When Is the Best Time to Eat Protein for Optimal Benefit?

Eat Protein: avocado and tofu salad

We know that protein is a key part of the mix of nutrients–including carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals—we need to stay healthy. Protein breaks down into amino acids that build, fuel and repair cells, and can help fend off disease and infection. Foods high in protein curb hunger and weight gain and are essential to power your day. Find protein naturally in whole foods like grains, seeds and legumes. For a handy and tasty source of plant-based protein, try Munk Pack’s protein cookies.

Experts Say We Need More Protein

Most of us do not eat enough protein, according to a Protein Summit of more than 40 dietary experts who met in Washington D.C. in 2013. Reports suggest we should consume up to twice the government’s recommended daily amount (RDA) for protein to achieve optimal health benefits. So, instead of the RDA’s 10 percent of total calories for protein, adults should consume 15 to 25 percent of their total calories in protein. Experts at the Protein Summit recommend that you space out your protein intake across the day, to include all three meals as well as snacks. So, when is the best time to eat protein for the maximum benefit? That depends on your health goals—whether you are trying to lose weight, build muscle or maintain muscle strength.

Best Time to Eat Protein to Lose Weight

A high-protein diet can help boost your metabolism and curb appetite. Include lean and plant-based protein with every meal. High-protein plant sources as beans, soy and green leafy veggies are great options.

A high-protein snack between meals can help reduce your appetite—and calories consumed—in the next meal. Instead of a bag of chips or a candy bar, try a cup of coconut milk yogurt or a Munk Pack Protein Cookie.

Pre- and Post-Exercise: Supporting Performance and Recovery

Experts generally recommend avoiding eating immediately before a workout so you don’t experience GI issues when muscles compete with your stomach trying to digest food.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should eat protein and carbs one to three hours before a workout, depending on your body’s tolerance. Pre-workout options include:

After exercise, your body needs to replenish fuel and repair muscles. Carbs will replace the fuel, while protein rebuilds and repairs muscles. Try to eat within 15 minutes after an intense workout. Post-workout options to consider:

  • Hummus and veggies in a whole-grain wrap
  • TLT: Tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich
  • Munk Pack Protein Cookie

Eat More Protein at Breakfast and Bedtime to Prevent Muscle Loss

Research shows that as we age, we lose as much as 3% to 5% muscle mass per decade after age 30. In older adults, loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia, can contribute to falls and bone fractures. Spreading protein intake across the day can help to prevent muscle loss. Because most of us eat more protein later in the day, experts recommend increasing protein at breakfast to 25-30 grams to help even out protein intake. For example:

  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • Top with ¼ avocado, tofu scramble, and 3 tsp hemp seeds

Similarly, eating more protein before bed can help to supply protein for muscle recovery over-night. A handful of nuts before bed, particularly for older adults, may be beneficial.

Whether you are looking to lose weight, maximize your workouts or preserve muscle mass, it’s important to consume at least 15 to 25 percent of your total calories in protein, spread out over your day. Wise timing of protein consumption can help enhance your health and wellness. As with any major dietary changes you are contemplating, check first with your health care provider.

To learn more about Munk Pack protein cookies, visit munkpack.com.

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