Dietary protein quantity, quality, and exercise are key to healthy living: A muscle-centric perspective across the lifespan

Nicholas A. Burd, Colleen F. McKenna, Amadeo F. Salvador, Kevin J.M. Paulussen, Daniel R. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A healthy eating pattern, regardless of age, should consist of ingesting high quality protein preferably in adequate amounts across all meals throughout the day. Of particular relevance to overall health is the growth, development, and maintenance of skeletal muscle tissue. Skeletal muscle not only contributes to physical strength and performance, but also contributes to efficient macronutrient utilization and storage. Achieving an optimal amount of muscle mass begins early in life with transitions to “steady-state” maintenance as an adult, and then safeguarding against ultimate decline of muscle mass with age, all of which are influenced by physical activity and dietary (e.g., protein) factors. Current protein recommendations, as defined by recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for the US population or the population reference intakes (PRI) in Europe, are set to cover basic needs; however, it is thought that a higher protein intake might be necessary for optimizing muscle mass, especially for adults and individuals with an active lifestyle. It is necessary to balance the accurate assessment of protein quality (e.g., digestible indispensable amino acid score; DIAAS) with methods that provide a physiological correlate (e.g., established measures of protein synthesis, substrate oxidation, lean mass retention, or accrual, etc.) in order to accurately define protein requirements for these physiological outcomes. Moreover, current recommendations need to shift from single nutrient guidelines to whole food based guidelines in order to practically acknowledge food matrix interactions and other required nutrients for potentially optimizing the health effects of food. The aim of this paper is to discuss protein quality and amount that should be consumed with consideration to the presence of non-protein constituents within a food matrix and potential interactions with physical activity to maximize muscle mass throughout life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number83
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
StatePublished - Jun 6 2019


  • Adolescents
  • Aging-old age-seniors
  • Anabolic
  • Children
  • Leucine
  • Muscle protein synthesis/breakdown
  • Skeletal muscle mass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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