You’ve probably heard that you should eat protein every few hours to help keep your blood sugar stable and your muscles fueled. Or that you should eat protein within a certain amount of time before a workout to optimally contribute to muscle growth and recovery. Whether you’ve heard it once or many times, you’re probably right to be skeptical. But this myth wasn’t created out of thin air; it’s the result of its frequent repetition, which has led to some unhelpful assumptions. So is this advice really true? If so, what is it really? Let’s take a look.
What is the myth?
The myth is that we can eat protein at every meal to maintain muscle mass and prevent muscle breakdown. It has also been suggested that you should eat a high protein diet and that you should do so within 30 minutes of your workout.
Is the myth true?
The 30-minute window is a myth because the time it takes for muscle to rebuild varies from person to person. The actual time depends on the type of protein consumed, the amount consumed and your activity level.
A person’s metabolism also has an effect on this time. One of the most important factors in protein consumption is the type of protein you eat. The rate at which your body breaks down different proteins differs depending on their chemical structure: whey, casein and soy all have different effects. Whey protein has a faster digestion rate than other proteins, so it can be consumed more often while maintaining a high level of muscle growth or repair.
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Casein takes longer to digest than other proteins, so it should be consumed once a day or less often (depending on the intensity of your training).
And soy falls somewhere in between. Another important factor in determining how often you should consume protein is your activity level. If you don’t exercise or if you work out regularly, you may not need to consume protein every few hours. The most important thing is that you make sure you get enough protein every day (in any form). For those who exercise regularly, it may make sense to eat more frequently to keep muscles fueled and protected from the wear and tear of workouts (although it’s still unclear whether eating every 30 minutes has any added benefit).
The Problem with the 30-Minutes Myth
One of the biggest problems with the 30-minute myth is that it has led to a lot of incorrect assumptions about protein, which has then led to bad advice. For example, some people think you need more protein when you are dieting than when you are growing. This is not true, and it can lead to eating too much or too little protein. Some people also think that if you drink alcohol before or after a workout, you need more protein to make up for the lack of alcohol consumption. This is also not true! The 30-minute myth has its positive aspects: it encourages people to watch their intake and eat enough protein in a day. It’s just important to be aware of these two points before blindly following it.
Why does the myth persist?
There are a few reasons why this myth persists:
The timing of your protein intake is one of the most important factors in building and maintaining muscle mass. Protein is needed to repair and maintain new muscle tissue, and it can also help with fat loss.
Protein should be consumed before or after a workout to aid in muscle growth and recovery.
Increasing your protein intake will help stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Eating protein regularly throughout the day will help you feel full between meals.
Protein is more likely to be stored as body fat than carbohydrates, so eating too much protein at one time can lead to weight gain.
You should consume at least 20-30 grams of protein per meal to get the most out of it (but no more than 3-4 times per day).
The solution: know your goals
The key is to know what your goals are and how protein will help you achieve them. If you want to build muscle, eat protein before and after a workout; if you want to lose weight, eat protein at all times. If you’re trying to maintain your muscle while building it, eat protein all the time. You can also choose to eat smaller portions of high quality protein more often, as long as it fits your lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why advice on when to eat isn’t accurate for everyone: most people have different goals. The problem? Everyone’s body processes food differently on a personal level. We all have a unique metabolic rate that varies each day depending on factors such as our stress level, age and gender. While there are no hard and fast rules for when and how much protein you should eat, there are some general guidelines: Eat plenty of vegetables because they also contain amino acids Don’t overeat Be careful of foods that contain large amounts of sugar or fat Choose lean protein over fatty protein.
Find your personal protein intake window
Is it true that you need to eat protein every few hours to keep your blood sugar from dropping and your muscles from burning out? Probably not. If you’re eating a healthy, varied diet with adequate caloric intake, it’s probably not necessary. But if you are on a low-calorie diet and training hard for an extended period of time, it may be necessary. The reason is that when you exercise, your body burns muscle glycogen and needs protein to replace the lost fuel. If these two things sound familiar, then you need to find your personal protein intake window. Start by consulting your doctor, who will help you determine the right amount of protein for your lifestyle (we recommend 0.36 grams per pound of body weight).
The bottom line: It’s important to eat breakfast, but don’t focus on the time
Eating breakfast is important for a multitude of reasons. But it’s not a good idea to obsess about exactly when you should eat. That said, if you want to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet, try to include protein at every meal.