Evenly Distributed Protein Intake over 3 Meals Augments Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy in Healthy Young Men

J Nutr. 2020 Jul 1;150(7):1845-1851. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa101.


Background: Although daily protein intake (PI) has been reported to be essential for regulating muscle mass, the distribution of daily PI in individuals is typically the lowest at breakfast and skewed toward dinner. Skewed protein intake patterns and inadequate PI at breakfast were reported to be negative factors for muscle maintenance.

Objectives: This study examined whether a protein-enriched meal at breakfast is more effective for muscle accretion compared with the typical skewed PI pattern.

Methods: This 12-wk, parallel-group, randomized clinical trial included 26 men (means ± SEs; age: 20.8 ± 0.4 y; BMI: 21.8 ± 0.4 kg/m2). The "high breakfast" (HBR) group (n = 12) consumed a protein-enriched meal at breakfast providing a PI of 0.33 g/kg body weight (BW); their PI at lunch (0.46 g/kg BW) and dinner (0.48 g/kg BW) provided an adequate overall daily PI (1.30 g/kg BW/d). The "low breakfast" (LBR) group (n = 14) consumed 0.12 g protein/kg BW at breakfast; intakes at lunch (0.45 g/kg BW) and dinner (0.83 g/kg BW) yielded the same daily PI as in the HBR group. The participants performed supervised resistance training (RT) 3 times per week (75-80% 1-repetition maximum; 3 sets × 10 repetitions). DXA was used to measure the primary outcome variable, that is, total lean soft tissue mass (LTM).

Results: The total LTM at baseline did not differ between the HBR (52.4 ± 1.3 kg) and LBR (53.4 ± 1.2 kg) groups. After the intervention, increases in total LTM were significant in both groups, with that in the HBR group (2.5 ± 0.3 kg) tending to be greater than that in the LBR group (1.8 ± 0.3 kg) (P = 0.06), with a large effect size (Cohen d = 0.795).

Conclusions: For RT-induced muscle hypertrophy in healthy young men, consuming a protein-enriched meal at breakfast and less protein at dinner while achieving an adequate overall PI is more effective than consuming more protein at dinner.This study was registered at University hospital Medical Information Network (UMIN) Clinical Trials Registry as UMIN000037583 (https://upload.umin.ac.jp/cgi-open-bin/ctr_e/ctr_view.cgi?recptno=R000042763).

Keywords: muscle hypertrophy; protein distribution; protein intake; resistance training; young subjects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / growth & development*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Proteins

Associated data

  • UMIN-CTR/UMIN000037583