Before you think about timing your protein intake, you first need to make sure you’re getting enough macronutrients.
Most active people will want to consume around 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight2. If you weigh 165 pounds, that’s about 105 to 150 grams of protein per day.
By hitting this threshold, you ensure your body has enough protein to build muscle, support metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and more.
“The most important part, it seems from research, is total protein intake per day,” says Shawn Arent, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at the University of Caroline from the south. “You can time the crap out of your protein, but if you’re not eating enough a day, it’s a drop in the bucket.”
Ideally, you’ll be able to meet your protein needs by eating whole-food protein sources. However, protein powders can be a convenient way to fill in the gaps in the diet and get a significant amount of protein without having to fire up your stove.
Rather than trying to cram more than 100 grams of protein into a single meal (that’s a lot of eggs and whey), you’ll want to spread your protein intake throughout the day, starting with the smallest -lunch.
The first meal of the day is important because when you sleep your body is in a catabolic state in which muscle tissue is broken down for its constituent amino acids. And you’ll stay that way until you replenish your body with the amino acids it needs to enter an anabolic state and rebuild muscle again – a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
“The first meal after coming out of an overnight fast is absolutely essential,” said Don Layman, Ph.D., a leading protein and amino acid researcher and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana. -Champaign, at mindbodygreen. “Until you eat a meal that triggers MPS, you will remain catabolic.”
And what triggers the MPS and puts us in an anabolic state? You guessed it: protein. Layman’s research has shown that consuming an adequate serving of protein (at least 20-30 grams) from your first meal of the day3 will support muscle protein synthesis more effectively than eating the majority of your protein at dinner. It will also set you up to meet that all-important daily protein quota.
As long as you are consume enough protein daily4, and spreading it over a few meals, the exact times of your protein intake don’t matter as much. However, there are ways to slightly optimize your timing depending on your specific goals.