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I read recently in a nutrition textbook that, unlike fat, protein cannot be stored in the body and instead we usually make it when needed. Therefore, protein we consume needs to be used when it comes in and the remainder is discarded.

Does protein consumption need to be dispersed throughout the day? Is this a commonly accepted fact or something people still debate considerably?

I care because restructuring my diet around such an assumption might take an effort and I just wanted to confirm before I did it that this book's logic was accurate.

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The short answer is that you almost certainly don't need to worry about it. There may be some people in very specific circumstances, such as body builder competion prep or some high performance athletic endeavours, where you do but you would know if this applied to you.

There is a common myth that you must consume protein within a short "anabolic window" after exercising but this was the outcome of an experiment performed decades ago on a small number of people and where the total amount of protein per day wasn't kept consistent, such that those consuming protein post-workout were actually consuming more in their day overall and this very likely was the more pertinent result. There has been further scientific enquiry into this hypothesis and the result is that this small anabolic window is a myth (eg. see "Proof the post-workout anabolic window is a lie").

For more information, have a look through this Twitter thread by Jeff Nippard on the subject of consuming protein - he takes a very science/research-based approach to arriving at conclusions. The conclusion of the thread is that, for considering protein in building muscle:

In order of importance:

  1. Total Protein Intake (most important)
  2. Protein Distribution/Meal Spread (these first 2 get you >90% of gains)
  3. Protein Quality (keep in mind if vegan or diet low in animal protein)
  4. Protein Timing (tip of the iceberg)

Earlier in the thread, some points worth highlighting to summarise are:

A 2018 meta-analysis by Morton et al. recommends 1.6-2.2 g/kg (0.8-1.0 g/lb)..

Cramming all your protein in just 1 or 2 meals can build muscle if your total daily protein intake is high enough, but may not be as optimal as spreading it across at least 3 meals..

Regardless, it is clear that your protein intake per-meal is much less important than your protein intake per-day..

As long as your pre- and post-workout meals are within ~4-6 hours of each other, you'll be maximizing the anabolic response.

So I would imagine that you won't have to worry about restructuring your diet a huge amount unless you were prevously aiming to follow something unusual, such as OMAD (One Meal A Day).

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  • Perfect, just what I was looking for. Thanks! Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 17:21
  • protein distribution seems to be the same thing as protein timing. If I distributed my protein among my 3 meals evenly, but ate them all one after the other, surely that defeats the purpose of Jeff's suggestion that protein distribution matters in the first place?
    – minseong
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 23:14
  • Because he says that protein distribution matters, I think that means that timing matters
    – minseong
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 23:15
  • Yes, I agree that technically it matters. But, in real world terms, it doesn't because you're not likely to eat all three of your meals one after the other - chances are that if you eat on a schedule that suits you then it's almost certainly going to be good enough. You could argue that "good enough" isn't the same as "optimal" and, again, that would be correct technically but I strongly suspect that it would have no tangible benefit to someone in the question-asker's position (nor to the great majority of people). Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 9:33
  • @DanRoberts I think you're comments are spot on and were what I was looking for. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 16:47

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