Guidelines on protein intakes for athletes are in the range of 1.2-1.7 protein·kg-1 body mass·day-1 (1). Practically the above recommendation would translate into 90-130gr of protein per day for a 75kg soccer player. However there are no established guidelines on what the respective intake should on a meal-to-meal basis. It has recently been demonstrated that muscle protein synthesis is optimized with 20 gr of ingested protein (2, 3). When higher amounts of protein were ingested these were ultimately either oxidized or excreted (2). Therefore in the above example the maximal rate of protein synthesis may be achieved with 20-25gr of protein intake in 4-6 meals. The main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) as well as the immediate post-exercise/post-game time are the obvious choices for protein intake. Post-exercise protein ingestion promotes maximal rates of protein synthesis (4) and ameliorates the exercise-induced symptoms of muscle damage (5).
A less explored opportunity for protein intake is before bedtime. It has been demonstrated that ingesting slow-releasing casein immediately prior to bedtime stimulated a greater overnight response of muscle protein synthesis (6), whilst providing a combination of casein and casein hydrolysate in a 1:1 ratio before bed time augmented strength gains over a 12-week period of resistance training (7).
Practically the even distribution of protein intake throughout meals and the inclusion of a protein snack before bedtime could augment the recovery process through optimization of protein synthesis and reduction of exercise induced muscle damage.
- Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM, Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2009; 41: 709-731.
- Witard OC, et al. Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise. Am J Clin Nutr, 2014: 99: 86-95.
- Moore DR, et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr, 2009: 89: 161-168.
- Churchward-Venne TA, Burd NA, Phillips SM. Nutritional regulation of muscle protein synthesis with resistance exercise: strategies to enhance anabolism. Nutr Metabol (Lond), 2012; 9: 40.
- Jackman SR, et al. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2010: 42: 962-970.
- Res PT, et al. (2012). Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012; 44: 1560-1569.
- Snijders T, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep increases muscle mass and strength gains during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in healthy young men. J Nutr, 2015; 145: 1178-1184.