The Skeletal Muscle Response to Energy Deficiency: A Life History Perspective

Gersiel Oliveira-Junior, Rafaela S. Pinto, Meghan K. Shirley, Daniel P. Longman, Karsten Koehler, Bryan Saunders, Hamilton Roschel, Eimear Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

6 Scopus citations


Energy is a finite resource that is competitively distributed among the body’s systems and biological processes. During times of scarcity, energetic “trade-offs” may arise if less energy is available than is required to optimally sustain all systems. More immediately essential functions are predicted to be prioritized, even if this necessitates the diversion of energy away from – and potential downregulation of – others. These concepts are encompassed within life history theory, an evolutionary framework with considerable potential to enhance understanding of the evolved biological response to periods of energy deficiency. Skeletal muscle is a particularly interesting tissue to investigate from this perspective, given that it is one of the largest and most energetically costly tissues within the body. It is also highly plastic, responsive to a broad range of stimuli, and contributes to many essential bodily functions, e.g., mechanical, regulatory and storage. These functions may be traded off against each other during periods of energy deficiency, with the nature of the trade-off’s dependent on the characteristics of the individual and the circumstances within which the deficit occurs. In this review, we consider the skeletal muscle response to periods of energy deficiency from a life history perspective, along with how this response may be influenced by factors including sex, age, body composition, training and nutritional status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-129
Number of pages16
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Energy availability
  • Energy deficiency
  • Evolution
  • Life history
  • Muscle
  • Plasticity
  • Trade-offs
  • stressor


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