It’s well known and documented as to the benefits of protein on health to muscle growth, but more recently protein has come into the limelight and is frequently added as a front of pack claim on many foods, making people assume that more must be better, but is it?
The reference intake of protein to support healthy living is 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body mass per day (g/kgBM/d), but for an exerciser, particularly someone looking to improve muscle mass, that could be increased up to 2 g/kgBM/d. So for an 80 kg individual that could be between 64 g and 160 g of protein per day, but there is little reference in the recommendations as to how that protein should be optimally split at each protein feed.
A study by Professor Tipton’s research group in 2014 looked at the dose response relationship to consuming whey protein both at rest and after exercise. Research in this area had already reported that 20g of protein was the optimal amount of protein to consume at any one time and a higher dose was just a waste of money and was either oxidised or excreted.
Optimal Amount of Protein
It’s no surprise therefore that Tipton’s study found a similar result by reporting that myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis (MPS) was increased by 49% when 20 g of whey protein was consumed after training. This was seen as the maximal MPS rate for the subject participants (~80 kg trained, young men). Despite the statistical conclusion, looking closer at the study data it was interesting to see a 14% increase in fractional synthesis rate (FSR) after consuming 40 g of protein versus 20 g.
The noted increase in FSR has lead Tipton et al. to speculate that the optimal protein dose is dependent upon an individual’s muscle mass, suggesting therefore that the bigger you are the more you need. This study has just scratched the surface and more work in this area will undoubtedly follow but for now the scientific recommendation is that people should consume 20 g of protein to maximally stimulate MPS with the potential to increase FSR in larger individuals with a higher dose (40g).
So if we return back to the 80 kg individual example, this research tells us that their daily protein consumption should be split into 20 g dosages throughout the day. Ideally, taking absorption rates into account, whey protein feeds should be separated into approximately 2 hour slots. For the 0.8 g/kgBM/d example, that would be three evenly spaced feeds, whereas for the 2 g/kgBM/d example that would need 4 x 30g feeds and then a larger 40 g feed before bed.
What we believe
At Platform Nutrition we recommend that your protein intake should be tailored to you, depending on your lean body mass and your goal. Feeding should be split across the day and be mindful of the protein amount and the subsequent digestion rate - More isn’t better but it’s better than not enough!
Witard, O. C., Jackman, S. R., Breen, L., Smith, K., Selby, A., & Tipton, K. D. (2014). Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(1), 86-95.