Instead of loading up in one go, learn why it's important to dole out your daily dose of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner

By Rachael Schultz
Updated: May 17, 2018
Photo: Shutterstock/Lecic

Still protein loading post-workout? Your body will see more benefit if you spread those grams out over the course of the day rather than loading up at one or two meals. A new study analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who balance their protein throughout the day, eating some at each meal, were the best at eating protein for weight loss, either dropping more weight or maintaining consistently, than those who skimped on the nutrient at certain meals.

Researchers from the University of Missouri reviewed 24 studies on protein consumption and found that people who incorporated it at each meal, balanced throughout the day, saw the most weight loss benefits, including the loss of fat and the preservation of lean mass. (Doubling Up On Your Usual Total Intake Could Help, Too.)

Now, most people have no problem downing enough protein later in the day, since our dinners are normally centered around meat. But you should also start the day off strong. "Eating a protein-rich breakfast containing about 30 grams of protein leads to even greater satiety throughout the day and can reduce unhealthy snacking by improving appetite control," study author Heather Leidy, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition, said in a press release. (Convinced, but still need suggestions? Try these 10 High-Protein Breakfast Recipes That Aren't Eggs.)

Spreading your protein out can also lead to serious muscle gains. People who ate 30 grams of protein at breakfast lunch and dinner saw more muscle protein synthesis-or the building up of muscles-than those who ate less at breakfast and loaded up on the nutrient at dinner, according to a study in The Journal of Nutrition.

Leidy recommends the same-her study found that when people tried eating protein for weight loss, the most benefit came when people ate 25 to 30 grams with each major meal of the day. That's about one four-ounce chicken breast, one personal Greek yogurt with hemp seeds added, or one cup of quinoa. (If that sounds like a lot for one day, you could also try protein powder.) In addition to the weight loss, Leidy's team found this amount also helped keep triglycerides and blood pressure low, which helps boost your overall physiological health.

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