Journal Cell Reports
In the typical European and North American diet, most people consume more protein at dinner or lunchtime than they do at breakfast. However, a landmark study published in the Journal “Cell Reports “in July 2021 showed that consuming more protein at breakfast, compared to lunch or dinner, is a more effective way to support your muscle strength as well as promoting more muscle development in people involved in strength training or weight training. It appears that the body has a chrononutrition clock, which means that if you time your protein intake properly throughout the course of the day you can ensure more optimal muscle growth and preservation of muscle strength, which among other things, helps guard against muscle loss and muscle wasting seen in the aging process.
The researchers first showed this effect with mice and then with humans. Initially, they fed mice two meals per day containing either high (11.5% by proportion) or low (8.5% by proportion) protein concentrations. They noted that mice given the high protein intake at breakfast showed increased muscle compared to mice fed high protein for dinner, even though there was more total protein given to the mice consuming the high protein meal at dinner. Specifically, the ratio of muscle growth (hypertrophy) was 17% higher in the mice who were fed more protein at breakfast compared to the mice who were fed the higher protein meal for dinner. They also found that intake of a type of protein called the BCCA (branched-chain amino acids), early in the day increased muscle growth most effectively. This is a significant finding for individuals who are doing weight or strength training or resistance training in an attempt to gain more muscle mass, strength or enhance their body contouring. Branched-chain amino acids are found in high concentrations in whey protein, as an example.
To check if their findings were applicable to humans, the team then recruited sixty women who were 65 years and older into a study and tested to see if their muscle function and grip strength varied if provided with high protein at breakfast versus dinner. Just like the mice the women who consumed more protein at breakfast rather than at dinner showed enhanced muscle strength and muscle mass. I personally have used the strategy of high protein intake at breakfast for many years and it has served well, in terms of gaining and preserving muscle mass and strength. Remember that as you gain muscle or lean mass, you also speed up your metabolism, which makes it easier to lose body fat and easier to prevent the accumulation of excess body fat as the years tick by.
Some practical ways to enjoy a high protein breakfast without eating a lot of bad fats or sugar is the following:
1. Have a protein shake – I personally use a whey protein shake, as whey protein (high in BCAA) really helps support muscle tissue, preventing muscle wasting and helping to increase muscle gains if you do some weight training. The protein shake I use contains less than 1 gm of fat and less than 12 gm of carbohydrates per scoop. I have it with water, ice cubes, and two tablespoons of ground flaxseed.
2. Egg white omelet with vegetables, a side of dry rye or whole-wheat toast, and sliced tomatoes. 3 egg whites provide 21-27 gm of protein – similar to having 2 scoops of the whey protein shake I just discussed.
3. Non-fat Greek Yogurt with a high-fiber, low sugar breakfast cereal. Some Greek yogurts contain 15-20 gm of protein in 8 ounces.
So, in conclusion, more protein at breakfast is one more wellness strategy you can employ that can help you preserve muscle mass as you age, gain more muscle mass and strength with your strength training routine and speed up your metabolism.
I have included the reference for this study in the text below.
Shinya Aoyama, Hyeon-Ki Kim, Rina Hirooka, Mizuho Tanaka, Takeru Shimoda, Hanako Chijiki, Shuichi Kojima, Keisuke Sasaki, Kengo Takahashi, Saneyuki Makino, Miku Takizawa, Masaki Takahashi, Yu Tahara, Shigeki Shimba, Kazuyuki Shinohara, Shigenobu Shibata. Distribution of dietary protein intake in daily meals influences skeletal muscle hypertrophy via the muscle clock. Cell Reports, 2021; 36 (1): 109336 http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1033.9814&rep=rep1&type=pdf