Protein Supplementation Augments Muscle Fiber Hypertrophy but Does Not Modulate Satellite Cell Content During Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Frail Elderly

Marlou L. Dirks, Michael Tieland, Lex B. Verdijk, Mario Losen, Rachel Nilwik, Marco Mensink, Lisette C. P. G. M. de Groot, Luc J. C. van Loon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Protein supplementation increases gains in lean body mass following prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail older adults. We assessed whether the greater increase in lean body mass can be attributed to muscle fiber type specific hypertrophy with concomitant changes in satellite cell (SC) content.

Design: A total of 34 frail elderly individuals (77 +/- 1 years, n = 12 male adults) participated in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 2 arms in parallel.

Intervention: Participants performed 24 weeks of progressive resistance-type exercise training (2 sessions per week) during which they were supplemented twice-daily with milk protein (2 +/- 15 g) or a placebo.

Methods: Muscle biopsies were taken at baseline, and after 12 and 24 weeks of intervention, to determine type I and type II muscle fiber specific cross-sectional area (CSA), SC content, and myocellular characteristics.

Results: In the placebo group, a trend for a 20% +/- 11% increase in muscle fiber CSA was observed in type II fibers only (P = .051), with no increase in type I muscle fiber CSA. In the protein group, type I and II muscle fiber CSA increased by 23% +/- 7% and 34% +/- 10% following 6 months of training, respectively (P <. 01). Myonuclear domain size increased over time in both groups and fiber types (P <. 001), with no significant differences between groups (P > .05). No changes in myonuclear content and SC contents were observed over time in either group (both P > .05). Regression analysis showed that changes in myonuclear content and domain size are predictive of muscle fiber hypertrophy.

Conclusions: Protein supplementation augments muscle fiber hypertrophy following prolonged resistance-type exercise training in frail older people, without changes in myonuclear and SC content. (C) 2017 AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-615
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • Sarcopenia
  • skeletal muscle
  • resistance exercise
  • amino acids
  • MEN
  • SIZE
  • MASS

Cite this