Give Me Some Protein

Yesterday, I attended a webcast of a Symposium put on by Dairy Farmers of Canada called Protein, A Nutrient in Focus. It was a really great webcast, I enjoyed the speakers, the topics and it definitely left me with some key messages to take home and some questions….

The research I found particularly interesting and wanted to share was from the second speaker of the day. His name was Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones from the University of Texas Medical Branch and his topic was The Role Protein Plays in Healthy Aging.

While a lot of his research was about the comparisons between young and elderly, the part I found most interesting was his research on the maximal amount of protein synthesis from a meal. In his research, when both young or elderly men and women were given a 113g portion of lean beef (30g protein) or 340g portion (90g protein), their amount of muscle protein synthesis did not statistically differ. IE protein intake above 30g at a meal did not increase muscle production.

Therefore, he concluded that we reach a maximum protein synthesis rate at around 30 g protein intake. In a typical diet, we consume a small amount of protein for breakfast, a moderate amount for lunch and large amount for supper. With this eating pattern we are not maximizing our potential for muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, a better eating pattern would be to split up protein into moderate serving amounts (~30g) at every meal. See below for an example:


Typical Eating Pattern

Revised Eating Pattern



Protein Content


Protein Content

Breakfast 2 slices toast with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter 14g ¾ cup greek yogurt with ¼ cup almonds, ½ cup granola and berries 31g
Lunch Deli meat turkey Sandwich on whole wheat with baby carrots 15g Tuna salad sandwich using ½ can tuna and whole wheat bread, & 25 grams cheddar 31g
Supper 8 oz steak, mashed potatoes & green beans 75g 4oz steak, mashed potatoes & green beans 38g
Total Protein   104g   100g

After this talk, it was a big AHA moment to me. Although, I have been trying to increase my morning protein intake through the use of egg whites, greek yogurt, etc. I know I’m not reaching 30g daily. And even my lunches often are lacking protein. I started panicking, all my hard work at the gym and I’m not maximizing my muscle growth! I need protein, more, more protein!!!


But before, I went on a protein rage through the grocery store, I decided to look a little further into the evidence. I found a recent opinion paper written by one of the co-authors of Dr. Paddon-Jone’s paper. Interestingly enough, now 4 years later, these authors are essentially discrediting their conclusion from the previous paper. Typical nutrition research, we tell everyone one thing and then a couple years later tell them everything they have been doing for the past 5 years was wrong and reverse it!

Our body is in a constant state of protein production & breakdown. The authors of this article claim that while protein synthesis does appear to be maximized at 30g, the research has forgotten to consider protein breakdown. Their key message: While intake of greater than 30g protein at a meal does not promote increased muscle synthesis, it does decrease the amount of muscle breakdown. Therefore, leaving you with an overall greater amount of muscle in the body.


Are you confused yet?

I know there was a lot of lingo and mumbo-jumbo in this post but what is my own personal take home message from the research and how do I plan on incorporating it into my diet plan?

I think meeting the 30g per meal protein requirement will help in maximal protein synthesis and therefore I plan on trying to increase my protein in both my breakfast and lunch meals to get closer to that target. However, I will not fear if my evening meal continues to be higher in protein than 30g as that protein will not be “wasted”, it will be used to decrease muscle protein breakdown and therefore increase my overall muscle and protein status.

**Please note that 90g protein intake is not an ideal for every person. According to the AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges), protein intake should be about 10-35% of your daily intake, therefore protein needs will differ based on your total daily calories.**

Do you pay attention to how much protein you take in a day? Have you ever tried spreading your protein out throughout the day?


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