50% off Strength programs

Fuel Your Strength 396 - Should Protein Be Spread Throughout the Day

Should Protein Be Spread Throughout the Day?

By now, you have probably heard me talking about the importance of protein intake, especially for female athletes over 40.

But it is much more nuanced than just hitting your protein numbers.

Spreading your protein intake throughout the day will help you trigger protein synthesis and avoid operating in a state of protein breakdown.

Click play to listen right on this page, no app is needed:

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher

Want a free week of strength workouts? Click here to get started!

If You Want to Spread Your Protein Out Throughout the Day:

  1. Work with a coach who understands how much fuel you need to support your training and goals
  2. Understand how protein synthesis and protein breakdown work in the body
  3. Pay attention to your amount of protein throughout the day and properly fuel for your training

Why Balanced Protein Intake Matters

When it comes to triggering the process of muscle protein synthesis, ending with a positive muscle protein balance, or being in an anabolic building state, how you spread out your protein throughout the day does really matter. 

When there is not enough energy available to your body, the overall net balance of your system is shifted towards protein breakdown and puts you in a negative balance state. As female athletes over 40, we are already more susceptible to struggling with losing muscle mass over time, which is why it is key to align our fueling, nutrition, and training for optimal results.

Putting Knowledge Into Action

Understanding the science behind protein recommendations matters, but it’s equally important to know how to navigate all of this information.

I want to help you think about your own daily habits and patterns so that you can make the changes in real life, which is not always so easy to do. 

The point is not to be perfect or to be stressed out about every single gram of protein. But it’s also helpful to grasp performance nutrition and and mindset pieces that can come up.

It’s time to fuel differently and rethink the way you view your training and nutrition.

My goal is to equip you with the knowledge and know-how to implement these systems into your life and build habits and processes around them.

Are you ready to rethink the way you view protein intake and include more opportunities in your daily life to get your muscle synthesis going? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Learn about positive protein balance, and why it is a foundational understanding you need to have (6:05)
  • The two main phases of building muscle that take place in a trigger threshold system (11:05)
  • Why you need to understand muscle protein synthesis to comprehend the importance of specific amino acids (14:08)
  • What a skewed distribution of protein can look like, why it is not optimal, and how to do it better (21:50)
  • Practical ways that you can implement your protein knowledge (28:34)


“It is important that we understand, especially as women over 40, that we need to strength training, and we need to eat enough, particularly enough protein so that we keep ourselves in as much of a positive protein state or an anabolic state as possible.” (9:12)

“When it comes to the muscle protein synthesis process, we really need to think about getting enough of a very specific and very special amino acid.” (13:40)

“Protein distribution here is a close second to total protein in terms of how important it is when it comes to protein energy balance.” (17:39)

“This isn’t just about vanity muscles yall. Okay, it’s like cool to feel strong and badass and lift heavy shit and have muscles and flex your biceps, that’s all great. But it’s also about quality of life, independence, longevity, metabolism, metabolic health; this is so so critical.” (21:42)

“The best time to make change, if it wasn’t 10 years ago, if it wasn’t six months ago, the best time to make change is now.” (33:08)

Featured on the Show

Apply for Strength Nutrition Unlocked Program

International Society of Sports Nutrition

Follow Steph on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Pinterest

I’d really love it if you would take 1 min and leave us a rating and review on iTunes!

