If you’ve reached your 50s or 60s, your body’s needs for dietary protein may have taken an unexpected turn upward. If you want the same muscle-building response that a mere 10-20 grams of protein could produce in your youth, then new research suggests you’re better off getting 30 or more grams in each meal.

In addition, whey protein can help maximize your anabolic response from daily intake of protein while also helping you with weight management.

Beyond 30 Grams Per Meal

In a recent study, University of Mississippi investigators found that older adults who ate multiple meals over the course of the day with protein in the range of 30 and 45 grams had the greatest association with lean muscle mass and strength.

The researchers analyzed diet, leg strength, and body composition in more than 1,000 adults ages 50-85 years old. They found that eating frequent meals with at least one to two meals of the larger protein dose was associated with higher strength and lean body mass. “…a threshold of 30-45 grams of dietary protein per meal seems to produce the greatest association with lean body mass and strength,” they wrote.

“Consuming dietary protein at more than one meal may be of importance for individuals seeking to optimize muscle mass and strength, but may be a particularly important strategy among individuals vulnerable to muscle mass loss including older adults,” the researchers concluded.

Distribute Whey Over the Course of the Day

Not only is the amount important, but also how you distribute your intake over the day. While evenly distributing protein is best, the United States Department of Agriculture reports that the majority of people in the U.S. eat most of their daily protein at the last meal of the day.

But in another recent study, researchers found that evenly distributing protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner) stimulated muscle building to a greater degree than a “skewed” intake (10 grams at breakfast, 15 grams at lunch, and 65 grams at dinner).

The same effect was noted in obese adults on a weight-loss diet consuming whey protein. Evenly distributing 75 grams of whey protein (three, 25-gram shakes) throughout the day was better for retaining muscle in comparison to a skewed intake of 10 grams at breakfast, 15 grams at lunch, and 50 grams at dinner.

Getting Past the RDA

In each of these studies, protein consumption exceeded the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. As a result, a number of researchers have proposed that the RDA is simply not adequate for older adults for sufficiently assisting muscle maintenance and growth.

The RDA for protein also gives no guidance on how much to consume at each meal. But it’s important information for older adults who are seeking to maximally stimulate muscle building at each meal to help preserve muscle mass over time.

In middle-aged and older adults, a higher protein intake per meal in the range of 30-40 grams of protein appears to be necessary to maximize muscle protein synthesis. These intakes could assist older adults who are more prone to age-related muscle loss (also known as sarcopenia) and overweight individuals seeking to lose weight on an energy-restricted diet while still maintaining muscle.

When Protein Is Too High

How high is too high for protein in a single meal? Several studies have demonstrated that there is a rise in the rate of muscle protein synthesis up to a certain point. Beyond this optimal protein dose (about 30-40 grams), muscle protein synthesis cannot be stimulated further, despite larger protein amounts, and is either converted to usable energy or fat.

You might do best by sticking to the following rules as you age, as suggested by the recent nutrition studies on protein:

  • Be sure to keep your protein intake to about 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • Consume 30-45 grams of high-quality protein at each meal, over multiple meals per day in order to evenly space protein servings.
  • Use whey protein consistently as a nutritional supplement in the form of a whey-based meal replacement shake or supplement.

I’m always open to your questions, comments and feedback. I’m always listening!

Yours in health,



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