Hey Angels and Alphas,
Carbohydrates usually steal the spotlight when it comes to the body’s needs for energy. They’re amazing for fueling an athlete’s performance. However, protein is just as vital to an athlete’s overall health.
While this macronutrient won’t contribute as instantly to performance as an energy source as carbs tend to do, it is absolutely vital for almost every other function inside the body including, some of the favorites, like muscle tissue growth, maintenance and recovery. Whether protein is necessary isn’t up for debate, but exactly how much one needs daily is currently being reinvestigated by the nutrition community.
The Dietary Reference Intake has your daily protein needs put at around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
That being said, an athlete’s needs might be better met when they approach up to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight every day.
And how much protein to consume is just the beginning of the nutritional equation. Let’s explore the concept of optimal protein timing and how you can achieve better success in timing your protein for better performance.
OPTIMAL PROTEIN TIMING
In the past, all emphasis was put on acquiring enough protein, and enough was basically arbitrary, regardless of the details.
Athletes looking to boost muscle mass, become leaner, or make gains in power are likely to need higher amounts of protein every single day. That being said, evenly spreading out the consumption of protein throughout the day appears to be one of the most important factors in promoting muscle protein synthesis and protein utilization inside your body.
One study suggests getting roughly half a gram per kilogram of body weight (36 grams for a 160-pound person) up to four times a day was the most beneficial amount for enhancing muscle synthssis.
Snacks matter, as well! Having protein approximately every 3 hours was found to increase muscle gains when compared to consuming protein less frequently at usual 6-hour intervals. This happened even when the total protein consumed daily was about the same. The biggest benefit of eating protein evenly at meals is that it can promote better satiety, leaving you with more energy throughout your entire day.
SOME CONSIDERATIONS FOR OLDER ATHLETES
More does not always equal better when it comes to protein.
Another factor to consider is that with age, the body’s ability to process protein declines. Even if you’re looking to gain muscle and you’re spreading your intake throughout the day, there does appear to be a cap at how much protein can be used to stimulate muscle gains.
One study in particular found that there was no statistically beneficial result from consuming 20 grams of protein when compared to 40 grams of protein. For an athlete’s reaching their 50s and beyond, this way to spread out protein may be even more crucial. If the body can’t adequately utilize the ingested protein for tissue needs, it’s likely going to be stored as fat. Besides protein synthesis, having extra protein shortly after a workout will help support the rapid muscle recovery, providing even more reason to consume small amounts throughout the day.
Tracking your protein intake is one of the best ways you can ensure you’re never overloading on protein one meal and then skimping protein at other meals. Spacing out your protein intake can be a great way to help you optimize your intake and reach your health and fitness goals.
That being said, it’s just one part of the equation. If you can optimize your efforts by consuming a variety of high-quality plant and animal proteins (and not relying on powders,) increasing workout intensity, and listening to your body’s natural hunger cues and signals, you’re going to have much better results in the long run.