Spreading protein intake more equally among breakfast, lunch and dinner was associated with greater muscle mass and strength (but not mobility) in healthy older adults compared to eating the majority of protein later in the day, says new research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers looked at data from 1,741 well-functioning adults (ages 67 to 84) in Quebec. Using three one-day recalls of food intake both at the start of the study and two years later, researchers assessed when and how much protein the people ate. That was compared with annual muscle strength and mobility tests for three years.
Because the study was observational, it can’t prove that eating good sources of protein at each meal was what was supporting muscle strength. And, it’s well-known that physical activity is needed to help keep muscles strong.
“We do know that older adults need to eat more protein at a time to stimulate their muscle-protein-building machinery, compared to younger people,” says Stphanie Chevalier, PhD, senior author of the study at McGill University in Montral, Quebec. “Including one or more protein-rich foods at every meal is a simple way to achieve this (but it doesn’t require a big portion—3 to 4 ounces of fish or chicken breast, for example, is adequate). Breakfast is usually the meal that contains the least protein, so think about including at least one protein-rich food, such as dairy products, eggs, tofu or quinoa.”
To learn more: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2017