What is Protein Timing?
Protein timing refers to when you consume protein – for example, do you eat at 3 PM or does it happen at 7 PM?
Timing is not the same thing as total quantity, yet it often influences it. For example, if you plan to eat 120 grams of protein a day and you miss lunch – you’ve missed a time in which you eat protein. This missed “timing” results in a lower total quantity of protein that day (assuming you don’t make it up later).
When people add a post-workout shake, they are often focused on the timing of when it occurred, they often do not realize the post-workout shake added another 30 grams of protein to their daily total.
We have to be aware that the times in which we eat are influencing the total quantity in a day. Many people are not, often because marketing focuses on protein timing to sell their unnecessary products.
However, when people are asking about the importance of protein timing, the underlying assumption is that they are consistently eating the same total quantity (Note: this is not a good assumption for many diets). And they are curious about how they should break up their protein intake during the day.
In the example of targeting 120 grams of protein a day, they are asking, is there a difference between eating say four meals of 30 grams of protein each, versus three meals of 40 grams each, versus 2 meals of 60 grams… and so on.
What is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is the process of building new skeletal muscle. Of course, if you want more muscle, you need muscle protein synthesis!
This is why many studies look at measuring muscle protein synthesis – maybe after protein consumption or a workout. The problem is that muscle proteins are constantly in a state of turnover. They are constantly broken down and then rebuilt.
This means how much muscle mass someone has is actually a balance between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. This is also why looking at Muscle Protein Synthesis alone does not predict the change in muscle mass on one’s body.
How Does Protein Timing Affect Muscle Protein Synthesis?
As mentioned above, many research studies have measured MPS. They have often put test subjects through a workout and then given them a post-workout protein shake after the workout to measure MPS.
They are trying to identify whether those who consume protein have greater MPS rates versus those that got the placebo, as well as determining how much protein results in maximum rates of muscle protein synthesis.
The idea is that this could help athletes better plan their protein timing during the day to optimize their physique or performance.
If you want to learn whether protein timing is critical to maximizing muscle protein synthesis, as well as increasing muscle mass and improving performance, listen to this episode of The Consistent Project (links above).
We talk about all the commonly cited studies, their weaknesses, and what you really have to do to reach your goals.