Fat Loss

Protein: How Much, Timing Around Exercise + Why You Need MORE as You Age

by Mike Mutzel

1 comment

Let's take a deep dive into protein, how much you need for your bodyweight, muscle gain, fat loss and why aging increases protein requirements.



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Studies Mentioned:

Morton, R. W. et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br. J. Sports Med. 52, 376 (2018).
Cava, E., Yeat, N. C. & Mittendorfer, B. Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss. Adv. Nutr. 8, 511–519 (2017).
Aragon, A. A., Tipton, K. D. & Schoenfeld, B. J. Age-related muscle anabolic resistance: inevitable or preventable? Nutr. Rev.81, 441–454 (2022).
Snijders, T. et al. The Impact of Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion on the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise in Humans: An Update. Front. Nutr.6, 17 (2019).

Time Stamps:

00:00 Intro

0:17 Protein Deep Dive

0:22 Protein thresholds

1:04 Protein, muscle and weight loss

1:32 Strength and mortality

2:23 RDA for protein is low

3:32 Protein targets for healthy people

4:39 Pre-exercise protein

5:27 Creatine

6:43 Protein intake for all ages

7:27 Important table to consider

8:02 Over 65 need more protein

8:45 Protein timing for muscle gain

10:00 Protein around exercise

10:12 Pulse VS even distribution

12:21 Protein pulse as you get older

13:29 Pre-bed protein

15:29 Protein and diabetes

16:17 How much protein you need based on age, health status

Podcast Transcript:

– Let's take a deeper dive into protein. How much protein do you need to consume to optimize muscle growth and prevent muscle loss, especially as you age? How much protein should you have if you're trying to lose body fat? I think this is really important to acknowledge that higher protein diets help to prevent muscle loss associated with weight loss. We know that weight loss is going to cause some loss of lean body mass, specifically protein.

So what are the protein thresholds and targets? And what about protein timing? Eating one meal a day or two meals a day, versus having evenly spread out distributions of protein? And we're also gonna touch on muscle quality and obesity and why it's really important to lose our body fat, because as you get more overweight, fat gets infiltrated in your skeletal muscle, and this leads to a lot of problems including muscle loss, loss of strength, and also functional changes within the muscle metabolic changes, because your muscle is really a glucose sponge.


And if you have marbled fat-like muscle, then the metabolic characteristics of your muscle are problematic. We're gonna draw data from many different studies.

One of the studies that I think you should definitely download, and I'll put it in the show notes below, is titled, “Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss.” It's a really easy read. A lot of good research that we're gonna share with you today comes from this article. And the scientists talk about why muscle quality and strength are really important. So as your muscles become more marbled-like, because you're not using them, you're a little bit overweight or obese, your strength is compromised. And as you lose the weight, even if you lose a little bit of muscle during that weight loss process, you start to decrease the amount of fat content in the muscle.

Now, strength is really important. We've talked about strength in many other videos, how it's independently associated with all-cause mortality and deaths from all-causes, specifically cardiovascular disease. And the more fat you have in the muscle, the more compromised your strength is. Now you know that strength is really important because it will help keep you out of an assisted living facility and help you live independently. People who have low glute strength are more likely to die after they have a hip fracture or a fall. We know that people can't participate in the activities of daily living if they're not strong. And so this is a great impetus for you to start to lose some of that fat, the belly fat around the middle and prioritize protein.

We're gonna talk about the importance of protein to carbohydrate ratios and why the RDA is insufficient. The recommended daily allowance of protein is only 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For me, I'm around 185 pounds, about 85 kilos, so that would be about 65 grams of protein per day. Now, I have that before 2:00 PM in most days, and I spread out my protein throughout the day. I've tinkered with OMAD and this, we'll get into that shortly. But it's important to acknowledge that higher protein diets are linked with increased muscle protein synthesis, especially if you are doing resistance training.

And we're gonna focus in on this article here, “A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults.” Now this study, this meta-analysis, drew data from 49 different studies involving over 1,800 participants showing that dietary protein supplementation significantly increase changes in strength. One rep max, free fat mass, that is muscle mass, muscle size and muscle cross-sectional area, looking at the femur, looking at different parts of the body, finding that protein supplementation on gains in free-fat mass was reduced with increasing age and was more effective in resistance trained individuals.

Protein supplementation beyond protein intakes of 1.6 grams per kilogram per day resulted in no further resistance exercise training-induced gains in muscle mass. So what you heard right there is as you get older, the effects of protein are a little bit muted, which is why you should actually be consuming more protein as you get older, especially if you're resistance training. So we're gonna talk about what the scientists find. And they say, “That this is the largest meta-analysis on interventions including dietary protein supplementation with muscle and strength-related outcomes during prolonged resistance exercise training to date.

