Muscle Growth Requires: Intake, Timing and Distribution of Protein

Many Jefit app users spend a lot of time working hard in the gym, lifting the appropriate amount of weight to progressively overload their muscles. Additional focus is also placed on optimal sleep and nutrition. With all that, they may still have trouble building lean muscle mass, commonly known as a “hard gainer.”

Key to Muscle Growth? Protein Intake, Timing and Distribution

Preventing sarcopenia can be a serious challenge for the majority of people over the age of 35. Performing 2-3 weekly strength training sessions can help your cause. Also, eating a balanced diet with adequate protein are essential components. Finally, eating an additional 500 calories a day will keep your body in an anabolic state. Still having trouble adding muscle? Monitor the amount of daily protein as well as how it’s distributed throughout your day.

Protein Research

Building muscle requires adequate daily protein intake. Research has demonstrated eating protein every three hours, on your strength training days, is needed to build muscle. A 2013 study by Areta and colleagues, published in the Journal of Physiology, showed this to be true. Consuming 20 grams of whey protein every 3-hours, over 12-hours, following strength training, showed superior results for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. The key differences in the study were the timing and distribution pattern of the whey protein. The findings of this novel study were:

“the results from the study provide new information demonstrating the timing and distribution of protein ingestion is a key factor in stimulating rates muscle protein synthesis.”

“this study emphasizes that the timing of protein intake is a separate variable and a crucial factor in the development of optimal nutritional strategies to maintain and/or enhance peak muscle mass in humans.”

Journal of Physiology

A study published in the Journal Nutrients in 2020 by Hudson and colleagues looked at additional protein requirements. The results supported eating at least one meal containing a sufficient quantity of protein. This applies to all adults already consuming 0.8 – 1.3 grams of protein a day. This in turn, helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis, independent of daily distribution, and is helpful in promoting skeletal muscle health. The study went on to mention that the researchers believe there has been a shift in thinking about dietary protein requirements. Their belief is it has gone from a daily requirement to an individual meal requirement. As an example, eating 30 grams of protein per meal, plus one protein shake, would equate to 120 grams a day.


Areta JL, Burke LM, Ross ML et al. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. Journal of Physiology 591(9): 2319–2331

Hudson, JL et al., (2020). Protein Distribution and Muscle-Related Outcomes: Does the Evidence Support the Concept? Nutrients 12(5): 1441. doi: 10.3390/nu12051441

Try Jefit App

Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC MagazineMen’s HealthThe Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your sustainable fitness lifestyle.

Protein at Each Meal is Required for Muscle Growth

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.

“The study, in the Journal of Nutrition, shows 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.”

Doug Paddon-Jones, PhD

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