I went to a lecture a few weeks ago and listened to a fabulous talk on increasing lean body mass in the hospitalized patient. The talk was super fascinating and although it was a Clinical Dietetic meeting, this specific lecture made me feel so comfortable as my background in exercise physiology was completely applicable to this topic of discussion. I am finding the more that I work in the acute care setting (as a clinical dietitian) the more I am able to better understand the body and how it reacts to drugs, diet and therapy.
I've read a few research studies showing that consuming a lot of protein at one time (one big meal) is no more beneficial to increasing lean body mass than consuming a smaller, more regular amounts throughout the day. Furthermore, with more protein at each meal (especially when consumed with carbs), the easier it is to regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety at meals. So, my suggestion is to spread out protein throughout the day and do not skimp on protein at breakfast. With the fundamentals of "carb counting" on my mind (dietitians receive a lot of consults for diabetes education in the hospital), I find that both carbs and protein should be spread out throughout the day, consuming adequate amounts at every meal and snack. I think athletes really struggle in this area because there is less emphasis on non-starchy carbs and a major emphasis (or should I say Craving) for sugary carbs surrounding workouts. But because we want to aim for balance, it is encouraged to provide your body with many opportunities to help meet our individual nutrient needs by focusing on wholesome foods, eating every few hours and prioritizing recovery nutrition.
I encourage athletes to specifically focus on their post workout protein in order to rapidly repair. I believe in aiming for around 7-15 grams of QUALITY protein of high biological value (not bars) immediately post workout, depending on the workout intensity and volume. Additionally, depending on the workout (intensity and volume) we can toss around the idea of adding in the same ratio of carbs or aiming for a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. The more I work with athletes and discover more about myself as an endurance vegetarian athlete, I am finding that this ratio will vary on any given day. Therefore, I strongly encourage to aim for protein post workout (following re-hydrating with electrolytes if needed) and then focus on a balanced post-workout meal.
As for protein intake at meals and snacks, I encourage athletes to focus on around 1.1-1.3g/kg body weight per day of protein if you are engaging in moderate-intense activity on most days of the week. I am a BIG fan of protein in the diet for many reasons and with recent research showing that most individuals may require .9g/kg/d rather than the well-known .8g/kg/d, I think 1.1-1.3g/kg/d is a great starting point for most active individuals. As for the extremely active, I would feel good recommending 1.3-1.5g/kg/d as a general recommendation.
So, if you weigh 130 lbs (59kg) and use an average of 1.3g/kg/d of protein, this would give you around 77g of protein a day.
The speaker recommended consuming around 20 grams of protein at each meal which would give you plenty of room to add in 5-8g of protein at each snack with some wiggle room for recovery protein as well (which should be prioritized).
For my vegetarians/vegans and individuals seeking more plant-based protein in the diet, here is a great link:
Keep in mind, we don't need to strive for a perfect diet. I believe in focusing on nutrient timing and letting your food fuel your workout. Therefore, focus on your training nutrition (pre, during and post) and then plan out the rest of the day. Striving for balanced meals would be my #1 suggestion if you don't know where to start in your nutritional journey. Keep it simple... plan ahead, don't forget about your fruits and veggies throughout the day (especially as snacks), drink plenty of water throughout the day, build a plant-based meal as often as possible, give yourself a healthy serving of whole grains a few times throughout the day (to help meet recommended 25-35g fiber/day), serve yourself a healthy serving of quality protein and finish off the meal with a healthy fat to keep your tummy, heart and brain super happy.
I hope you enjoy my black bean salad!! YUM!
Black Bean Salad
Black beans (drained and rinsed in can)
Corn (frozen, defrosted for 1 minute)
Chickpeas (drained and rinsed in can)
Broccoli (fresh - cooked in microwave with a little water)
Mushrooms (fresh - cooked in microwave with broccoli with a little water)
Garlic (chopped, raw)
Optional: Pita bread
1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook first 5 ingredients.
2. Gently toss and cook for 8-10 min or until the veggies begin to brown. Add a little more olive oil (around 1/2-1 tbsp) if needed.
3. In a large bowl, fill with a large handful spinach. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
4. Add hot cooked veggies and top with raw chopped garlic.