Podcast production & marketing support by the team at Counterweight Creative

Support the Podcast

Get 20% off Legion Supplements with code STEPH

Get your first month of Whoop free ($30 off)

Save 10% off GORUCK with code FUELYOURSTRENGTH

Follow Steph on Instagram

Rate and review on Apple Podcasts

Related Episodes

FYS 375: Strength Training Changes for Peri-Menopause and Post-Menopause with Dr. Stacy Sims

FYS 376: Post-Menopause, Fasting, and Low Carb in Athletic Women with Dr. Stacy Sims

FYS 393: 3 Ways to Increase Your Metabolism as an Athlete

FYS 394: Within-Day Energy Deficit 

FYS 395: How to Calculate Your Daily Protein Needs

Should Protein Be Spread Throughout the Day? Transcript

Chances are, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re an active athletic woman over 40, who is trying to pack on as much muscle as possible, increase your strength and improve your performance both in and out of the gym. So a lot of people asked me, does it matter how I spread my protein intake across the day? As long as I’m getting enough? In this podcast, which is one of a multi-part series on protein intake, we’re going to be answering exactly that question and reviewing as we go along. What are the biggest priorities with protein intake? And what are the things that you probably don’t have to worry as much about as you’re trying to sort all of this out for yourself?

If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hardship, the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery, and why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go.

Protein Distribution for Athletic Women Intro

Welcome to the show. I’m so glad that you’re here with me today. Thanks so much for tuning in the Fuel Your Strength Podcast. Today on the show, we’re going to be diving into this question which I get a lot, frankly, from people in my community, which is can you help me understand all of this protein stuff that everybody keeps talking about? Like what are the things that really matter? When it comes to protein intake, what is less important, and how you can start wading through all of this information? Now, if you haven’t yet listened to the previous episode, we really went into looking at daily total amounts of protein for active, athletic women who are trying to build muscle and increase their strength and performance with that context given.

So if you haven’t yet heard that show, definitely go back and listen to that one first. Because it’s really going to give you some overarching broad brushstrokes that you should understand first before you really dive into this second-tier priority, which we’re going to look at today, which is protein distribution across your day. Now, before we go any further if you’re listening on your favorite podcast app, hit that subscribe button. And if you’re watching on YouTube, hello. I have had to record this episode three times. And I think I’ve finally sorted out what’s going on with my camera and the podcast mic, and you know, I might have, I might be a 10-year entrepreneur at this point, running my own online business but there are still things that I’m learning.

So I’m glad to be back on YouTube and posting more videos there. So if you would prefer to watch and listen and see my ridiculous facial expressions, then definitely head over to my YouTube channel. Hit subscribe there and ring the bell for more notifications. Did I get that call to action? Right? I hope so. All right.

Apply for Strength Nutrition Unlocked

So before we do anything else, as well remember, strength nutrition unlocked is my signature program, it is here to help you, especially if you are over 40. And you’re trying to make heads or tails of all of this stuff and really put it in a cohesive system that gives you the most important things to work on. And it all goes together. So if you’re like I’m trying to figure out how to fuel for the kind of training that I do, and I am not the same body that I was when I was in my 20s and I know I can’t do that stuff anymore, then head over to StephGaudreau.com/apply. We will love to chat with you more about if you’re a great fit for the program. And hopefully, see you inside.

Spreading Your Protein Across the Day

Alright, so let’s go ahead and dive into this episode here all about protein distribution across your day. So remember, in order to understand protein totals, we had to go back to the previous episode where we looked at what current research says about active athletic women who are trying to build muscle to increase their strength, right? We want to make sure we are engaging in muscle protein synthesis enough and so of course if we’re not getting enough total daily protein, this stuff is less important how we divided up throughout The day however, it does matter, it does matter.

That’s the TLDR of this episode. And we’re going to be getting into that. So before we just dive into the rest of this, it’s important to understand protein distribution, particularly when we’re talking about muscle protein synthesis, contrasted or compared to muscle protein breakdown. So we stay, I’m going to say these terms a lot here on this episode. And we can also use other words to explain these things. Now, some people out in the world will just use fluffy words to kind of describe this. And you know what, I can’t help it is the science teacher in me, I believe that it’s important that we label things correctly. And also that we can understand slightly more technical terms.

And we know that there are multiple things that we can multiple words or terms we can use to describe similar things.

What is Muscle Protein Synthesis?

