How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb at Once?

By Drew Stegman

 

Believe it or not, many bodybuilders fear eating too much protein in a single meal.

They have been lead to believe that consuming too much protein in a single meal will cause the body to "waste the protein for muscle growth".

Then they'll go on to say, "The body simply can't absorb more than 30 grams of protein per sitting". But is there really any truth to support this?

 

How much protein is your body REALLY able to absorb in a single sitting?

How much protein is your body REALLY able to absorb in a single sitting?


Like I said, many bodybuilders think that the body cannot absorb more than 30 grams of protein per meal, so they often stick close to this number every time they sit down at the table. But they don't go beyond this - since eating more protein than this is simply a waste of protein and money; at least according to them.

I've gotten this question countless times in the past and continue to get it on a regular basis, so I thought it was time to go ahead and cover it now.

 

How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb Each Meal?

Never worry about consuming too much protein in a single meal. Your body WILL use the protein at all times.

Just before I sat down to write this article, I sat myself down and devoured a big (and I mean BIG) juicy steak. That single steak probably provided with me at least 60 grams of protein and I'd be willing to bet that there was more than that. I can guarantee that as I write this sentence, my metabolism is working to use every single bit of that protein.

So if the idea were true that your body has a limited capacity for protein absorption, then my body would totally waste 30 grams of protein and use 30 grams of it.

But since the protein in meat digests over a long period of time, I'll be getting the benefit of that protein several hours down the road. I'd be willing to guess that the protein absorption rate for the steak is about 4-5 grams per hour, although I might be off a tad.

Nevertheless, if you take the cheese and broccoli I had with it as well, we're probably looking at about 3-4 grams per hour.

Consuming a whey protein shake, however, will typically deliver protein to your muscles at a rate of about 10 grams per hour.

Either way you look at things, the important thing to take from all of this is that your body will NOT go catabolic if you don't get 30 grams of protein every 3 hours throughout the day. You're still going to be in an anabolic environment, regardless of when you eat your food.

But you're still going to need a constant stream of nutrients to support the anabolic pathways to muscle growth, so I'm not saying you should get all of your calories in 1-2 meals each day.

 

There are many different factors which will affect the rate of protein absorption:

  • The type of protein
  • The last time you ate something
  • What other foods you were eating with it - carbs, fats, by itself?
  • The fiber content of the entire meal - additional fiber will slow protein absorption

Keeping all this in mind, it's still important to note that if you were to take whey and water together and drink that by itself, it would still take several hours to fully be absorbed. So if you took two scoops of whey protein instead of one, your body would still use it for muscle growth.

But this doesn't necessarily mean you should be getting all of your protein from a powdered source. I always recommend eating whole foods and avoiding powdered protein, except for once or twice each day. I always have a whey protein shake after my workouts.

 

So what can we learn from all of this?

Although the research is not completely clear on this matter, there is enough evidence to infer that regardless when or how much protein you consume in a single sitting, your body will still absorb it. It simply doesn't make sense that your body would waste precious amino acids, due to the fact that it's "too much" for your body to handle. Trust me - it's not too much. Your body is an incredibly efficient machine and is capable of incredible things - don't underestimate it.

So if you just ate a 60 gram steak like me, don't sweat it. You're still going to see the same results as you would if you were to divide that steak into two different meals. The important thing is to keep lifting big weights and keep eating big steaks, regardless of how much you eat in one sitting!

Read more about protein in our Common Sense Protein FAQ.

 

 


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