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Eating protein three times a day linked to greater muscle strength

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As we get older, loss of muscle can lead to frailty, falls or mobility problems. One way of countering this is eating protein three times a day, according to new research.

Protein is key to building and maintaining all types of body tissue, including muscle. That’s because it contains amino acids, the building blocks used for muscle growth. If protein intake decreases, the synthesis is not done correctly and this leads to a loss of muscle mass.

However, protein intake should be spread equally across the three daily meals for maximum benefit, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Many seniors, especially in North America, consume the majority of their daily protein intake at lunch and dinner,” explained lead author Dr. Stéphanie Chevalier, a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and an assistant professor at the School of Human Nutrition at McGill University. “We wanted to see if people who added protein sources to breakfast, and therefore had balanced protein intake through the three meals, had greater muscle strength.”

The research team analysed data from a longitudinal study on nutrition and ageing called NuAge, which included nearly 1,800 people who were followed for three years. They reviewed the protein consumption patterns of 827 healthy men and 914 healthy women aged 67 to 84 years, looking for links with variables such as strength, muscle mass or mobility.

“We observed that participants of both sexes who consumed protein in a balanced way during the day had more muscle strength than those who consumed more during the evening meal and less at breakfast,” said the first author of the study, Dr. Samaneh Farsijani, a former PhD student supervised by Dr. Chevalier.

The results also showed, however, that there was no association between the distribution of protein throughout the day and people’s mobility.

“A longer-term investigation of the role of protein intake and its distribution on physical performance is warranted, as well as intervention studies, to support future recommendations,” the researchers concluded.

https://muhc.ca/newsroom/article/eating-protein-three-times-day-could-make-our-seniors-stronger

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2017/05/17/ajcn.116.146555.abstract