Balanced protein consumption leads to increased muscle growth

Most people know that protein is necessary for building and maintaining healthy muscles, but there are still major misconceptions about how best to go about consuming protein for a well-functioning body. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the average U.S. man or woman over the age of 20 consumes more protein than necessary each day. The recommended daily dose of protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men, but these groups were consuming 70.1 grams and 101.9 grams, respectively.

Not only are Americans consuming too much protein, but according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the University of Illinois and published in the Journal of Nutrition, Americans' protein consumption is also heavily skewed toward meals later in the day. A more balanced protein intake plan that includes relatively even amounts of the nutrient in each meal leads to increased muscle synthesis rates.

Examining the data
To study the effects of protein consumption rates on muscle growth, the study's authors split eight healthy men and women into two groups. Both groups were supplied with a seven-day diet of varying levels of protein. One diet contained 30 grams of protein at each meal. The other contained 10 grams of protein at breakfast, 15 grams of protein at lunch and 65 grams of protein at dinner.

Lean-beef was the primary source of protein in each meal, and the participants had blood samples and thigh muscle biopsies drawn at the beginning and end of the seven-day diet to gauge muscle growth rates.

The researchers found that the group that consumed the diet of balanced protein intake experienced a 25 percent greater muscle protein synthesis rate than the unbalanced diet group. The results were corrected for personal variations in exercises and relative activity levels as well.

Doug Paddon-Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy and internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and contributing author of the study, explained in a statement that skewed protein intakes may contribute to muscle deficiencies and orthopedic conditions due to insufficient support for bones.

"We're not taking enough protein on board for efficient muscle building and repair during the day, and at night we're often taking in more than we can use," Paddon-Jones said. "We run the risk of having this excess oxidized and ending up as glucose or fat. You don't have to eat massive amounts of protein to maximize muscle synthesis, you just have to be a little more thoughtful with how you apportion it."

Paddon-Jones recommended replacing carbohydrate-heavy breakfast cereals and bagels with protein-laden eggs, sausages or yogurts. At lunch, a handful of sugar-free nuts can help increase the protein content of midday meals as well. The average dinner usually has an excess amount of protein, so cutting that down to the recommended daily amount can help people avoid converting the compound to fat instead of being synthesized into muscle.