Since protein is one of the most important building blocks in the body that’s crucial for bone health and muscle growth, it’s no wonder that the fitness community is obsessed with anything that has to do with it – from the issue of the best quality sources of protein to the optimal frequency of consumption and it’s interaction with other nutrients.
After all, dietary choices play a major role in building a healthier, fitter and stronger body. The only problem is that not all of the statements and tips about protein intake that we read online are backed up by science, so many of them end up being contradictory, confusing or downright harmful. Therefore, we created this article in the hope of providing you with science-based answers to the three most important questions about this valuable nutrient and it’s role in our lives.
1. How much protein is needed to stimulate optimal muscle growth and when is the best time to consume it?
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (0.36 per pound) of bodyweight – this is the amount of protein you need to consume on a daily basis for a healthy functioning of the body. But if you’re looking to maximize muscle gains, you should increase your daily intake of protein to 0.9-0.10 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (lean body mass, preferably).
The situation changes when an individual is in a caloric deficit during a rigorous diet. In this case, preventing muscle loss is very important, which means you’d benefit the most from increasing your daily protein a bit more. Several clinical studies done on athletes have shown that consuming 1-1.4 grams per kilogram of lean body mass on a daily basis offers maximal muscle retention while dieting.
However, this doesn’t mean that increasing the amount of protein you consume even further will lead to even more gains – this assumption has never been scientifically proven. In addition, consuming too much protein can interfere with your consumption of carbohydrates and fat (and these two are also crucial for your gym progress) and eventually result with a caloric surplus that will end up being stored as body fat. More is not necessarily better.
On the bright side, there isn’t a maximum amount of protein that can be consumed per meal since protein digestion and absorption is highly efficient. Studies have shown that meals containing around 20 grams of protein can maximize protein synthesis in the skeletal muscles of young men and that meals containing up to 70 grams of protein can further reduce the rate at which muscles are broken down. Research also shows that there is no significant difference between the effects of an uneven protein distribution over the course of the day (meaning the majority of protein is consumed in one meal) and the effects of a more balanced one – both of them have similar effects on skeletal muscle protein turnover and lean mass retention. Even more, a recent meta-analysis of studies looking at protein intake immediately after exercising came with the conclusion that there is no significant connection between post-exercise protein consumption and muscle growth when the individual meets the daily requirements of protein intake.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if all of your meals include an equal amount of protein or not or even how many times a day you consume protein and when, as long as you make sure to consume the recommended total daily intake over the course of the day.
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