Cancer patients display systemic inflammation, which leads to an increase in protein catabolism, thus promoting the release of free amino acids to further support metabolism and remodelling of muscle proteins. Inflammation associated with tumor growth leads to malnutrition, a factor that increases the risk of developing cachexia. With cancer-induced cachexia, nutritional interventions have gained traction as a preventative method to manage this condition. Currently, cancer consensus recommendations suggest a protein intake above 1.0 g/kg.day-1 up to 2.0 g/k.day-1 for cancer patients, although an ideal amount for some amino acids in isolation has yet to be determined. Due to controversy in the literature regarding the benefits of the biochemical mechanisms of various muscle mass supplements, such as L-leucine (including whey protein and BCAA), β-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate (HMβ), arginine, glutamine and creatine, several studies have carefully examined their effects. L-leucine and its derivatives appear to regulate protein synthesis by direct or indirect activation of the mTORC1 pool of kinases, further promoting muscle protein balance. Arginine and glutamine may act by reducing inflammation and infection progression, thus promoting improvements in food intake. Creatine exerts anabolic activity, acting as an immediate energy substrate to support muscle contraction further increasing lean mass, mainly due to greater water uptake by the muscle. In this narrative review, we highlighted the main findings regarding protein consumption and amino acids to mitigate cancer-induced skeletal muscle depletion.
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