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The Best Time To Eat Protein

By:  Maria Viall CHHP, CNP, ROHP

It is well known that protein is a necessary macronutrient the body needs to maintain health. Proteins are the building blocks of the body due to its muscle building, repair and wound healing properties. Protein molecules help make up hair, tendons and even play a role in our cognitive health.

It’s safe to say, protein is a must in our daily diet. However, when you eat your protein can have an effect on your overall health as well.

Expert opinions on meal timing can vary drastically from 1 meal a day all the way to 6-8 mini-meals. What used to be a 3 times a day routine has now become an all day grazing event in terms of eating frequency. Some experts believe the “grazing culture” is correlated to increasing levels of obesity, blood sugar issues and sleep disturbances, as it causes the body to constantly be digesting nutrients which adds to increased internal stress to the body.

What we do know is a complete meal containing the macronutrients fat, fiber and most importantly, protein. Protein will help keep you feeling satisfied longer than either carbohydrates or fat. Adequate amounts at each meal help keep you from experiencing in-between meal “hanger” (anger caused by hunger), blood sugar dips and constant cravings.

This begins right away in the morning with your first meal of the day…breakfast. A recent study found that individuals who ate a breakfast high in whey protein reported less hunger and had lower post-meal blood sugar spikes. They even lost more weight than the groups that ate other foods for breakfast.

The conclusion was that whey protein has a significant role in decreasing levels of the hunger hormone grehlin, which is released by the stomach in response to low blood sugar levels.

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It sends signals to your brain that you’re hungry. Grehlin is suppressed following a meal, especially one high in protein.

So, if your current breakfast is a granola bar, bowl of cereal or perhaps black coffee, this may be attributing to that midday energy dip and afternoon carb craving. Implementing whey protein in the form of a shake or even added to oatmeal can give you that extra boost to keep energy, blood sugar levels and appetite stable.

Another study compared the results of eating equal amounts of protein at all three meals versus eating most of your daily protein at dinner. Interestingly enough, the group that consumed a steady percentage of protein at each meal showed an increase in the body’s ability to utilize the protein consumed.

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This may give some explanation to that less than restful sleep after a heavy 12 oz steak dinner. It might be smarter to schedule that business meeting at lunchtime rather than dinner.

At the same time, consuming some protein at your evening meal can decrease digestive stress and even help with muscle production.

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Choosing easier-to-digest proteins such as whey protein, lentils, beans or lean meats may be more beneficial at this time of day.

Starting your day off with a protein rich breakfast and consuming even amounts at each meal rather than eating a large amount at night, may have a positive effect on how you look and feel. It goes to show that getting the right amounts of adequate protein is just as important as knowing the most effective times to consume it can make a big difference in both your daily and overall health.

1 http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/endo-meetings.2016.DGM.11.OR12-3

2 http://jn.nutrition.org/content/144/6/876.full.pdf

3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27281811


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