Every hour? Every few hours? Whenever you can?
Does protein timing matter when it comes to your lean muscle gains and fat loss?
Or is it just the latest buzz topic in a fitness world which loves to over-complicate fucking everything?
Today, I’ll take a look at the latest science to determine whether consuming protein more regularly throughout the day will actually make a difference to your results or not.
The School Of Thought
This is not a new belief.
In fact, consuming protein in smaller doses at regular intervals is something which many bodybuilders and fitness athletes have sworn by for decades.
The theory here is that protein can temporarily boost the metabolism, creating a greater energy balance and enabling you to burn slightly more body fat.
In a recent post, I explained how consuming smaller, more frequent meals per day will not speed up your metabolism despite the fact it’s a well-quoted belief in the fitness world.
And if you read my recent article on fasted cardio, I also pointed out that consuming a whey protein shake instead of performing your cardio in a fasted state will actually increase the calorie burn.
So this goes to show that just because a certain belief is popular, doesn’t make it true.
And when it comes to protein timing, there is interesting research out there which will help us get to the bottom of this theory right now.
Protein Timing – Does It Work?
Actually, yes it can.
You can slightly improve muscle protein synthesis – muscle building – by optimizing your protein intake throughout the day.
Of course, these changes are not worth upheaving your entire life over, if your diet is working for you and fits your lifestyle I recommend continuing with your existing approach.
But for those looking to make changes, this is an interesting area to delve into.
In my recent article Eating Small Frequent Meals To Speed Up The Metabolism Is A Weight Loss Myth I briefly mentioned the fact that consuming smaller, more frequent meals does not speed up your metabolism but consuming protein at regular intervals has been shown to have fat loss benefits.
But, until now, I never delved into the research behind it.
So let’s get stuck in.
Researchers from Lausanne, Switzerland, recently performed a study which looked at discovering the optimal protein intake to support lean muscle growth throughout the day.
After a leg workout, they had three groups of subjects consuming 80 grams of protein at the following intervals:
- 10g protein every 1.5 hours.
- 20g protein every 3 hours.
- 40g protein every 6 hours.
Each group consumed the same amount of protein overall, the only difference being the timing of the intake. (1)
They noticed that the groups who consumed the 10g and 20g enjoyed greater muscle protein synthesis – as well as superior whole body protein turnover and better protein breakdown – than the 40g group.
They also found that the 20g group experienced a more beneficial influence on net protein balance and protein metabolism than either of the other groups.
Of course, it’s worth noting that this research is designed to show the optimal method.
This is in a “perfect world” setting.
That doesn’t mean other methods are ineffective.
If your protein intake is sufficient over the course of your day, you’ll still build muscle either way, this just allows you to build a little bit more.
If it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you do not need to obsess about it.
How To Apply These Findings
So here’s exactly what I have my clients do.
While consuming protein at regular intervals has clear advantages, consuming fats and carbohydrates does not, therefore it’s unnecessary to buy into the myth that eating small frequent meals will speed up your metabolism.
So when following my online workouts, my clients usually aim for 4 meals per day and then supplement around this with whey protein shakes.
Unless they enjoy eating smaller frequent meals, of course.
The 4 meals approach saves on prep time in the kitchen, allows your main meals to be more filling – rather than being tiny – and the usage of intra-meal shakes also keeps your protein intake timed to perfection.
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1. Moore, D. R., et al. “Daytime Pattern Of Post-Exercise Protein Intake Affects Whole-Body Protein Turnover In Resistance-Trained Males.” Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Oct 16;9(1):91. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-91.