Stop Losing Muscle and Gaining Fat: Research Roundup – Special Edition

This week I spoke to several groups about productivity, energy, and creativity enhancement within the workplace. Doing so always sends me back to review current research. Below is a synopsis of my dig this week and in the bullets you can find the quick to-do list.

The bottom line is more clear than ever: research is growing in support of protein recommendations being too low and the right level of protein consumption – at the right time – being a major factor in staving muscles losses whether you are active or inactive.

If you exercise regularly you are likely more conscious about your need for protein. The truth is (and I mention frequently in The Protein Report) adequate protein is as necessary if not more so for those who are not exercising as much as they want or need to.

A deliberate and coordinated dietary-protein and exercise prescription may be particularly important for middle-aged and older adults experiencing catabolic stressors such as illness, inflammation, physical inactivity, or injury.

If you are unable to exercise for a period of time due to a condition, illness or your schedule, nutrition, and protein consumption in particular, represents one of the few opportunities to positively influence muscle protein anabolism and ultimately protect muscle mass and function.


Resistance exercise temporarily inhibits protein synthesis.

  • Wait temporarily before eating protein post exercise.
  • Absolutely avoid fructose during this period of time (and always: check your protein labels).
  • Growth hormone production may increase with a wait period between exercise and eating that is at least 60-90 minutes.
  • Within 60 min post-exercise, the capacity for maximal muscle protein synthesis is restored and potentially increased.

Prevent muscles losses from ever happening by optimizing the potential for muscle protein anabolism.

  • Consume an adequate amount of high-quality protein at each meal. Eating protein in combination with physical activity, represents a promising strategy to prevent or delay the onset of sarcopenia.
  • Adequate protein at each meal is defined in studies as 25-30 grams at lunch and dinner and 35 grams at breakfast. (Multiple studies published in 2008- 2016)

Studies show skeletal muscle mass was significantly higher in men and women consuming 25 g of protein/meal vs. those consuming less.

The key to protein intake reducing muscles losses is amino acid intake per meal. The body needs an optimal amount for absorption and processing.

  • Amino acid absorption and subsequent stimulation of muscle protein synthesis were limited after ingestion of 10 g of protein but increased substantially after the 20-g protein meal and was highest after ingestion of 35 g of protein.

protein-mealAt-a-glance protein and exercise timing:

Not accustomed to eating before exercise:

  • Exercise 6 – 6:30am
  • Breakfast or breakfast smoothie 7:30am

Flexibility to both eat protein before and after am exercise:

  • Smoothie at 6:00am
  • Exercise 7:30 – 8:30am
  • Eat at 9:30 -10:00am

Lunch Time Exercise:

  • Mid morning smoothie 10:30
  • Exercise 12-1
  • Meal 2pm

Later day exercise:

  • Smoothie at 3pm
  • Exercise at 4:30
  • Evening meal at 6:30pm

Shift times as needed to fit your schedule.

Do the best you can on most days to either pre-or post-exercise, or both, fuel. If exercise is light there is less need to plan the protein timing. Exercise that is moderate to vigorous exercise (defined by either duration or intensity) has a greater impact on muscle breakdown, and thus increases your need to get adequate fuel.

Download the Smoothie & Smoothie Bowl Books!

When Does Muscle Loss Start?

Changes that lead to sarcopenia – defined as significant loss of skeletal muscle – begin in the 30s and 40s. This happens to be about the time women are rushing from boardroom to carpool and concerned with skinny jeans or loss of baby fat. The tendency to skip or skimp on meals or opt for low calorie and low protein diets contributes to losses of muscle during these decades that lead to challenges with body composition in latter decades.

Neglecting adequate protein in the 30’s and 40’s contributes to an abundance of fat and significant loss of muscles by the 50s and 60s.

Inflammatory disease (arthritis, cancer), illness, and chronic stress coupled with malnutrition or inadequate protein can speed losses of lean mass.

  • Malnutrition is defined simply as getting too few calories, or too few micronutrients or both. It is possible to eat an abundance of calories and still be malnourished.

Sarcopenia (losses of 3-8% muscle each decade beginning at 30) and obesity are both concerns. A loss of muscle mass increases your percent body fat. “Sarcobesity” is a dangerous and yet avoidable condition that would make falls more likely and damage from them more debilitating.

Scroll to Top

Get Notified On The Next Session

Just enter your name & email to be notified on the next training…

Flipping Fifty Logo