So let’s start off by looking at the idea of what is positive protein balance. So muscle protein synthesis is the process of essentially rebuilding and repairing your muscle mass synthesis, or synthesis means to make, right, so making muscle protein muscle protein synthesis. And if we looked at a transcript of this episode, we would probably say this term over and over again here, and in all these episodes about protein. When you rebuild and repair your muscle tissue, this process of muscle protein synthesis is is vital, right?

So we need to, after we train, especially strength training, lifting resistance training, we need to rebuild and repair any damage, any microscopic damage, sometimes it’s called Myo damage, MYO, that means muscle or any kind of microscopic tearing, you might have heard it described in that way. So we need that repair process to occur. And we want to be able to hopefully build more muscle, protein muscle fiber protein is what we’re really talking about. So what we want is a positive muscle-balanced state, or what is sometimes also called an anabolic response, or an anabolic state. Anabolic means building. A lot of people associate the word anabolic with anabolic steroids, which is one effect of anabolic steroids.

But we’re not talking about, you having to take anabolic steroids to have an anabolic response to the training that you’re doing. So we want to build we have to build, and if we don’t, we’re going to end up losing muscle mass over time. If there is not enough energy available to your body, and we’re talking about both protein and nonprotein energy to review from a previous episode is a carbohydrate, fat. And technically alcohol, although we tend to not discuss that in this setting here.

What is Muscle Protein Breakdown?

And so if there is not enough energy available to your body, then the overall net balance is shifted toward muscle protein breakdown, which is called a negative muscle balance state, or in other words, a catabolic response.

So catabolic, or catabolism, is the breakdown, anabolic, or anabolism is building and so sometimes we’re using these terms. So I understand that we’re using multiple words to describe these processes or these overall states. But it’s important that we understand, especially as women over 40, that we need to strength train, and we need to eat enough particularly enough protein so that we keep ourselves in as much of a positive muscle protein state or an anabolic state as possible because we’re already more susceptible to struggling with muscle mass and losing muscle mass over time, both as the natural aging process goes on.

But also as we experienced the loss of the hormone estrogen. So estrogen is going to be helping with muscle synthesis. So we start to lose that, especially through perimenopause, we have fluctuations after menopause or post-menopause, and that amount is quite low. So we need help from lifting weights and eating enough protein if we want to stay in a positive muscle protein balance, or we want to have enough muscle protein synthesis so that we’re overcoming any breakdown that occurs.

So let’s set the stage there. Now let’s talk a little bit more about muscle protein synthesis because we need to understand this if we’re going to comprehend the importance of specific amino acids in this process. So muscle protein synthesis is very energy dependent. We need a, as I said earlier, enough protein and enough nonprotein energy carbs, for the most part, for this balance to swing toward the muscle-building side, muscle protein synthesis side, we want to build muscle. I know I’m being repetitive here, but it’s really important that we understand this. So this is why some people sometimes you’ll hear people talking about carbohydrates being protein-sparing.

What Increases Muscle Protein Synthesis?

That’s why we also need enough carbohydrates, especially for strength training, we’re lifting heavy weights. So that we’re able to build the muscle protein that we want, we’re able to add muscle mass, right? Building muscle takes place in two main phases. And we’re going to talk about that here. So the first phase is called initiation means to begin. In, we’re gonna use an analogy here to help us understand. So imagine that we want to build a house. The initiation phase of building the house in this analogy would be gathering all of the tools and getting all of the materials together, before we start building, if we were going to make a recipe, maybe bake a cake, the same thing.

If you’ve ever done baking, especially, you know, it’s important to be precise, to have the right amounts of everything, you can’t just wing it like if you’re cooking. So whether we’re building a house or baking a cake, we’re going to be getting all of our tools and materials, our ingredients together, before we engage in the actual process of building the thing that we’re making. The second part is the elongation phase. So we need to initiate or start the process. And then we need to actually get the process running, we need to make the changes happen. So this is where the building takes place. And this part requires a lot of energy.

