#224 ‒ Dietary protein: amount needed, ideal timing, quality, and more | Don Layman, Ph.D.


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Don Layman is a Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has spent the past 40 years investigating the role of dietary protein in muscle protein synthesis. In this episode, Don describes how his decades of research have shaped his thinking around protein, muscle, anabolic factors, metabolism, and more. He explains the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein: what it is, how it came about, and how it should serve only as a guide for the minimum protein necessary for survival rather than as an optimal level of protein intake. He provides an overview of the essential amino acids, explains the nuances of animal versus plant protein, and provides insights for determining protein quality, absorption rates, and how to best track your intake. He discusses the ideal timing of protein intake in relation to resistance exercise, how protein should be distributed among meals, and how limitations in protein utilization per sitting can impact those practicing time-restricted eating. Additionally, Don shares results from his clinical trials, including how a high-protein diet fared in terms of fat loss, and explains the differences in protein utilization between adolescents and adults and how the problem of reduced efficiency of protein utilization in older adults can be overcome.

We discuss:

  • Don’s background: from growing up on a farm to studying nutritional biochemistry [2:30];
  • Don’s philosophy on nutrition, muscle, and metabolism [6:30];
  • The controversial relationship between saturated fat and atherosclerosis [18:15];
  • The basics of protein and amino acids [25:45];
  • Origin and limitations of the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein intake [32:15];
  • Protein sources: determining quality, absorption rates, and how to track intake [41:15];
  • Leucine, lysine, and methionine: three important essential amino acids [48:00];
  • The vital role of ruminant animals in the production of quality protein [53:15];
  • The differing needs and impacts of dietary protein for a 16-year old compared to a 65-year old [59:30];
  • Consequences of protein deficiency in childhood [1:06:30];
  • Muscle protein synthesis: ideal timing, small meals vs. big meals, and more [1:12:45];
  • Protein needs of children [1:19:45];
  • How important is timing protein intake around training? [1:24:15];
  • The role of leucine in fatty acid oxidation by muscle [1:28:15];
  • High protein diets for fat loss: Results from Don’s clinical trials [1:31:30];
  • Influence of industry funding on nutrition studies [1:43:45];
  • Don’s thoughts on plant-based and synthetic “meats” [1:48:45];
  • Problems with epidemiological studies of dietary protein [1:56:30];
  • More.

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