There’s a reason the fittest women at the gym love adding protein powder to their smoothies: When you pump iron, protein repairs the tiny tears that strength training creates in your muscles, which helps them grow bigger, faster.
You have to take in protein all day long—not just at dinner—if you want to maximize your gains. In a University of Texas study, researchers found that muscle protein synthesis—the driving force behind your muscle growth—was 25% greater when people ate protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein per meal) compared to those who ate a bulk of their protein at dinner (10 grams for breakfast, 15 grams for lunch, and 65 grams for dinner).
Unfortunately, most Americans’ diets match that latter group. On average, we eat almost three times as much protein during dinner (38 grams) as we do during breakfast (13 grams), according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
If you want to maximize your gains and keep your hunger in check, get your fix by sneaking more protein in throughout the day. Refer to these 15 tips when you need a fast and convenient way to bump your intake.