The Muscle Protein Synthesis Trigger

This is where we’re actually we’re taking the ingredients for our cake, we’re measuring them all out, we put them in the bowl or mixing them all together, we’re getting it in the oven for building a house, the same thing where you know, framing it out, we’re putting in the floors, we’re getting the roof on, we’re then going to go inside and do all the finishes and then make it look really pretty, right? Why are we talking about this, because muscle protein synthesis, the initiation, the beginning of this process, is what we would call a trigger threshold system, we need a trigger? And we need to hit a certain level of that trigger in order for this to happen. So the trigger has to be at that specific threshold to initiate the building and repairing of muscle.

If that trigger is below the required threshold, then we don’t have enough to we don’t have enough of a signal for muscle protein synthesis to really occur. So when it comes to the muscle protein synthesis process, we really need to think about getting enough of a very specific, very special amino acid. And we’re going to move into talking about that now. So, kind of, just to review, we really want to make sure we’re having more muscle protein synthesis than breakdown. And in order to get muscle protein synthesis going, we need a trigger. And we need enough of that thing to actually tip over to tip the threshold to get over the threshold to get this process to occur. And that’s going to help us go the rest of the way through the elongation process.

Does Leucine Increase Muscle Growth?

So let’s talk more about this very special amino acid, which is called leucine. And if you ever heard me talk about this about protein before, you’ve heard me talking to you about leucine. However, important note it is not the only amino acid that matters in this process. Okay? So, side note, right? So the trigger for the initiation phase is leucine. Leucine is one of the amino acids. It is one of the branched-chain amino acids. So there are three branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs. That’s what it’s called in shorthand, right? Acronym BCAA. branched-chain amino acid refers to the structure of the amino acid itself. As you can probably surmise, it is a branching structure. That doesn’t really matter for our purposes here, but you will hear it talked about quite a bit. The other branched-chain amino acids, in addition to leucine, isoleucine, and valine or valine, potato potahto, I learned it as valine.

So I don’t know, maybe that’s just my professors or where I grew up, but valine isoleucine, and leucine, three branched-chain amino acids, they are three of the nine essential amino acids. Okay, so I know this, we’re kind of talking about layers here. But the essential amino acids are the ones that we cannot make our bodies cannot make them, we need to eat them from food. So we can’t make them endogenously or in our body just from other ingredients, we have to eat them. So Leucine is one of the three branched genomic chain amino acids. It’s also one of the nine essential amino acids, which is very, very important.

Remembering, of course, I should have said these upfront amino acids are the building blocks of protein. So you need to reach what’s called a leucine threshold for muscle protein synthesis to actually begin and the leucine threshold is thought to be about three grams of Leucine per meal, we want to simplify it per eating experience, I don’t know what do we call it per meal, right? So we need about three grams of Leucine per meal, to reach the threshold so that we can get the rest of muscle protein synthesis going. After that, by the way, we need all of the essential amino acids for the elongation phase for the building phase, it’s not just enough to have leucine, it’s not just enough to have the three, the three branched-chain amino acids, we need all nine.

How Much Leucine Do You Need to Build Muscle?

And so this is where some of the claims about branched-chain amino acids get a little bit wishy-washy to me because what we really want to think about are the essential amino acids, not just the branched-chain amino acids, right? So leucine, the leucine threshold is why protein distribution here is a close second to total protein, in terms of how important it is when it comes to protein energy balance. And just as an aside, to get three grams, somewhere between two and a half and three grams of Leucine per meal, we’re looking at the equivalent of about six ounces of steak, or a four-ounce chicken breast. So a little bit more than some of the small protein servings that some of you are probably used to.

