Is Protein Timing An Issue?


By: Intense-Fitness Writers

If there’s one nutrient that gets a high amount of controversy in the fitness world, protein would be it.  People argue not only about how much protein is actually required by those who are doing strength based programs, but also about whether this protein needs to be consumed in a certain manner throughout the day.

You often hear people staying that protein must come at certain points in the day at certain quantity levels if it’s to be beneficial.

Let’s have a look at what some research has to say.

The Research Study


PR: Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention in young women.


J Nutr. 2000 Jul;130(7):1700-4

Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention in young women.

Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP.

Unite d’Etude du Metabolisme Azote, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique et Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine, Clermont-Ferrand-Theix, France

This study was undertaken to determine whether a pulse protein feeding pattern was more efficient than a spread pattern to improve protein anabolism in young women as was already shown in elderly women. After a 15-d adaptive period [1.2 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d)], 16 young women (age 26 +/- 1 y) were given a 14-d diet providing 1.7 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d), using either a pulse pattern (protein consumed mainly in one meal, n = 8), or a spread pattern (spreading daily protein intake over four meals, n = 8). Nitrogen balance was determined at the end of both the 15-d adaptive and the 14-d experimental periods. Whole-body protein turnover was determined at the end of the 14-d experimental period using [(15)N]glycine as an oral tracer. Nitrogen balance was 17 +/- 5 mg N/(kg fat-free mass. d) during the adaptive period. It was higher during the experimental period, but not significantly different in the women fed the spread or the pulse patterns [59 +/- 12 and 36 +/- 8 mg N/(kg fat-free mass. d) respectively]. No significant effects of the protein feeding pattern were detected on either whole-body protein turnover [5.5 +/- 0.2 vs. 6.1 +/- 0.3 g protein/(kg fat-free mass. d) for spread and pulse pattern, respectively] or whole-body protein synthesis and protein breakdown. Thus, in young women, these protein feeding patterns did not have significantly different effects on protein retention


What This Means To You


So what this study was looking at is whether or not eating all your protein intake in one sitting would be less effective on maintaining lean body mass compared to spreading the protein out over the course of the day, with this study using four meals as the division.

You often hear people saying that the body can only use so much protein at once, so this study wanted to look at that.

They had women consume all their protein (at an intake of 1.7 grams per kg of body mass) in just a single meal, or have this same amount of protein divided up over four meals.

At the end of the two week testing period, it was noted that there was no difference in protein synthesis or breakdown between the two groups, illustrating that both maintained the same amount of lean body mass over the course of the study.


The Take-Home Message


So what does this mean to you? It means that you shouldn’t stress too much about how often you’re eating your meals, or more specifically your protein content, but rather just make sure that you get your protein in.

If you happen to skip a meal during the day, this won’t matter as long as you double up on your protein in the next meal so that at the end of the day, you’ve still taken in the same amount.

As long as you do this, you’ll have no trouble maintaining your muscle mass while dieting (assuming adequate protein intake in the first place).

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