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Previous dose response studies indicate that about 20 to 25 grams of protein maximizes the increase in protein synthesis. However, conventional wisdom does not always turn out to be consistent with reality, and the concept of protein bolus versus pulse feeding is being evaluated more rigorously. In a recent study, elderly, malnourished subjects were provided controlled diets containing the same amount of protein (approx 1.5 g per kilogram body weight) for 6 weeks. The Spread group consumed their protein allotment spread over 4 meals. The Pulse group consumed 72% of their total protein in a single meal at lunch.
After 6 weeks, despite consuming the same total calories and protein, the Pulse group showed significantly greater increases in lean body mass (2.0 pounds) than the Spread group (-1.1 pounds). These results challenge the idea that small amounts of protein consumed over the day are better than larger protein meals for promoting anabolism. These results were obtained in hospitalized elderly patients who were malnourished, and thus it remains to be seen whether the findings can be generalized to younger healthier populations.
Bouillanne O, Curis E, Hamon-Vilcot B, Nicolis I, Chrétien P, Schauer N, Vincent JP, Cynober L, Aussel C. Impact of protein pulse feeding on lean mass in malnourished and at-risk hospitalized elderly patients: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;32(2):186-92.