Muscle mass and bone strength

By Dr. Jean-Francois Lesgardes

Proteins, or amino acids, are key components of muscle and bone. They maintain muscle tissue and are necessary for muscle growth and repair, especially after exercise. Additionally, protein actually makes up about 50% of our bone volume and about a third of our bone mass (Wallace, 2019). As such, amino acids are very important for maintaining strong bones and muscles, if we are to be able to perform daily activities with ease and comfort.

In order to maintain the effective functioning of various systems in the body, muscles must be supported throughout the life cycle, especially in old age to prevent sarcopenia. There is a growing body of evidence that whey protein intake supports muscle growth and repair while preventing muscle breakdown, due to the rich concentration of amino acids (Hulmi, Lockwood & Stout, 2010 ). Both essential and non-essential amino acids are important for muscle health, but most studies report that essential amino acids are superior in this regard, especially leucine (Fujita & Volpi, 2011).

Our bones are continuously metabolized by the cycle of bone formation and resorption, the balance of which ensures that bone is not over-synthesized or over-mineralized (ALPCO, ud). As amino acids are key components of bone, an adequate supply is needed to support this balance and keep it from swinging back and forth. Overproduction of bone can lead to the disorder known as Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), while over-mineralization of bone can lead to conditions such as rickets (in children), osteopenia and possibly osteoporosis (in older adults).

In order to prevent degenerative bone and muscle conditions, we must strive to achieve optimal muscle and bone health (i.e. peak lean and bone mass, bone mineral density) by ensuring a daily supply of protein and high quality amino acids.

Whey protein is an excellent example of a high quality protein, as it has the highest amino acid content of all animal protein sources. In addition, whey protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized by the body. Studies have shown that amino acid intake, particularly essential amino acids, is associated with higher bone mineral density (Jennings A. et al, 2016) and improved lean muscle mass (indicating healthy bones and muscles).

However, not all whey protein is created equal. Many commercial whey proteins available use industrialized production processes that involve heating products at high temperatures for a period of time. The processes as such are known to denature proteins, thereby diminishing their function and their ability to fulfill their purpose. Protelicious, however, uses a cold process that ensures all amino acids remain intact and bioavailable when they reach the consumer – ensuring strong bones and muscles.