Protein Balance

Protein Balance

Protein balance is a function of intake relative to output (utilization and loss). Body proteins are in a constant state of flux with both protein degradation and protein synthesis constantly occurring. Normally, these two processes are equal, with no net loss or net gain of protein taking place. Protein intake usually equals protein loss. If protein synthesis (anabolism) is greater than protein degradation (catabolism), the overall result is anabolic with a net increase in body protein. If protein degradation is greater than protein synthesis, the overall result is catabolic with a net decrease in body protein.

Decreasing catabolism by using appropriate methods and supplements can dramatically increase protein synthesis and muscle mass. One way to decrease the catabolic process is to decrease the secretion of effects of the glucocorticoid hormones, the most important being cortisol. A catabolic hormone, cortisone can, if in appropriately elevated, be counterproductive for bodybuilders and other athletes trying to increase muscle mass.

Exercise and diet can be manipulated in a number of ways to maximize the overall anabolic effect of a substance or activity. For example, if a compound or activity increases both protein synthesis and protein breakdown (as many do), it might have a positive or negative anabolic effect. The overall effect is anabolic if the increase in protein synthesis is greater than the increase in protein breakdown, and catabolic if protein breakdown exceeds protein synthesis. It would also be useful to quantify the anabolic effect so we can tell which substances and procedures would be more effective than others for increasing muscle mass and strength.

A substance or activity may decrease both protein breakdown and synthesis. Again, the anabolic effect would depends on the degree that it does either one. If we examine clenbuterol, we see that some studies show that while it has potent anticatabolic properties, clenbuterol also, to a lesser extend, suppresses protein synthesis. The overall effect, however, is anabolic, since the net result of the decreased protein breakdown and decreased protein synthesis is an increase in muscle protein content.

Substances that decrease catabolism can have anabolic effects on muscle. But like growth hormone stimulation, many nutritional supplements drugs and even lifestyle changes can have anticatabolic effects. Increasing dietary calories and protein, and using branched-chain amino acids, glutamine, alanine and other amino acids, Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other antioxidant vitamins have been shown to lessen muscle breakdown.

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