Want Muscles? Balance Your Protein


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Most people know that adding a good source of protein at meal and snack times helps keep you fuller longer. Protein takes longer to breakdown in the stomach and helps stabilize blood sugars so the empty stomach feeling and hormones that signal hunger are delayed. Including a regular serving of protein at each meal and snack is a smart strategy to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Not many people are aware that eating a consistent amount of protein regularly throughout the day is important for muscle strength. The research studies while relatively new, have similar results. They each suggest that the average American’s dietary habit of eating too little protein at breakfast and lunch and then eating far too much at dinner is not an efficient method for building muscle during the early hours and is wasteful at the end of the day.  If you are a young person home for the summer with the goal of bulking up for fall athletics, middle age and concerned that your muscles are converting to fat as you embrace your desk all day or an older adult who desires continued strength and independence, listen up to the following findings.


Traditional American Low Protein Breakfast

The University of Texas released a study where healthy adults were fed 90 grams of protein differently throughout the day.

Group 1: 30 gms protein breakfast, 30 gms protein lunch, 30 gms protein dinner

Group 2: 10 gms protein breakfast, 15 gms protein lunch, 65 gms protein dinner

Group 1 experienced 25% more muscle synthesis by providing the right mix of nutrition to promote muscle growth and repair during the earlier hours.


Adequate protein breakfast examples.

Finally, many of us eat far too much protein to be beneficial. Recommended daily protein intakes are:

  • Healthy adult:   0.8 grams/kg
  • Endurance athlete: 1.2-1.4 grams/kg
  • Resistance athlete: 1.6-1.7 grams/kg

A healthy adult weighing 160 pounds requires 58 grams of daily protein.

160 pounds divided by 2.2 pounds/kilograms x 0.8 grams/kg = 58

The average American consumes 90 grams of protein per day and would be better off balancing ½ their plate with more cost-effective fruits and vegetables. Just as a cup can hold only so much water, the same is true of muscle and protein. Too much protein may be burned as energy or worse, converted into fat when consumed in conjunction with too many calories.

Common Sources of Protein

Food or Beverage Serving Protein (grams)
Lean Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Beef 3 ounces (Deck of cards) 21
Egg 1 6
Low Fat Cheese (or ¼ cup Low Fat Cottage Cheese) 1 ounce (Index Finger) 7
Tofu ¼ cup 10
Low Fat Milk, Soy, Yogurt 1 cup 6 to 8
Beans, Peas or Lentils ½ cup (1/2 Baseball) 7
Peanut Butter 2 Tbsp. (2 Thumb Tips) 8
Nuts or Seeds ¼ cup 8
Whole Grain Pasta, Brown Rice or Potato ½ cup 3 to 5
Whole Grain Breads 1 slice or ½ bun 2-3

Moderate protein and snack examples.

Sample 75 gram Protein Menu

Breakfast: 6 ounces 100% orange juice, 1 cup whole grain cereal (4), 1 cup low-fat milk (8) OR 1 egg cheese omelet (13) and ½ cup mandarin oranges.

Midmorning Snack: 1 ounce low-fat string cheese (7) + 6 whole grain crackers (3) or low-fat Greek yogurt (12)

Lunch: 1 sandwich made from whole grain bread (4) with 1 ounces of meat (7) and 1 ounce low-fat cheese (7), grapes and water or healthy beverage to hydrate.

Midafternoon Snack: ¼ cup nuts (8) or yogurt smoothie with fresh fruit (8)

For More Research Try:

Protein for Muscle Gain and Weight Loss

Dinner: 1 cup long grain rice (3), 3 ounces skinless chicken breast (21) 1 cup stir fry vegetables (3) and 1 cup berries.

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness, Sports Nutrition

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