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Physical Activity and the Rate of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis


Protein metabolism is an important property of the human body and largely determines the physical condition of a person. However, the body’s ability to restore protein proportions and maintain normal muscle tone can be slowed down or even weakened by external influences. The article by Saner et al. (2020) aims to determine the correlation between sleep restriction and the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis in a group of young adults. The target participants are divided into three groups: those with normal sleep, those who are tested only based on limited sleep data and those who, in addition to limited sleep, have experienced intense physical activity. Based on the analysis of the article, one can draw attention to the fact that physical activity can restore normal indicators of myofibrillar protein synthesis, even in the case of sleep restriction (Saner et al., 2020). At the same time, sleep restriction is a variable that remains unchanged, which does not allow for a comprehensive conclusion that myofibrillar protein synthesis is restored better only with exercise.

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Although sleep restriction affects protein metabolism negatively, intensive physical training can tone the body and speed up muscle recovery impaired due to sleep restriction. Thus, this study aims to reveal a positive correlation between physical activity and the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis in specific conditions, in particular, sleep restriction. In the context of testing three groups of participants, precise data can be obtained regarding specific impacts on the required parameters. Performing the necessary tests and correlations can help uncover the relationship between sleep duration and muscle tone and explain why protein metabolism can be slowed down. Therefore, this study is relevant not only for athletes and people associated with sports but also for ordinary people who seek to control their body performance and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Main Methodological Approaches

This study is experimental because it includes a hypothesis to prove and is based on testing three groups of participants to identify correlations among specified variables. As a sampling method, the authors utilized a sampling principle based on demographic characteristics (gender, age, and health status) (Saner et al., 2020). The rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis is the dependent variable for all three groups, while sleep restriction and intensive training are independent variables for the two groups, respectively. Study members’ willingness to participate in the research is another approach taken in the study to achieve the most unbiased results possible.

The structure of the experiment is standard for research on a health-related topic. Upon the completion of the initial screening procedures, participants were assigned to three target groups. Previously, each of the study members had passed the necessary laboratory tests to confirm fitness for health status. Over the course of eight nights, participants from different groups were offered distinctive sleeping conditions, and for one group, additional training was prescribed during the day. Special dietary conditions were observed throughout the entire period of the experiment, in particular, the refusal of caffeine. At the end of the study period, health indicators were assessed with a focus on the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis.

As the criteria to measure the required parameters, individual test mechanisms were applied. Sleep indicators were determined by a specially set time that was identical in two groups and differed in the third one. Physical activity was measured by utilizing personal mobile applications that each participant had on their smartphones. Muscle biopsies were used as a method for assessing muscle tone and, in particular, the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis as the main evaluation criterion. At the end of the study, comparative characteristics were obtained by compiling the final data with the use of special calculation forms and quantitative characteristics obtained during the experiment.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study

The topic of protein metabolism considered in this research is the subject of many studies devoted to assessing the recovery of muscle tissues as. One of the main strengths of this study is that before it, there were no academic articles on the effect of sleep restriction on muscle tone (Saner et al., 2020). Individual research papers have mentioned a similar correlation, but as a dependent variable, overall muscle dynamics were assessed rather than the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis (Knowles et al., 2018; Cadegiani & Kater, 2018). In addition, in the article in question, protein metabolism is viewed as a consequence since sleep patterns and training sessions taken separately are intended to determine the effects but not indicate the concomitant circumstances (Saner et al., 2020). In some articles, protein intake is studied from the perspective of its effect on muscle tone, which is not an innovative topic and has already been researched much (Holwerda et al., 2018; West et al., 2017). Therefore, the findings of the value of intensive physical training even in conditions of sleep restriction are significant in the context of improving the overall muscle tone.

At the same time, this study has some limitations that may be regarded as weaknesses. For instance, the process of protein metabolism and the influence of individual factors on it are analyzed in the context of a narrow sample with specific characteristics (Saner et al., 2020). In academic literature, in individual studies on a similar topic, there are the same gaps (Morehen et al., 2020). Nevertheless, from a weight management perspective, some articles include both men and women as target participants, which broadens the range of benefits and credibility of this assessment (Snijders et al., 2019). In addition, the study under consideration does not provide comparative data based on measurements, which prevents obtaining a comprehensive picture of the outcomes (Saner et al., 2020). In the study by Larsen et al. (2019), body parameters and training results are compared, which contributes to evaluating the value of protein intake objectively. As a result, specific aspects of the research in question deserve closer attention to increase its practical value.

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Intense physical training has a positive effect on the rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis when sleep restriction is an external factor that complicates the body’s tone. Sleep duration and muscle tone are the independent and dependent variables, respectively. The study’s experimental background allows making conclusions regarding a negative correlation between the lack of sleep and muscle tone and a positive correlation between intensive physical exercises and increased tone even in sleep restriction conditions. Due to the detailed analysis of the data obtained from the participants involved, the key findings help prove the preliminary hypothesis. One of the strengths of the study is that it draws a parallel between exercises and recovery in conditions of sleep restriction. At the same time, there are some limitations, for instance, a narrow sample or the absence of comparative measurements. Further research may consider similar data in participants with different demographic features, and a comparative analysis should be performed.


Cadegiani FA & Kater CE (2018). Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological and eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: results of the EROS study (EROS-PROFILE). Journal of Sports Sciences 36, 1902-1910.

Holwerda AM, Overkamp M, Paulussen KJ, Smeets JS, Van Kranenburg J, Backx EM, Gijsen AP, Goessens JPB, Verdijk LB & van Loon, LJ (2018). Protein supplementation after exercise and before sleep does not further augment muscle mass and strength gains during resistance exercise training in active older men. The Journal of Nutrition 148, 1723-1732.

Knowles OE, Drinkwater EJ, Urwin CS, Lamon S & Aisbett B (2018). Inadequate sleep and muscle strength: implications for resistance training. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 21, 959-968.

Larsen MS, Clausen D, Jørgensen AA, Mikkelsen UR & Hansen M (2019). Presleep protein supplementation does not improve recovery during consecutive days of intense endurance training: a randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 29, 426-434.

Morehen S, Smeuninx B, Perkins M, Morgan P & Breen L (2020). Pre-sleep casein protein ingestion does not impact next-day appetite, energy intake and metabolism in older individuals. Nutrients 12, 90.

Saner NJ, Lee MJC, Pitchford NW, Kuang J, Roach GD, Garnham A, Stokes T, Phillips SM, Bishop DJ & Bartlett JD (2020). The effect of sleep restriction, with or without high‐intensity interval exercise, on myofibrillar protein synthesis in healthy young men. The Journal of Physiology 598, 1523-1536.

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Snijders T, Trommelen J, Kouw IW, Holwerda AM, Verdijk LB & Van Loon LJ (2019). The impact of pre-sleep protein ingestion on the skeletal muscle adaptive response to exercise in humans: an update. Frontiers in Nutrition 6, 17.

West DW, Abou Sawan S, Mazzulla M, Williamson E & Moore DR (2017). Whey protein supplementation enhances whole body protein metabolism and performance recovery after resistance exercise: a double-blind crossover study. Nutrients 9, 735.

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