For optimal muscle mass, the results of a new nutritional study suggest that Westerners need to rethink the way they distribute their protein intake throughout the day.
Here’s what the average American diet looks like: a carb-heavy breakfast, a sandwich or salad at lunch, and an overly large serving of meat and protein for dinner, note researchers from the University of Texas.
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But when scientists measured rates of muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults after giving them similar diets that distributed protein differently, they found that muscle synthesis was 25 percent greater among volunteers who consumed evenly distributed amounts of protein throughout the day, compared to those who took in the bulk of their protein at dinner.
Researchers caution, however, that the results of their study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, don’t mean we need to increase our protein intake.
Rather, that we need to be more thoughtful about how we distribute it.
"For breakfast consider replacing some carbohydrate, particularly the simple sugars, with high-quality protein," suggested lead author Doug Paddon-Jones.
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"Throw in an egg, a glass of milk, yogurt or add a handful of nuts to get closer to 30 grams of protein, do something similar to get to 30 for lunch, and then moderate the amount of protein for dinner. Do this, and over the course of the day you will likely spend much more time synthesizing muscle protein."
The findings could be important for promoting healthy aging and the maintenance of muscle size and strength. With age, muscle mass is known to decrease.
The latest research builds on previous studies which likewise vaunt the merits of eating protein-rich breakfasts.
A recent study out of the University of Missouri-Columbia, for instance, found that women who ate eggs or added yogurt to their breakfast routines helped maintain stable glucose and insulin levels throughout the day.