But this is not an insanely high amount, either, right? So yes, we talked about priority one is getting enough daily protein. But priority two, just as the second is how we distribute our protein throughout the day. So if we do not hit this, when we’re going to talk about this in a minute, that’s where we start getting into issues. And if you’re somebody who struggles to build muscle mass, I’m really looking at you here. And I want you to think about your own daily habits and patterns. So if you skip meals and I want to talk about some common patterns that I see, because it’s important that you hear some, real-world kind of examples. For somebody who skips meals, whether intentionally or otherwise, or eats very small portions of protein, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get enough protein in those meals to hit the leucine threshold. And so muscle protein synthesis will not be triggered. Now, do I think we have to stress out about snacks and all those things?

No, as long as we have enough main meals in the day where we’re hitting that leucine threshold. That’s just my opinion here. For most of you. That’s what’s going to matter most. But if you’re somebody who barely eats breakfast, and you get busy at lunch, and you’re in zoom hell and you’re falling down the black hole, that’s the middle of the day for a lot of us, you go train, and then you’re finally getting a chance to get protein in your dinner. Now we’re going to talk about why distribution matters in this case. So it is very common.

Simple is Not Always Easy

I know we talk a lot on this podcast about like, just eating more protein and it’s ‘yeah it is that simple’. But why are we having a whole series of podcasts on this topic? Because there’s a lot of nuances, and it’s not always easy to make a change in real life. This isn’t just about you listening to another fucking podcast? Right?! Oh, no other podcasts are talking about protein. No, we need you to then take that information. And this is, you know, evidence-based science-backed information. This is not just some random person on tic tac talking about barely eating any protein. So this is good information, but you still have to turn it into action, you still have to make it happen, you still have to build habits, you still have to get support, you still have to create systems, you still have to curate your environment.

All of that stuff is what we do in Strength Nutrition Unlocked. So that’s why just getting the information is only one piece of the puzzle here. So let’s talk about how a skewed distribution of protein and what that can look like for people and why it’s not optimal, especially if your priority or one of your main priorities is to build muscle mass, and get yourself situated as you’re going into your 40s and beyond. Because we know that sarcopenia muscle loss is an important and very detrimental piece of the aging process.

Skewed Protein Distribution

This isn’t just about vanity muscles gal like okay, it’s like cool to feel strong and badass and like lift heavy shit and have muscles and like flex your biceps. That’s all great, but it’s also about the quality of life, independence, and longevity. So metabolism like this is metabolic health. This is so so critical. So that’s why we’re really going into depth with this particular series. Alright, so now let’s talk about what a skewed protein distribution looks like. And then sort of how to do it better. Okay, I wanna I want you to have some takeaways. All right, so the typical pattern I see with a lot of clients when they come to work with me is that they have a very small amount of protein for breakfast, let’s just for the sake of ease, call it 15 grams. It’s not nothing. But it’s could it be better?

Yes. So 15 grams of protein for breakfast, 15 grams of protein for lunch. And then let’s say you’re trying to hit about 100 grams of protein in your day, which could be a decent goal for you depending on a lot of factors. I like to generally see my clients be higher than that. But a lot of that depends on the stuff we talked about in the previous episode. But let’s say we’re working with 100 100 grams a day. So 15, for breakfast, 15. For lunch, that leaves us 70 grams of protein at dinner, theoretically, we have hit our daily total, right, we’ve hit 100 grams. So we are able to consume 70 grams of protein at dinner, which a lot of you are going to, frankly struggle with.

Protein Distribution for Muscle Protein Synthesis

Because if you’re not used to eating a lot, there’s that and protein is very satiating. So especially for eating leaner proteins, that is going to stack up on you really, really fast, and you might not you might fall short of your total goal for the day, or your range for the day. If you try to cram it all in the last meal, it just is not ideal. So let’s assume that that’s the case here, then it’s about two-thirds of daily protein for the day that’s consumed in one meal, that meal, rewind your brain a little bit and think about what we talked about with triggering muscle protein synthesis, with giving us enough leucine to surpass the thresholds, we’re going to do it in that 70-gram meal. Even if it’s 20 grams, 20 grams, and 60 grams, we’re still going to exceed it in that dinner meal for sure.

