You often hear talk or read about the importance of breakfast. The ostensible reason for this emphasis on consuming breakfast is that you wake up with partially depleted energy stores, such as liver and muscle glycogen, and consuming a meal when you wake up serves to restore that depleted energy storage. Another reason is that blood glucose levels are often lower when you awaken, and eating can raise blood glucose levels. Studies show that your brain tends to work better throughout the day when you consume breakfast. On the other hand, it has become popular lately to skip breakfast. Many of the intermittent fasting programs work by eliminating breakfast so that you can fast for 12 to 16 hours. Others simply deny that breakfast is important for nebulous reasons. But according to past studies that examined the effects of properly spaced protein meals, eating breakfast can significantly boost the anabolic effects of exercise as long as sufficient protein is consumed in the breakfast. A recent study confirmed these findings in young men, the details of which will be discussed later in this article.
I recall one study published a few years ago that compared protein intake between young and older women. The study found that the younger women responded best to having smaller protein meals more often, while the older women appeared to respond better to having less frequent meals, as in only two meals a day. The explanation provided for this apparent protein meal paradox was that older women had a type of anabolic resistance to amino acid uptake, and consuming larger but less frequent protein meals tended to increase retention of protein in their bodies. In contrast, the younger women showed greater anabolic effects when consuming several small protein feedings at regular intervals that included a high protein breakfast. No matter how much protein you consume in one meal, the increased amino acid uptake into muscle lasts only about 2 1/2 hours. After that time, amino acids can continue circulating in the blood for up to five hours but aren't used to promote muscle protein synthesis because of the so-called "Muscle full" effect, where the muscle refuses to uptake amino acids derived from a meal after 2 1/2 hours. What this means in a practical sense is that the best type of protein meal distribution would involve ingesting protein about every 5 hours or so, and ingesting smaller amounts in each meal. That can be anywhere from 30 to 50 grams of protein, with the higher figure best for those over age 40.
Why ingest a meal every five hours when protein synthesis peaks in only 2 1/2 hours? This has to do with the relationship between the anabolic effects of protein and the breakdown of protein. When you tip the metabolic scales towards anabolic effects, such as increased muscle protein synthesis, the result is usually a greater degree of muscular hypertrophy or . . .