Nutrition, like most aspects of health and fitness is a pretty complex topic. Often things are made much more confusing than they have to be – thanks in large part to the overwhelming amount of theories and blatant misinformation that bombard us daily.
Take, for example, the issue of protein distribution. Is it better to load most of your protein into just one meal? Or should your daily protein intake be spread out evenly over the course of the day? Does it even matter?
To Load or Not To Load?
For most Americans, the common practice is to have a fairly carb-rich breakfast – characterized by cereal, bread and juice. Which brings with it a host of problems to both your weight and your general health.
But, the negative impacts of this type of meal are a bit off topic. What does matter to our discussion here, however, is that fact that the standard first meal of the day is typically low in protein. And things don't necessarily get better around lunch. Or throughout the day, for that matter.
Most snacks that people use to power through their routine are packed with fat and sugar, but still relatively low in protein. Even nuts, which are very commonly thought of as a healthy snack, are fairly low in protein and very high in fat.
The typical American dinner, however, tends to be extremely high in protein. And, while there is no truth to the idea that there's a limit on how much protein you should eat in one sitting, this isn't necessarily a good practice.
The primary issue with packing all of your protein into one meal has to do with something called protein synthesis. This is the process by which protein is put to use, specifically to build and repair your muscles and any other connective tissue that might need some work done.
Generally speaking, the more protein synthesis the better – since this will trigger the growth of muscle fiber and an overall increase in health. And protein synthesis always increases when you eat protein.
But how does the distribution of your daily protein intake impact muscle protein synthesis? According to a 2012 study published in the journal Experimental Biology, stuffing all or most of your protein into one meal significantly reduces protein synthesis.
Spreading your daily protein intake throughout the day, however, caused a marked increase in the process.
A Few Practical Notes
Specifically, the study used three meals that each contained about 30g of protein to achieve the above-mentioned results. It's also important to note that not all proteins are created equal – even when it comes to protein synthesis.
Each protein that you take in is made up of amino acids, which are then broken down and rearranged to build whatever your body needs. The amino acid content of the protein that you eat can greatly influence the rate of protein synthesis that occurs from that meal.
For best results, stick with complete proteins that contain all of the necessary amino acids.