Right. So this will give us enough for that meal. But because the trigger is all or nothing, and we need about three grams of leucine. In order to make that happen, what that likely means, especially if those first two meals of the day were very small is that we did not hit. We did not hit the threshold to really trigger muscle protein synthesis in the first two-thirds of the day. So and I talked about this in the previous episode, you know, when I ask people to recall if they’ve eaten enough protein, they tend to remember the dinner meal. The last thing that they ate and they’re like, Okay, yeah, eat a big dinner. I ate a lot of protein on my plate, but they forgot about lunch and they forgot about breakfast.

Actually, it was two episodes ago in the ‘Within-Day Energy Deficiency‘ episode. So definitely go back and check that one out. So it’s important to understand that when we’re not triggering muscle protein synthesis with those first two meals in our hypothetical example, this is going to delay things like muscle repair and muscle recovery, and potentially put us into a muscle protein breakdown. State for a good chunk of our day. Now for training in the morning, or training at noon, or midday, and then saving most of our protein for the evening meal, we still like catch, you know, we’re catching that window of recovery in the evening.

Why is Protein Distribution Important?

But it’s better if we’re able to put it closer to the actual point where we did our training. So I hear this, a lot of you over 40 are like I’m in the gym, I’m trying to lift heavy, and like nothing is happening. And a lot of times, it’s because you’re just spending a lot of time in a muscle protein breakdown state. And even when you get a little bit ahead, like you’re still in muscle protein breakdown state, and you compound that over months and years. And you can, you can understand why. Yes, it does, it does matter to some degree when we could spread our protein out. And of course, meeting the amount that we really need in order for, you know, enough daily protein, first and foremost. So if we are only spending the period after one meal, really, and that muscle protein synthesis, but the rest of the time is in muscle protein breakdown, you have an overall negative balance, we are catabolic, we are breaking down and breakdown is a normal part of the process.

We just want to exceed the rate of breakdown as often as possible, right through our habits through the things that we’re doing. So we don’t want to drift backward over time. Because again, it can contribute to the loss of lean mass, the, you know, declines in strength, difficulties with moving dynamically and quickly. Issues with balance and coordination. And yes, or a reduction in our basal metabolic rate. Especially if we’re over the age of 60, we do see some decline in our basal metabolic rate, but we can keep it as high as theoretically possible. If we’re able to keep our muscle tissue in our body that really, really helps. So a lot of times I hear from people who are frustrated, they’re like, my metabolism sucks.

My metabolism is broken. And over and over again, we go back to basics, basic, basic stuff, but impactful things like strength training, and, you know, making those efforts hard enough that we get adaptation, feeding ourselves enough protein, increasing our needs. And we talked about that in a previous episode all about metabolism, we can link it up. Okay. So what do we do instead?

Instead of doing 15 grams, 15 grams, and 70 grams, what do we do?

What is an Ideal Daily Protein Distribution?

Well, this is very well supported by a lot of different, you know, studies and organizational bodies across the world. I always go back to the ISSN, which is the International Society for Sports Nutrition, and in their 2017 position paper, they talk a lot about this. And really most, most authorities that know what they’re talking about on this subject are going to recommend what I’m about to talk about. So a more optimal protein intake distribution is to spread it out as evenly as possible across your main meals.

Hypothetically, let’s go back to our example of 100 grams of daily protein. Yes, we want to hit that total, but it’s even better if we’re able to do more evenly spread it out. So if we’re eating three main meals, that would be 33 grams, 33 grams, and 34 grams. Now, do we need to like stress about the tiny little minutia here? No, if it’s like 30-30, and forgive my mental math 40-30 30-40 That’s still okay. Right? Please don’t use this podcast as a reason to stress the fuck out over exactly even splitting. No one needs to go there. Just take the concept. Okay.

