Research has shown that it’s important to eat protein at each meal. Many Americans eat a diet that consists of little to no protein for breakfast. This is followed up with a small portion of protein at lunch and an overabundance of protein at dinner. In fact, as long as they get their recommended dietary allowance of about 60 grams, it’s all good, right? Not according to research from a team of scientists led by muscle metabolism expert Doug Paddon-Jones, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). This research shows that the typical cereal or carbohydrate-dominated breakfast, a sandwich or salad at lunch and overly large serving of meat/protein for dinner may not provide the best metabolic environment to promote healthy aging and maintenance of muscle size and strength.
Age-related conditions such as osteoporosis (bone weakening) and sarcopenia (muscle loss) do not develop all of a sudden. The researchers believe rather, that they are gradual processes triggered by poor lifestyle habits starting in early middle age.
Review of Research
The UTMB researchers provided volunteers with a generous daily dose of 90 grams of protein a day; consistent with the average amount currently consumed by healthy adults in the U.S. Very active individuals may benefit from a slightly higher protein intake. For the majority of adults, additional protein will likely have a diminishing positive effect on muscle metabolism says the researchers. Just as important, any less may fail to provide support for optimal muscle metabolism.
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.
An Eating Strategy for Protein
“Usually, we eat very little protein at breakfast, a bit more at lunch and then consume a large amount at night. “So we’re not taking enough protein on board for efficient muscle building and repair during the day, and at night we’re often taking in more than we can use, says Paddon-Jones.”
A more efficient eating strategy for building muscle and controlling total caloric intake would be to shift some of the extra protein consumed at dinner to lunch and breakfast.
“You don’t have to eat massive amounts of protein to maximize muscle synthesis. You just have to be a little more thoughtful with how you apportion it,” Paddon-Jones said. “For breakfast consider replacing some carbohydrate, particularly the simple sugars, with high-quality protein. Throw in an egg, a glass of milk, yogurt or add a handful of nuts to get closer to 30 grams of protein. Try doing something similar to get to 30 grams for lunch, and then moderate the amount of protein for dinner. Do this, and over the course of the day you will likely spend much more time synthesizing muscle protein.” Eat healthy and stay strong with Jefit.
Madonna M. Mamerow, Joni A. Mettler, Kirk L. English, Shanon L. Casperson, Emily Arentson-Lantz, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Donald K. Layman, and Douglas Paddon-Jones, Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults, J Nutr. 2014 Jun; 144(6): 876–880. Published online 2014 Jan 29. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280