Our main finding was that dietary protein supplementation augmented resistance exercise training-induced increases in one rep max strength and free-fat mass, which is muscle mass. For changes in free-fat mass, dietary protein supplementation was more effective in resistance trained individuals.” Let's pause and talk about the significance of that. If you are resistance training, you should have more protein. I see so many people going to the gym, and what do they have for lunch? They have celery sticks and carrots and half of an avocado. There's no protein in there. There's little protein in quinoa or a sandwich.

You should be having six to eight eggs. You should be having grass-fed beef, ground beef, tuna, fish. You should be optimizing protein, especially before training in the, you know, four to six hours before training to make sure you have enough amino acids in the tank to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Now, the scientists conclude, “Our data show that dietary protein supplementation is both sufficient and necessary to optimize resistance exercise training adaptations in muscle mass and strength.” So again, really important to talk about. Well, how much protein should you be aiming for? We're gonna talk about different considerations for different situations, such as if you're elderly, bedridden, depending upon your age.

But first, I just wanna welcome you back. Thank you for being here. Thanks for hitting that like button. If you're enjoying this content, please share this with a friend to better help them understand protein. We're gonna talk about some of the myths around protein, such as does it increase glucose levels and cause you to be diabetic? And what about protein and cancer? We're gonna talk about all that very soon. But first, friends, one nutrient that might help your exercise sessions is creatine. This is one of the most widely studied and widely used ergogenic aids around exercise. One way to optimize creatine absorption and utilization is pairing creatine with electrolytes. And we've done that for you over at Myoxcience. It's one of the only electrolytes that comes with creatine, over 2.6 grams of creatine. You get real salt, you get magnesium, you get taurine as well as potassium. This is a great pre or intra-workout product. It actually works. There's close to 700 reviews from people just just like you over at Myoxcience.com. There's different versions. There's a stick pack and a powder, depending upon the source of delivery that you prefer. You can check out the reviews and see what other people are saying and how they're using this to optimize their exercise sessions, especially if you're not eating red meat, because creatine is highly found most concentrated in red meat. And if you're a vegan, a vegetarian or don't like red meat, you like a lot of chicken, you should consider a creatine supplementation. So check out Myoxcience.com. That's M-Y-O-X-C-I-E-N-C-E.com and save with the code, podcast, on the novel creatine containing Electrolyte Stix, which I will link below.

So getting back to a recent review on what are the targets, what are the thresholds depending upon your age and your situation health-wise? This review titled, “Age-related muscle anabolic resistance: inevitable or preventable?” by Alan Aragon, Kevin Tipton, and Brad Schoenfeld. And what they say is, “For healthy individuals over the age of 65, they should optimize protein. In fact, individuals with acute or chronic illnesses should have higher protein compared to healthy people, because if you have a chronic illness, autoimmunity, asthma, diabetes, you're obese, you need more protein because you're in a state of cachexia and you are more susceptible to developing sarcopenia or muscle loss.” And so what are these goals here? What they say here, and this is based upon data and evidence, this is just a narrative review paper, but they're drawing upon all sorts of evidence here that have been referenced in this particular narrative review.

And you can see in this table one, you can see these images right here. “Individuals with acute or chronic illness should aim for 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.” Now, what dietician on planet Earth, mainstream dietician is promoting this? We have this in the evidence, but you have dieticians recommending cookies, waffles and french fries for people with chronic illness. And we should be really increasing or prioritizing protein. So that's important to recognize.

Protein requirements for individuals who are older should be 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram. So people over the age of 65 should actually be having more protein, not less, which is pretty much the opposite of what most people do. A lot of people in their 60s and 70s, they have soups and they have salads, and they have a lot of veggies and things like that, and they look emaciated. They are at risk for bone loss and muscle loss. And these people should be having more protein. And if they can't consume it from their diet, they should be supplementing with that. We're gonna talk about a study very soon that found that in resistance trained elderly people, if they have a whey protein shake after they exercise, they build more muscle. And so I think that's really important to acknowledge.

In fact, I'll share with you that study right here by Esmark et al evaluated the effect of protein supplementation in older men who participated in a 12-week resistance exercise training program, and were asked to consume a protein supplement either immediately after or two hours after exercise. They found that the cross-sectional area of the quadriceps and its mean myofiber area, increase in subjects who consume the supplement immediately after exercise, but not in those who consumed it two hours after exercise. So timing, it appears, actually matters. Now going back to the systematic review. I know I'm bouncing around a little bit here, so just hang with me.

We're gonna get to some practical nuts and bolts. I wanna focus on the elderly, because this is a group that I think needs this information. 29 different studies and the scientists say, “Older adults are anabolically resistant and require higher pre-meal protein doses to achieve similar rates of muscle protein synthesis. The primary variable regulating changes in skeletal muscle mass compared with younger participants. The average supplemental daily protein dose given to older participants was surprisingly low, just 20 grams per day.

Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that we did not find older individuals were responsive to protein supplementation, which is important.” So, you know, if you're only giving someone a protein supplement that has just 20 grams of protein per day, that's insufficient. So again, if you are vegan, if you eat mostly chicken, you have 60, 70 grams of protein per day, you know, beyond 60, you should be aiming at least for 30, 40 grams in a protein supplement, especially around exercise. Now, let's talk about protein timing.

I just shared with you that study by Esbjerg et al, but let's talk about how the distribution of protein actually impacts muscle protein synthesis, especially in young people, but possibly not elderly people or older people. So the scientists say, “Distribution of protein intake over the day has been shown to be an important factor to maximize daily muscle protein synthesis rates, and as such, to optimize muscle reconditioning. A balanced distribution of daily protein intake over three main meals has been shown to result in a higher 24-hour muscle protein synthesis rates when compared with an unbalanced distribution, in which protein is consumed mostly at dinner.” Now, why do I emphasize this? Well, many people who just hear about intermittent fasting, what do they do? They fast all day and have this massive dinner. And that might be helpful for dropping glucose, for curbing cravings, for getting increasing appetite satiety mechanisms.

Fasting has a lot of benefits, but the downside of this is you're just getting a bolus dose of protein right before you go to bed. And if you're exercising, which you should be, you may not be sufficiently optimizing muscle protein synthesis. So I think it's really important for people to actually adhere to what's known as early time restricted feeding where you start eating earlier in the day, but you stop eating earlier as well. And so your last meal might be 4:00 or 6:00 PM. You go to bed at 10 o'clock and then you eat maybe starting at 10:00 AM, so you're really still getting that fasting window in there and all the health benefits linked with that, but at least you're starting your day off with protein so that when you start exercising, you have some leucine, isoleucine, valine, glutamine, all the essential amino acids to help to optimize muscle protein synthesis.

Okay, so let's talk about the OMAD and, you know, maybe two meals a day, versus evenly distributing this over three meals. Two randomized clinical trials in healthy middle-aged and older adults found no benefit of even compared with skewed protein intake on whole body protein balance and muscle protein synthesis during weight maintenance, and fat-free mass retention during weight loss therapy, even though total protein intake was greater in the even group compared with the skewed protein intake group. Now, this is important to acknowledge because even though the even protein group consumed more protein in these middle-aged or elderly people what they found is that there was no differences if it was even or skewed in middle-aged or elderly people.

So it seems that younger people, because there's more anabolic hormones, potentially, actually might do better with more even distribution of protein over three meals a day. Whereas elderly people, middle-aged people, it may not matter so much if you just spread it out over say two meals a day. Now, many people I know who are into low carb or carnivore, ketogenic dieting, things like that, they're having one or two meals a day and they appear to be thriving in that feeding window context. But for younger people such as young athletes, high school athletes, collegiate athletes, people in their 20s, it appears that they might benefit from more even skewing.

And then as you get older, maybe you can just pair this down to a bolus dose of one or two meals to get your protein goals in those meals. So for my threshold, I try to have 100 to 120 grams of protein per day. I do that usually over two meals, and on days that I do resistance training or a lot of exercise, I will have a grass-fed whey protein shake in there from Myoxcience. So that's just what I personally do. It seems to work for me. Figure out what works for you. We'll talk about nightly dosing protein before bed, whey protein, especially if you're new to resistance training or you've been doing this chronically for a long time, there's some benefit there.

Now, there's two different studies we also have to draw upon and this was these protein pulse feeding studies where individuals were ingesting 80% of their daily protein intake in just one meal compared with evenly distributed protein intake, increase whole body nitrogen retention in healthy elderly, but not young women, and increase fat-free mass retention in malnourished, hospitalized elderly patients was observed. So again, as people get older, you might be able to have just one big meal per day or two fairly large meals per day and get your protein requirements solved and not lose muscle mass. And so this is where an early time or shifted feeding protocol might help, especially if you're over the age of say 45 or 50, but it may not help in the young.

Okay, now let's talk about having protein before bed. So for example, you're young, you're trying to build muscle or you're struggling with muscle mass gains or strength gains, but you're also embarking on a resistance exercise training program. There might be some benefit to having pre-sleep protein in the form of a grass-fed whey protein shake before you go to bed. Now this review paper titled here, “The impact of pre-sleep protein ingestion on the skeletal muscle adaption response to exercise in humans: An update.” Now in this paper they review all the evidence finding that protein ingestion before sleep is an effective nutritional strategy to preserve muscle mass in the elderly, especially when combined with resistance exercise training.

