Would whey protein supplementation decrease muscle atrophy in immobile Special Forces soldiers during Special Support and Reconnaissance missions?
Watching silently from a concealed position lays an elite soldier on a Special Support and Reconnaissance (SSR) mission. Less then one hundred metres from the enemy, that soldier may be required to lie there unmoving and undetected for long periods, days to weeks at a time. During this time his muscles are slowly beginning to atrophy due to disuse, just like any other immobile person’s, be it due to Doctor ordered bed rest, recovery from an accident, the zero gravity of space flight, or immobility due to ageing. The aim of this literature review is to investigate the studies undertaken in the area of nutritional prevention of muscle atrophy. In particular, looking at the use of protein supplementation to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and ascertaining whether there is any application to the elite soldier whose muscles are currently wasting away but will be needed in the near future.
The continuing threat of terrorism and rogue states means that SSR missions are becoming an increasing reality for many Special Forces (SF) units as their particular skill sets are called into action. SSR missions can require SF soldiers to be immobile for 10 to 12 days at a time, as space or covert requirements do not always allow for movement or exercise. Danish SF have noted that this appears to effect soldiers strength and agility, leading to lower extremity injuries and loss of speed, potentially putting the soldier in danger (Christensen, et al., 2008). Muscle atrophy and loss of strength due to immobility has been well noted, especially due to bed rest (Fitts, et al., 2007; Trappe, et al., 2004), exposure to zero gravity in space flight (Tesch, Berg, Bring, Evans, & LeBlanc, 2005; Trappe, et al., 2009), and limb immobilisation (Glover, et al., 2008; Tesch, von Walden, Gustafsson, Linnehan, & Trappe, 2008). Muscle protein synthesis is important in preventing atrophy as it is widely accepted that muscle degradation is dependent on the balance between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown (Fitts, et al., 2007; Tesch, et al., 2008). Under normal loading, exercising the muscle provides an impetus for muscle protein synthesis and many of these studies investigate the use of exercise to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and inhibit atrophy. As noted above, this is not always possible or desirable in the SSR context and other methods of stimulating muscle protein synthesis should be investigated. One potential avenue of investigation that could be of practical benefit is the area of nutritional stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. The literature reviewed below investigates the efficacy of protein supplementation in stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
The outcome of the review of these studies could have far reaching consequences for the military community. The...