Why High-Protein Meals Are Key to Preserving Muscle Mass as You Age


Consuming protein matters—not just how much, but when, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham. In a study of 120 people of all ages, scientists found that those who spread their protein intake out equally for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are likely to experience less age-related muscle mass loss than those who skimped on breakfast and loaded up at dinner.

It’d be nice if you could compensate for a low-protein breakfast with a large steak at night, but it doesn’t work that way since your body can only store so much protein at one time. “To maximize muscle growth, you need 30 to 40 grams of protein per meal,” says lead study author Benoit Smeuninx. If you’re an active guy in your 50s and weigh around 175 pounds, he recommends 32 grams of protein at breakfast—roughly two eggs, a cup of yogurt, and a bowl of fortified cereal.

And don’t forget to hit the gym: “The most important stimulus for building muscle remains exercise,” he says. Aim for resistance training three days a week and at least 150 minutes (or five 30-minute sessions) of cardio conditioning weekly.

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