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How To Measure Protein Quality

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Protein synthesis is crucial for muscle adaptations and training outcomes. Protein quality plays a significant role in enhancing protein synthesis. Three key factors determine protein quality:

1. Essential amino acid (EAA) content: Protein sources with a higher EAA content are more effective for protein synthesis. Approximately 10g of EAAs and 3g of leucine are required to optimally stimulate protein synthesis.

2. Leucine content: Leucine is a key amino acid that regulates protein synthesis. Protein sources rich in leucine can enhance the muscle’s response to protein intake.

3. Bioavailability: This refers to the availability of ingested amino acids for protein synthesis. Higher bioavailability indicates a protein source that can increase protein synthesis more effectively.


To assess protein quality, various methods are available:

– Amino Acid Composition: Studying the amino acid composition of a protein source provides initial insights into its quality. However, obtaining accurate values for amino acid composition can be challenging.

– Protein Quality Scoring Systems: Techniques like the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) and the digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS) compare the digestibility of a dietary protein to a reference protein. A higher score indicates higher quality protein. DIAAS is considered more advanced and can detect proteins of greater quality.

– Blood Amino Acid Concentrations: Measuring blood amino acid concentrations after protein consumption helps assess protein digestion. Protein sources that cause a rapid and significant elevation in blood amino acids are considered higher quality.

– Muscle Protein Synthesis: The most relevant measurement for protein quality is studying protein synthesis in muscle tissue. This involves analyzing the incorporation of labeled amino acids into muscle proteins. Higher-quality proteins stimulate greater amino acid incorporation and higher rates of protein synthesis.

– Anabolic Signaling: Mechanistic techniques, such as detecting the expression of mTORC1 signaling proteins, provide insights into protein synthesis regulation. Leucine-rich protein sources activate mTORC1 signaling proteins, potentially leading to greater muscle protein synthesis.

It’s important to note that some techniques are more practical than others. A combination of assessments is optimal to determine protein quality. For athletes, considering the EAA and leucine content of protein sources is recommended to make informed choices and optimize protein synthesis.

Credit: MySportScience



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