If you’ve been following our newsletter, then you already know that protein is a KEY nutrient to optimize the way that you look, feel, and perform. Protein boosts the metabolism, keeps you feeling fuller longer, fights cravings, improves carbohydrate metabolism, accelerates fat loss, and helps build toned, calorie-burning lean muscle.
But, if you’re like most people, you tend to follow a skewed pattern of protein intake throughout the day. In other words, you might have a carbohydrate-dense breakfast (e.g., oatmeal, cereal, bagel) that contains just a few grams of protein, and at lunch, you might have a salad, sandwich, and/or soup that contain less than 20 grams of protein. Then, at dinner, you might have a large meal with your largest portion of protein for the day.
In fact, most people consume at least 50% of their daily protein intake at a single meal in the evening. Contrary to this common pattern (referred to as a “skewed” intake of protein), research shows us that a “balanced” intake of protein throughout the day appears to be optimal to take advantage of the many beneficial attributes of protein.
For instance, in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that balancing protein intake over the course of three meals (about 30 grams of protein per meal) significantly increased muscle protein synthesis (by 25%) when compared to a “skewed” protein intake typical of the American diet.
Why is this so important? Maximizing protein synthesis is paramount to looking, feeling, and performing your best regardless of your age or goals, and it’s especially important for improving body composition, optimizing metabolism, improving carbohydrate tolerance, avoiding age-related declines in muscle mass and metabolic rate, improving performance, and optimizing physical function.
In a separate study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers from McMaster University discovered equally impressive findings when they compared a balanced to a skewed protein intake combined with calorie restriction (i.e., dieting). In general, dieting results in a marked decrease in muscle protein synthesis, which typically leads to muscle loss.
The researchers found that a skewed protein intake combined with calorie restriction led to significantly greater reductions in muscle protein synthesis. In other words, a balanced protein intake “rescued” much of the normal decline seen in protein synthesis with dieting. Even more, they found that combining resistance training with a balanced protein intake completely rescued the decline in protein synthesis seen with energy restriction and skewed protein intake.
As far as how much protein to eat, the research suggests at least 30 grams per meal (3 – 4 meals per day) as a starting point.
More specifically, researchers suggest that about 0.18 grams per pound of bodyweight per meal seems to be optimal.
Along these lines, it’s incredibly important to implement this strategy starting with your first meal of the day, which for most people is breakfast.
In fact, in a recent study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from the University of Missouri found that, compared to eating a standard high-carb, low-protein breakfast, participants who ate a breakfast including at least 30 grams of high-quality protein—even in the form of high-protein waffles—lost body fat, improved glycemic control, reduced feelings of hunger, and subsequently, consumed over 400 fewer calories over the course of the day—for 12 weeks!