GUYS WILL PROBABLY be fighting online for millennia about the best time to get protein during the day. To add to the chorus, a new study from the University of Illinois recently tackled the subject in a two-phase experiment on rats.

First, they gave two groups three meals a day with 16% of calories from protein—one fed animal-based protein from whey or eggs, another plant protein from soy and wheat—and found the animal group had increased muscle synthesis, while the veggie eaters gained 20% more body fat.

The second part focused only on whey protein—with one group getting a balanced amount of protein throughout the day, while the other got ramped-up protein as the day went on. The study showed that rats with the balanced protein had greater muscle mass than those on the unbalanced diet.

Human studies are up next. But count this as one more recommendation for an all-day, balanced-protein feeding for greater gains.

Oh, and you can assume you’re probably not getting enough protein. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to sneak more into your diet without blowing your budget or eating pounds of chicken breast.

by Men’s Fitness Editors