2012). MPS has been found to
drive an adaptive response to exercise within the body and so what is measured
is the ability of injected amino acids to incorporate into a muscle protein.

This determines the rate of protein synthesis and so if this is to increase it
means that the function of the muscle is also increasing. It was noted that
there was a rise in the levels of MPS that occurred after the consumption of
protein. Unfortunately, after being monitored it was discovered that this
increase was finite. What this means is that there needs to be a constant
intake of nutrients in order to maintain the heightened MPS levels. For further
confirmation of the hypothesis scientist also had a separate group of
participants incorporate resistance exercises into their daily routine while
maintaining their pre-existing food consumption habits. Resistance exercises in
particular are a form of exercise that forces the skeletal (involuntary)
muscles in our body to contract, this is important to note because this is
where measurements such as MPS are taken. What was concluded from this section
of the study was that there was an increase in the myofibrillar MPS resembling
the increase that occurred after the dietary adjustment. The third subject
group increased both the amount of protein they consumed as well as the amount
of resistance exercise they performed regularly. The results from this test
group proved that an increase in both factors caused the greatest increase in
MPS.  It was also found that the
combination of exercise and protein intake made the body more anabolic; this means
that there is a higher susceptibility to muscle development (Antherton and
Smith, 2012).

When looking at the
effects of protein intake and exercise on muscle function it is important to
take into account other determining factors such as aging and see how both
variables influence elder health. In the aging population sarcopenia is a
syndrome that is becoming more and more common. It is characterized by the
apparent decline in muscle strength, mass and function (D. Waltson, 2012). A
study was conducted to see whether an increase in protein consumption and the
incorporation of regular exercise into an individuals daily routine would have
an effect on their declining muscle function. After thorough testing it was
discovered that adequate protein and energy intake as well as regular aerobic
and resistance exercise limited the decrease in muscle mass and function as
predicted by the hypothesis.

With athletes and the
elderly being told that increasing the amount of protein they consume daily
(over the recommended daily allowance) as well as the amount the exercise they
complete can help develop their muscles there have been many questions about
the adverse effects of consuming copious amounts of protein. Many studies have
found that eating protein in high quantities can lead to bone and calcium
homeostatic disorders, renal and liver dysfunction, increased risk of cancer
and increased risk of coronary artery disease (Delimaris,
I, 2013). While these studies have basis, the association between
increased protein intake and the above-mentioned disorders is weak. Many of the
studies depend on a constant intake of protein at levels that surpass the
recommended daily allowance, which is unrealistic. It is clear that although it
is possible to suffer adverse effects from ingesting large quantities of
protein the probability of this occurring is very low.

 

 

 

           

In summary, studies have
determined that increasing the amount of exercise and protein an individual
consumes daily does optimize muscle function. The excess nutrients cause a
surge of muscle synthesis due to the increased presence of amino acids found
within the plasma. These two factors also aid in reducing the negative effects
of degenerative disorders such as sarcopenia and are key when athletes are tying
to gain muscle mass and strength. It
should be noted that in determining whether increased dietary protein does
positively affect muscle function scientists have been unable to perform
randomized tests focussed directly on this theory where all of the variables
are controlled. What has been found is support for the rationale of the
hypothesis (Why it should be studied? What factors contribute to an answer?)
through various forms of nonrandomized testing and MPS monitoring. Based on the
results mentioned above it is clear that by increasing muscle function and mass
there is an improved ability to perform daily activities and overall quality of
life. With the benefits made clear and with no evidence strong enough to prove
any adverse effects of increased protein intake there is no reason individuals
trying to optimize muscle function should not consume over the recommended
daily allowance (0.8g/day) of protein and incorporate higher resistance
exercises into their routine.