Everyone knows it’s worthwhile to get a 20-gram dose of protein immediately after training. What you might not know is that you can get even greater gains from consuming a high-protein meal every 3 hours.
A study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism compared the effect of three protein-feeding models after an intense resistance training workout on protein synthesis and whole body protein breakdown—basically a measure of how catabolic or anabolic you are.
All three groups took a total of 80 grams of whey protein over 12 hours starting with immediately after training. One group broke the 80 grams into eight 10-gram doses taken every 1.5 hours. The second group took four 20-gram doses every 3 hours. The third group took two 40-gram doses, with one post-workout and the second after 6 hours.
The results revealed two significant points: First, 10 grams is not a large enough dose to offset protein breakdown or optimally rebuild muscle and lean tissue after training, even if it’s taken in a pulse format every 1.5 hours. You need a larger dose all at once. The 20-gram dose taken every 3 hours produced a better balance between protein breakdown and synthesis after the workout.
Second, a large total protein dose is necessary over the course of a day, but a 20-gram dose is adequate per feeding or “meal.” You don’t need 40 grams, especially if you are eating high-quality protein every few hours post-workout.
It’s reasonable to think you can individualize your diet in whatever way makes you feel most energized as long as you achieve a 20-gram “threshold” dose of protein at every meal. If you feel best getting solid protein, you can eat your 20 grams.
Avoid fasting for periods longer than when you are asleep, and shoot for getting 5 or 6 meals over the course of the day.