If you're a regular at the gym, you likely know that protein plays an important role in building muscle, but do you pay attention to how you spilt your protein up across the day?
If not, this is something you need to be across to avoid losing out on potential muscle gains. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is one of the most researched areas of sports and nutritional science and always a focus point for the Oxygen Nutrition Crew.
While there are still some holes in what we know about building muscle, the data is definitive on the point that protein distribution can matter just as much as the total amount.
As mentioned, reaching an adequate total daily protein intake is important for the maintenance and development of muscle mass and yet commonly people back end their protein, consuming only small amounts at breakfast and then consuming one or two larger serves towards the latter part of the day.
If this is you, listen in! Researchers have found that when people evenly spread their protein ‘budget’ across the day, they get achieve greater MPS compared to those that skew protein to the latter part of the day- even when protein intake is matched.
This means that having a protein-rich breakfast is an easy strategy for making sure you get maximum gains from your hard work at training.
The other part of this picture is ensuring that a high enough dose of protein is achieved within each serve across the day. Once the daily target for protein has been calculated for an individual, (ideally between 1.6-2.2g/kg body weight per day), this total amount needs to be divided into doses that achieve a high enough concentration of protein to avoid negative protein balance.
Researchers have indicated that a dose of approximately 0.4g/kg of body weight per meal is a good goal to amplify MPS signalling.
Then there is the age-old question of 'how much protein can you absorb in one sitting?’. The answer is often delivered in a clear cut fashion, when in fact, there are a lot of variables to account for in the answer.
To start, there is no real limit per se to how much protein can be absorbed by an individual- any excess protein can be oxidised as energy or broken down and excreted- which is where the confusion on this topics seems to begin.
It has been suggested that eating more than 25-30g of total protein per meal is a waste, however, this is based on observations using isolated protein, consumed in the absence of any other macronutrients, and without accounting for the size of the individual.
When slower acting proteins are combined in a meal, it has been suggested that the rate of digestion and absorption would then be changed, leading to the enhanced use of the amino acids from the food over a longer timeframe.
Further, it is more likely that there is an optimal dose based on a gram per kilo of bodyweight basis, rather than a single absolute protein serve.
Protein research is an ever-expanding field which can make it hard to keep up with, however, as you can see, there are some simple actions you can take now to optimise your protein intake, and in turn, maximise your muscle mass gain.
Next time you are planning your meals, be sure to check in on your total daily protein intake and ensure that you have your distribution and dose across the day on point to see the best results from your training and nutrition practices.