So there is good evidence for this, there's pretty good, you know, research studies supporting the fact that you having a protein shake before you go to bed might optimize the anabolic response in the window, especially if people have chronic illness going on where you wanna optimize muscle protein synthesis and prevent cachexia or muscle loss. Now, let's talk about some controversy here. People think, well, protein and cancer, protein and glucose and diabetes.

Now one of the papers that people often cite here is this article in 2000 titled, “The effect of long-term dietary protein intake on glucose metabolism in humans.” It has been cited quite a bit in the literature. And essentially what they found is that people that were consuming 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day over the course of six months had worse glucose parameters compared to people that were consuming just 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram per day over the course of six months. Now, 1.8 grams per kilo was on the high end. Many of the studies that I have studied herein, including the narrative review from Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon were looking at upwards of 1.6 grams per day and especially, and really only in people who either have a chronic health condition characterized by muscle wasting, or people who are embarking on serious resistance exercise training programs.

So if your average person who is not exercising is having 1.8 grams per kilogram of protein per day plus having a lot of other unhealthy foods, it doesn't surprise me that perhaps that might increase the risk of metabolic dysfunction. But there, again, is good evidence to find that the ratio of protein to carbohydrate intake in the diet is actually more important.

Here's a paper titled, “Protein-to-carbohydrate ratio is informative on diet quality and associates with all-cause mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2014.” Now this is really interesting, I think, because essentially what they found is people who have a low protein to carbohydrate ratio in their diet are at risk for increased all-cause and cause-specific mortality from a myriad of different conditions. And you can see here from both figure one and figure two here, you can see the hazard ratios for all-cause mortality based upon the protein to carbohydrate percentage as a percentage of the energy intake in the diet.

And what you see here is people, the lowest all-cause mortality is when people have four parts protein to one part carbohydrate. So it seems that if you're going to have a high protein diet then you should also be eating less carbohydrates based upon what I'm seeing. And these are nutrition surveys, food frequency questionnaires. This is not the best data, it's epidemiological data. However, I think it is quite interesting because you have tens of thousands of people filling out these surveys, you know, saying, “Hey, for breakfast I had grass-fed meat or I had Pop-Tarts or I had cookies,” you know? And so you can get some idea of maybe what's going on. We're not differentiating grass-fed beef versus not in this. And food frequency questionnaires have a lot of limitations.

However, you can see here a strong statistical association between a low protein to carbohydrate ratio, meaning you're having much more carbohydrates to protein or matching protein to carbohydrates, and its links with all-cause mortality. And the hazard ratio if it's zero. So if you're having mostly carbohydrates and no protein, the hazard ratio for all-cause mortality is three times higher compared to if you were having say four parts protein versus one part carbohydrate as a compilation of your dietary energy. Now what you see here in this curve is people who consume more than 40% of protein in their diet actually have significantly lower hazard ratios for all-cause mortality compared to people who consume just 15% of protein in proportion of their overall energy intake in their diet.

So again, I think we need to look at both the epidemiological data, and also look at what's been known in athletes and other people. Low protein diets, especially low protein to carbohydrate. If you're having a lot of carbohydrates and not much protein, that's probably not healthy. So I wouldn't really be super concerned about this 2000 study that didn't really talk about the relative amounts of protein to carbohydrates and the qualifying, the types of protein and who should be having 1.8 grams of protein versus just 8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. I would look at more recent studies finding that in fact the ratio of protein to carbohydrates in the diet is strongly indicative of future MELAS and disease. So again, there's so much to dive into here.

Essentially, if you're resistance training, you should be aiming for at least 1.1 gram per kilogram of ideal body weight, up to 1.6 grams of ideal body weight, especially if you're trying to actively lose weight. Because various studies show that when you start to wanna diet and lose weight and you're exercising more, you should actually increase, not decrease your protein. And as you get older, muscle protein synthesis rates decrease.

So you should be increasing your protein intake, especially if you have a health condition that is inflammatory in nature, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that is characterized by inflammation. We know that that inflammation increases muscle protein catabolism, muscle protein breakdown, and decreases muscle protein synthesis. So hopefully you found this video helpful. I would love to know in the comment section below if you did. Hit that like button, be sure to share this with a friend so they have the latest science on protein. I will link all these articles in the show notes that will be linked below. Thanks for tuning in. We'll catch you on a future one down the road.

  1. 72 years old, starting resistance training a year ago, noticing a huge difference since increasing my protein in take. my weight loss has seemed to slow down since starting the resistance training. had loss over 100 pounds the year before on calorie reduction. but weigh seems to be holding since starting resistance training?? would like to lose another 25-30 pounds but holding fairly steady, do i need to reduce calorie intake again? starting to notice increases in strength and definition but no weight loss.

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