So if we’re able to do that, then each time if we’re eating a high enough quality source of protein, and we’re eating proteins that are rich in the essential amino acids, then we’re going to get enough leucine to trigger the process of muscle protein synthesis. Now once muscle protein synthesis is triggered, it tends to quote-unquote, run for one and a half to two hours before dropping back to baseline. And the drop back to baseline occurs whether there’s a constant supply of amino acids to the system or not.

How Much Protein Distribution for Muscle Gain

Because building muscle is such a resource-intensive process that it can only run in short bursts if you will. So by eating more evenly spaced protein-dense meals, with enough total energy, including carbs to support this process, really allows for muscle protein synthesis to happen at least a few times over a 24-hour period. This is why one of the reasons why we’re also not huge fans of long fasting periods, constant day in and day out for female athletes over 40. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of we’re trying to pack on as much muscle as we can. And I say pack on y’all probably envisioning being an elite level of bodybuilder.

And, of course, we know that that’s generally going to take an extreme amount of effort, most people are not going to be easy to build, it’s not easy to build muscle, it takes effort, it takes time, right takes the right training and puts takes the right nutritional inputs. It’s not rocket science, but also it’s just not something you’re gonna just oops, you know, it just happens on accident. When I say pack on, I just made me want to maintain as much muscle tissue as possible, and build as much as possible before we start to get into our later years or later decades. So if we are introducing more opportunities in our day, to get our muscle protein synthesis going, then this is going to make it more likely that our overall balance will be tipped in the favor of building muscle. Rather than breaking it down.

There’s nothing more frustrating to me and probably to you when I get the emails, and I get the DMS on Instagram. And I like I feel you because I was there. keep bumping into my water. I’m gonna move it.

Steph’s Past Nutrition Challenges

I was there, in 2002 and told the story probably 100 times in 2012. I was at the long end of endurance racing for eight years, I burnt out because I was under-fueling. And I just burnt out. And I then transitioned into CrossFit and strength training in 2010. And two years later, I realized, like, wow, I’m having a hard time recovering. I’m sore all the time, like really sore uncharacteristically sore all the time. I mean, as an athlete, you get to know soreness in your body and like, what’s normal and what’s not. Something was not right. And it really had caught up to me. And when I hired a nutritionist, a sports nutritionist to help me. And we looked at what I was eating, and he was like, how are you not completely, like really fucked up from this because I like everything was really low except my fat intake.

Protein was low carbohydrates were low, overall daily energy was too low. And so I was in this high muscle protein turnover state. Now, this was 12 years ago, right? 1012 years ago. So you know, what I get it, I understand is that this is not stuff that we were taught. But the best time to make a change. If it wasn’t 10 years ago, but wasn’t six months ago, the best time to make changes is now to try to do a little bit better. Right, so don’t feel bad if you listen to this podcast, or like I just didn’t know, I didn’t know either. No one ever talked to me about how much protein my body needed to support the kind of training and athletic pursuits that I love.

It took me intentionally seeking out a coach, which by the way, I highly recommend, and I would love to work with you on this because you are going to need support. It’s not just seeing the numbers that you need to hit. There are going to be mindset challenges that come up along the way, I promise you. So work with someone who has experience in the field, who understands sports nutrition, and who has been there, right? Who has been in your shoes and understands what it’s like to be an athletic human? Alright, so a couple more things here. And we’ll wrap this up. If we wanted to look at like a per-meal protein amount because we talked about total daily amounts in the previous episode.

Protein Distribution Per Meal

Current research recommends that we aim for about .4 to .55 grams per kilogram of body weight, protein per meal. I know that was a mouthful. So again, .4 to .55 grams per kilogram of our body weight. That would be how much protein per meal. Let’s take a 70-kilogram human. This would be about 28 to roughly 39 grams of protein per meal. So let’s make life easy. Generally what this works out to be is 30 to 40 grams of high-quality protein in a meal across at least three meals a day. Because remember, we could get 30 grams in one meal. But then if we’re not reaching our daily total.

