Time Your Protein to Maximize Results

If you want to keep your body young-looking and strong, you must eat sufficient protein AND ensure you eat it at the right time. My good friend and stellar nutritionist, Martha McKittrick, has written a great, extensive article on this subject. Read it below:

Protein isn’t just for body builders! Protein has many functions in our bodies but one of the most important roles has to do with building and preserving muscles.  Having adequate muscle mass is important in every aspect of life … from walking up a flight of protein-shake-2-300x261stairs to being able to do pushups!  So the question is – do you think you eat enough protein? Probably yes. But I bet you don’t eat it at the right times! Most people tend to eat the majority of their protein in one sitting (dinner) and not enough during the day.Newer research is showing that WHEN you eat protein out is just as important as how much of it you eat. Your body can only handle so much at a time and if you go too long without eating adequate amounts, your body starts to break down your muscles. So whether your goals are to build muscle, look toned,  slow down the muscle loss that occurs with aging or decrease your chances of losing muscle when you diet,  you’ll need to pay attention to the amount and timing of protein. I like to say “time your protein to get results!”

Protein recommendations
For years, nutritionists and health experts have been using the RDA (recommended daily allowances set by the government)  for protein guidelines. The RDA’s are intended to be guidelines to prevent deficiencies. For example, a moderately active woman who weighs 140 pounds would need about  50 grams of protein a day. However newer research has suggested that our protein needs may be higher than previously thought, especially when it comes to treatment and prevention of disease including obesity, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and sarcopenia (muscle loss that occurs with aging). Check out my previous blog post on Protein Needs. So not only is it important to eat adequate amounts of protein, it’s important to eat it at the right times as well. Read on …

Protein timingprotein-at-meals-3-300x178
f you eat minimal protein during the day but have a 7 oz piece of chicken at night (50 grams of protein), think you’re all set? Maybe not! Recent research is suggesting that eating smaller amounts of protein throughout the day is more beneficial when it comes to our muscles vs. eating a large portion at one sitting. Bodybuilders knew this a long time ago! Think about the typical American diet that is bottom heavy in protein:
Breakfast: cereal  + 4 oz milk ( 10 gm)
Lunch: salad for lunch (“mix-in” with chicken and veggies ~ 20 gm)
Snacks: fruit (0 gm protein)
Dinner:  restaurant meal with 8 oz fish, salad, vegetables and brown rice (50 gm+ protein)

Why it’s important to time your protein
*note – in addition to timing your protein intake, it’s also important to weight train to build/preserve muscle loss. Here are some of the benefits of timing your protein intake:

– Prevent/slow loss of muscles that occur agingErnestine-Shepherd5-650x834-233x300

Ever notice how your body doesn’t look quite the same as it did when you are 20 or 30 years old? While some of these changes are inevitable, you don’t have to get flabby sagging muscles. (check out this video of a 75 year old female body builder for proof!)  So whether you are motivated by vanity or want to be able to function better as you age, one of your goals should be to eat adequate protein. It’s been shown that eating ~ 30 grams of protein per meal is the best way to preserve muscle mass. I find that most seniors don’t eat enough protein during the day. As we age, our appetite tends to lessen. Or we may live alone and not find it that appealing to have real meals during the day. Reference #1  Reference #2     Pic is of Ernestine Shepard, 75 year old bodybuilder. Check out her website – so impressive!

– Building muscle mass

In order to build muscle mass, you need to weight train, get enough rest, and consume adequate calories and protein. It also appears that when you eat your protein can have a major effect on your ability to build muscle mass.  A new study, which has been published online in the Journal of Nutrition, contends that the potential for muscle growth is less than optimal when protein consumption is skewed toward the evening meal instead of being evenly distributed throughout the day, beginning at breakfast. When study volunteers consumed the evenly distributed protein meals, their 24-hour muscle protein synthesis was 25 percent greater than subjects who ate according to the skewed protein distribution pattern. Reference

– Slow weight loss that occurs with dieting

When you lose weight, especially large amounts of weight, you tend to lose water, fat and muscle.  Losing muscle can eventually High-Protein-Foods-300x203slow your metabolism (plus can make you look “flabby skinny”) Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake can slow this loss of muscle. In addition, it’s been shown that eating more protein during the day, specifically at breakfast and lunch, helps to “protect” your muscle during weight loss. Reference

– Repairing muscles after exercise

Consuming protein after exercise enhances repair of damaged muscles and stimulates synthesis of muscle protein. The optimal amount of protein after exercise appears to be approximately 20-30 grams. In addition, muscle protein recovery occurs over 24-48 hours, so repeated small doses (20 -25 gm) throughout the day are more effective than once large dose.Reference

Tips to time your protein

1. Add more protein to breakfast. Examples:  eggs, egg whites, cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt (especially Greek), protein powder, nuts, seeds and nut butters
2. Plan an afternoon snack that includes some protein
3. Eat less protein at dinner. You don’t need much more than 4 ounces of meat/fish/chicken/tofu. Take some of the protein and eat it earlier in the day.
4. Experiment with protein smoothies – add fruit to Greek yogurt or protein powder
5. If your goal is to build muscle mass, pay special attention to what you eat before and after your weight training session. Ideally consume ~ 20 – 30 grams of protein before and after your workout.
6. Most studies are now suggesting ~ 30 grams of protein at each meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Protein content of common foods

Animal protein
Most lean meats 3 oz cooked 145 – 165 24
Turkey, chicken breast, skinless 3 oz cooked 115 – 140 25
Fish 3 oz cooked 100 – 175 19 – 22
Greek yogurt, plain, Fage 2% 7 oz 150 20
Yogurt, low fat, fruit blend, Stonyfield 5.3 oz 170 8
Egg, large whole 1 78 6
Egg, large, white 1 17 3.6
Milk, 1% 8 oz 105 8.5
Cheese (most types including swiss, cheddar,etc.) 1 oz 105-114 7-8
Cottage cheese, 1% 1/2 cup 82 13-16
Vegetable protein
Tempeh 4 oz, 1/2 cup 160 15
Tofu, extra firm 4 oz, 1/2 cup 105-115 10-12
Edamame, in pod 1 cup 150 12
Soy yogurt, vanilla, Stonyfield Farm 6 oz 150 7
Textured vegetable protein (TVP), cooked 1/4 cup dry 80 12
Seitan *wheat gluten, NOT soy 4 oz, 1/2 cup 160 26
Lentils, beans 1 cup 230 – 280 18
Veggie burger (varies & may/may not contain soy) 1 burger 90-150 4-13
Soy milk, plain, Silk brand 8 oz 90 6
Almond milk, Blue Diamond, original 8 oz 60 1
Rice milk, Rice Dream Brand 8 oz 120 1
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 201 8
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp 208 8
Almonds 1 oz, 24 nuts 164 6
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 212 4.5
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 222 8
Cereal, high protein (i.e. Kashi Go Lean, Special K High Protein) 1 cup ~ 150 13
Oatmeal, steel cut 1/4 cup dry 170 7
Protein powders
Pea protein 1 scoop 105 25
Whey protein, original, Designer Whey brand 1 scoop 100 18
Hemp protein 1 scoop (4 Tbsp) 100 12

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