For practical reasons, I would recommend that you eat about every 4-5. hours, which comes to about 5 meals a day – or 3-4 meals with 1-2 protein shakes between meals.
Alternatively, you could have 3 meals spread over 8-10 hours while following an intermittent fasting protocol. Protein intake should be distributed fairly evenly between meals, but I recommend that you consume a greater proportion of protein in the first 1-2 meals after exercise and during the last meal of the day.
Let’s look at two examples, given a daily protein intake of 200 grams.
Example with 4-5 meals a day
Breakfast / Meal 1: 25g
1h before training: 30g – possibly just before training: 10g BCAA
After training: 30g shake of MyoProtein, then another 40g at most 1-2h after exercise – or 70g if you eat a large meal immediately after exercise.
Before bedtime: 50g
Rest day (180g protein):
Breakfast / Meal 1: 50g
Meal 3: 30g
Meal 4: 30g
Before bedtime: 40g
Example with 3 meals a day
1-2h before exercise: 30g – possibly just before training: 10g BCAA
After training: shake with 30g MyoProtein, then 50g at most 1-2h after exercise – or 80g in one meal
Meal 2: 40g
Before bedtime: 50g
Rest day (180g protein):
Meal 1: 80g
Meal 2: 40g
Meal 3: 60g
Those who are parasympathetic dominant can have more high-fat sources of protein like red meat, salmon and eggs (and dairy if you tolerate that well). Wild game such as reindeer and elk are also good, while pork is not considered to be the best choice.
Those who are sympathetic dominant generally would stick to low-fat protein sources such as quark, cottage cheese, chicken, tuna, etc.
Fat plays an important role in the recovery, development, hormones, skin and cell structures. Despite the fact that free fatty acids, and especially certain saturated fatty acids, reduces insulin sensitivity – they have an additive effect on protein synthesis.
A study that illustrated this was done by Tipton and Wolfe. Three groups received either 237g of skim milk, 237g of whole milk or 393g of skim milk (equal in calories to the whole milk). Although there was more protein in the 393g serving of skim milk, the whole milk still led to higher protein synthesis. The researchers have no real explanation for this, but I have seen some related studies and received some tips from Wernbom, and the explanation seems to be related to aforementioned saturated fatty acids.
Another type of fatty acids are medium chain triglycerides, which are preferentially used as energy rather than stored as fat. Coconut fat contains almost 50% MCT, and is beneficial – especially for cooking. MCT can also be incorporated in pure form – see our webshop.
Mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially omega-3) generally increase insulin sensitivity which is also generally a good thing. The best sources of such fats are: olive and olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado, almonds, walnuts, peanuts / peanut butter (beware of allergies).
Finally, we have omega-3 fatty acids that are most easily obtained from fish oil (salmon, trout, mackerel).
Organic meat from grass-fed cattle is preferred, which has a much higher content of omega-3 and less inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. You can also find omega-3 eggs, with free-range eggs being the best option. Relatedly, a study has shown that consumption of 3 eggs per day resulted in better muscle growth and endocrine profile than consumption of 1-2 eggs (or none).
Practical guidelines for fat intake
For those who are parasympathetic dominant (P), have lower insulin sensitivity, or have higher body fat percentage, or simply have a lower activity level:
1 to 1.5 g fat per kg body weight – equivalent to 60-90g for a woman of 60kg and 90-140g for a 90kg man.
If you respond poorly to carbohydrates but requires a lot of calories, you can increase this up to 2g fat per kg body weight.
If you are sympathetic dominant (S), have higher insulin sensitivity, have a low body fat percentage, or simply have a higher activity level:
0.5-1g fat per kg body weight – equivalent to 30-60g for a 60kg woman and 45-90g for a 90kg man.
An even distribution between meals is preferable, but generally you can eat less fat earlier in the day or at meals with lots of carbohydrates, and more fat in the last 1-2 meals – or in the first few meals if you train late and therefore consume more carbs in the last meal of the day.
You can have more saturated fatty acids in the first meal after training and more mono and polyunsaturated fats in last few meals. For example, I like to eat red meat and / or eggs in the meal after exercise, and so a large portion of salmon or chicken with avocado and 1SS Vital Arctic Oil in the evening’s last meal.
Carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, which in turn increases insulin levels. Insulin has minimal direct effect on protein synthesis, but plays a “permissive” role for amino acids have the effect on protein synthesis.
And while inhibition of insulin also inhibits protein synthesis, supra-physiological doses achieved by ingesting a large amount of carbohydrates (your maltodextrin “recovery” shake) will not increase protein synthesis more than that achieved with slight elevated levels. Instead, amino acids (protein) yields the most dramatic effect.
What about protein degradation? Well, we know that sufficient elevation of insulin levels (30mU / L) can be easily be achieved with a standard meal, with no additional effect given with meals with high carbohydrate content. Even a whey protein drink of about 30g protein yields insulin levels that are about twice baseline (40-50mU / L).
Glucose will have some dampening effect on cortisol secretion, but acute and transient increase of cortisol is actually a normal physiological response to stress such as mobilising energy. It is chronically elevated levels can cause problems.
While carbs lessen cortisol secretion, this isn’t a call to start chugging down dextrose shakes. Learning stress management, and regulating your exercise volume and intensity would be much more helpful with managing cortisol over-secretion. Those who are sympathetic dominant (S) must be especially careful with the amount of exercise performed, and ensure sufficient carbohydrate intake during periods of high stress and exercise.
Finally, I must emphasise that carbs do NOT make you fat, and that you do NOT get fat by eating carbohydrates before bedtime.
These are persistent myths based on misinterpretation of studies, many on rats and mice. In humans, carbohydrates don’t get converted to fat so easily. It requires large amounts over several days and / or an artificially low fat intake (less than 10%) for this to happen.
The reason you put on fat is simply due to a high caloric surplus. Simplistically speaking, eat fat and you burn fat, eat carbs and you burn carbs. For a more detailed explanation, read ‘Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Storage and Nutrient Oxidation‘ by Lyle McDonald.