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I'm 18 years old and started bodybuilding two years ago. To build muscle mass, I want to optimize my diet/nutrition.

I know that 2g of protein per 1kg body mass would be a good choice and one doesn't need more than that. Anyway, this is not the point I want to discuss.

Assuming I weigh 80kg (which makes about 160g protein per day): What is the best way to split that amount of protein into single portions and what is the best time to take them in?

What I do at the moment is:

  • eating as much as I can in the morning :D (preferably carbs)
  • try to "eat as much protein as I can" in the course of the day
  • eating 500g of low-fat quark/curd (60g protein) before going to sleep
  • taking in about 60g of protein in the two hours after training

Is this a good plan? Or rather stupid and recommended to be changed?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Your best bet is to split it into even doses throughout the day. Your body will make good use of it. Now, if you have some before bed, it won't hurt. Essentially, at night when you sleep, two types of adaptations will happen (assuming you have disrupted homeostasis):

  • Starting when you hit REM sleep, your testosterone levels will peak and remain at that level until you wake up.
  • Starting when you hit deep sleep, and ending about 1 hour later your growth hormone will be at it's peak.

Testosterone and growth hormone are both known to cause muscle growth and make good use of the amino acids and proteins you have in your body at the time. Note that these are normal hormones produced and managed by your body, not steroids added to cause you to artificially take in more protein. (along with their side effects)

The studies I have read have conflicting things to say about timing the protein, and the best I can surmise is that the usefulness of the protein depends on your level of training/adaptation and the population that the studies used. There are many variables that can affect protein absorption and unfortunately, no-one has a clear understanding of how they all interrelate which compromises the usefulness of the studies.

By splitting your protein intake throughout the day, you are spreading the odds that you will be at a peak protein consuming time. Not to mention that some of the protein absorption depends on your natural circadian rhythms. In short you will have some times of the year where you make better use of it than others.

If you overthink this, you'll drive yourself nuts.

And yes, hydration assists the body in processing protein. 2 L a day is an absolute minimum, better 3+ L a day. In the interest of full disclosure, all water content hydrates.

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Thanks a lot! So what I want to know is whether 60g of protein at once ir useful or just too much and not completely used. And does one need protein throughout the whole day or are muscles built only at night? –  Marco W. Aug 10 '11 at 14:47
    
You need protein throughout the day, however the majority of the work to build muscle happens at night. As I mentioned above, all the timing studies are inconclusive, or they only apply to a small range of athletes. I can't say with any authority that 60g all at once is any better or worse than spreading it over 2-3 hours. –  Berin Loritsch Aug 10 '11 at 14:51
    
So one doesn't really know anything, the best tip is simply to take in as much protein as one can throughout the whole day. Right? Basically, I just wanted to know if it's a good thing to take in 60g protein before sleep or if I should change it to 30g before sleep and 30g after waking-up?! –  Marco W. Aug 12 '11 at 0:43
    
Your body does make use of it throughout the day as well. However, if you spike it before you go to bed, the worst that can happen is that the excess gets turned to glycogen. At some point you have to make intelligent experiments to see what works for you. –  Berin Loritsch Aug 12 '11 at 12:09

There are a couple of articles on that topic usually in the Men's Health. No sugar, no carbs, but fiber, protein and fat: High Protein Diet - The Perfect Day of Eating. But there are known side-effects for this diet, and especially protein supplements. Protein during or right after the training is best for muscle regeneration.

With the basic idea of this diet and a lot of hydration, I gained muscles and got fit within 4 weeks.

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Thanks :-) Is hydration drinking very much? So you suggest a lot of protein all day long? No special timing? –  Marco W. Aug 10 '11 at 3:01
    
Drinking very much (water!). And for every cup of coffee or tea another glass of water (you should end up with 2-3 liters a day). As I said, protein right after training and in the morning is best. Check out the website, they have a lot of good recipes and day eating plans. –  Patrick Aug 10 '11 at 6:31

It's best to split your meals up throughout the day, about 5-6 meals a day, the main reason is to produce less of an insulin spike so your body can keep burning fat. A fast acting protein such as whey is important post workout and a slow acting protein such as casein (found in milk products) is best before bed. If you want some reading, I would recommend this

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Thank you! I don't want to burn more fat so I only care about protein intake to build more mass. –  Marco W. Aug 10 '11 at 2:42
    
What are your sources for this answer? The book? What about the next morning (after training) - does one need much protein then? Or just carbs to get power? –  Marco W. Aug 10 '11 at 2:45
    
Its carbohydrates that cause an insulin spike. Most animal protein sources do not contain carbs, only protein and fat. –  Berin Loritsch Aug 10 '11 at 13:37
1  
@Berin marksdailyapple.com/insulin-index & en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_index Protein sources do in fact cause an insulin spike. Perhaps you are confusing the insulin index with the glycemic index. –  Adam Aug 13 '11 at 6:36

I was told before by a trainer, though i can't say how reputable or credible his statements are, that at any given time, our body can only consume a fixed amount, I think it was 30g. For example during a meal if you consume 50g of protein only 30g of actually used by the body while the 20g is wasted. With that in mind, you would wait for a few hours (not sure how long maybe 2-3 hours, enough time for metabolism) before your body can take in another 30g without wasting it. The fixed amount is probably variable to each person, as bigger people can probably take in more. But I guess what I'm trying to say is don't take too much protein in one go and have it spread out the day.

Anyone else heard about this?

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The maximal protein absorption is dependent on your muscle's need for repair and other nutrients and hormones currently in the body to aid in protein absorption. Professional bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman for example can take in 546 g per day without any waste. This would calculate to much more than 30 g per meal. –  JoJo Aug 10 '11 at 4:10
    
Yes, which is what I meant that the fixed amount to intake at a given time is variable for each person. For Ronnie that might be ~90g per intake (546/6, if we say he takes protein 6 times a day). What I mean is, large intakes in one go might waste some of the protein, as there might be a limit per intake. –  Carlos Jaime C. De Leon Aug 10 '11 at 5:15

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