Articles,  Nutrition

Protein & Muscle – what, when, how much

Protein comes from a range of dietary sources such as animal based products, meat, chicken, fish, yoghurt, milk, eggs and vegetarian alternatives legumes, lentils, quorn, tempeh, tofu, nuts, seeds. Some of these proteins provide a complete source of amino acids (building blocks of protein) and others don’t.

To help optimise on your recovery and body composition goals it can be beneficial to aim for some quality protein (20-25g (8-10g essential amino acids, 3g leucine)) every 3-4 hours.

Research has shown that protein distribution e.g. timing over the day can be important. We can get a bigger bang for our buck by distributing our protein needs throughout the day rather than in one large hit.

It can be common for many to get a large chunk of their protein intake at dinner but yet lack a good quantity at breakfast and or lunch. In fact, our intake at dinner can be 3 times greater compared with our breakfast.

Protein helps stimulate muscle growth and repair and can be influenced by a range of factors such as physical activity, health status, body composition and age.

In healthy adults approximately 20-25g of protein helps stimulate protein synthesis and for some consumption of larger amounts may be beneficial. For example when doing a strenuous whole body workout a larger amount may provide more support. Also when we get older anabolic resistance occurs so ensuring we get in a sufficient amount of protein can be important.

A study by Mamerow et al 2014 demonstrated that by consuming protein more evenly throughout the day versus a typical skewed pattern (e.g. lower amount of protein at breakfast and or lunch and then three times the amount at dinner) led to a higher stimulus of muscle protein synthesis. 24 h muscle protein synthesis was 25 % greater.

The body can only do so much with large amounts of protein intake at one time. Studies have compared protein intakes of 90g in one hit compared to 30g and found no significant difference in muscle protein synthesis (the amount needed can vary depending on the type of exercise, individual etc. –see below).

The current study showed that by providing ~30g of protein at breakfast versus a lower intake of 10g, provided a 40% higher muscle protein synthesis stimulus. The study also showed that by having a large portion of the protein at the end of the day with the lower intake at the front end of the day, didn’t make up the gains compared to consuming protein more evenly during the day.

How much protein should I consume after exercise?

Good question! The optimal amount of protein to consume post exercise appears to depend on the type of exercise being executed. ~20-25g protein post workout appears to be sufficient for the majority doing a split routine although larger individuals may benefit from larger amounts and depending on the routine can influence this too. ~40g of protein post a whole body routine appears to be optimal. Further research still needs to tease out many aspects in this area but this seems to be a good starting block.

Want to know more?

Come in and see us and we can individualise the advice for your needs.








Reference: Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, Paddon-Jones D. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr. 2014, 144 (6), p.876-80

Stephanie Gaskell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, an Accredited Sports Dietitian, and a competitive Ultra Trail Marathon Runner. She is available for Phone and Skype Consultations, and has published the FODMAP™ & Gluten Status Sports Supplement Guide.

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