I mean, we’re falling short, right, we could do better. So it’s important that we spread it out and we get enough protein per meal that we’re really triggering muscle protein synthesis. And it’s also really important research is indicating more and more that the first meal of the day is probably the most important for this. And if you think about it, we’ve just slept all night, you’ve slept all night, you haven’t taken any food. And it’s important that if you’re going to especially get up and train, but just in general, that you’re getting protein earlier in the day, another case, for why time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting, or other forms of fasting, where you skip morning meals, you skip early day meals, is not ideal if our one of our goals is to build muscle to add strength.

And that’s probably you because you’re here listening to this show. And we also talked that talked about that a ton with Dr. Stacy Sims, on the podcasts that recently, more recently I did with her because she’s been on the show, like 2015. So this was I think, 2022 that we did another round of episodes with her. And we can link that up as well.

Summary of Protein Distribution for Athletic Women

Alright, so if you’re wondering, What does high-quality protein mean? Because I just said that I want you to stay tuned for the next episode because we’re going to dive into this topic a little bit. In this episode, we went a lot of places. Our main question was, does it matter if we distribute our protein evenly across the day? And we really concluded that, yes, it does matter. It’s not as critical as getting enough total daily protein overall. But when it comes to triggering the process of muscle protein synthesis, ending up in a positive muscle protein balance, or being in an anabolic state, a building state.

Yeah, it doesn’t matter. Right? So we talked about those things. What is the positive protein balance? How does leucine factor into this equation? Right, we really need to make sure we trigger the process of muscle protein synthesis by hitting that threshold, we talked about what a skewed distribution of protein could look like, and why is sub-optimal, again, especially if our priority is to build muscle is to add as much muscle mass as we humanly can. Without pharmaceutical intervention, let me just say that I mean, that’s what we’re talking about here, right? And we also talked about what is a more optimal spread way to approach protein intake throughout your day.

Finally, we talked about what that could look like on a per-meal basis. So the point is not to be perfect here. And like I said, you might be listening to this show and think, Alright, well, I know what to do. It’s in the how do I do it piece. So if you want assistance, you want guidance with that, from an expert, who understands not only the technical pieces, the performance nutrition pieces but also the mindset pieces, the shit that you’re going to run into, when you’re like, I’m eating more. I don’t know, this makes me feel a certain way. You need somebody there to support you, and that person can be me. So I want you to go ahead and check out all the things that we have to offer you in terms of you know, increasing your nutrition gains, if you will, we want to call it that, but particularly strength nutrition unlocked. So go ahead and check that out.

You can apply at StephGaudreau.com/apply, we’ll work with you to put this whole system together with the nutrition piece, the training piece, the recovery piece, and the things that we need to know for our changing physiology as we are 40 and higher. Right, what starts to happen, how does that change the way we approach things? And we’re going to help you do that there with guidance and support and coaching and community the things that you need to really see this through. And to get these results you want to take your results from good to great.

So StephGaudreau.com/apply. And while you’re there, you can check out the show notes for this episode as well. If you’re a podcast listener, hit that subscribe button if you’re on YouTube watching ‘hello, thanks for being here’ and also hit subscribe and ring the bell for notifications on new videos when they come out. It’s been such a pleasure to be with you today and really dive into this second piece in our protein series.

Stay tuned because the next episode is going to be all about the next level here. We’re going to be looking at protein quality and what does that really mean? And how do we weave this in? How do we factor this into our conversation? Then I know you’re gonna love it it’s going to be thought-provoking at the very least so make sure you come back for that episode thanks for listening and I’ll catch you next time until then stay strong.

Share this post

Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


Purpose built for strength, fitness, and athleticism. This is a templated, app-based 12-month progressive strength program for women over 40.


Strength Nutrition Unlocked

For athletic women 40+ who want to get stronger, build muscle, boost energy, and perform better. Implement evidence-backed strategies to fuel, train, and recover smarter with the support & accountability you need.

free workout program