Most bodybuilding magazines say that the body can only absorb about 30 to 40 grams of protein per meal. Anything over that amount would simply be turned into glucose and burned. Also, they state that you should be consuming about 300 to 400 grams of protein per day.

So, in this article, we are going to talk about protein absorption. When it comes to absorption thresholds, there are many numbers drifting around out here. By this read, you’re going to understand how much protein you can eat, and I think you’re going to be pleased with the discovery.

So let’s start with what really occurs when you ingest protein.

Protein Absorption. The Science behind it

When you eat protein, your stomach handles the acid and enzymes to break the protein down into its building parts, named amino acids.

These fragments are carried into the bloodstream by specialized cells that line the small intestine and are then allotted to different parts of the body.

Your small intestine can only transport a specific number of cells, which restricts the number of amino acids that can be introduced into your blood every hour. This is precisely what protein absorption means: how quickly the small intestine can absorb amino acids into the blood. Keep in mind that this happens at various speeds for different sorts of protein.

For example, whey clocks in at 8 to 10 grams absorbed per hour, cooked egg at ~2.9 g/hr, casein at ~6.1 g/hr, and soy at ~3.9 g/hr. These numbers aren’t entirely correct because of the complexities required in measuring protein absorption, but they present insight anyway. Certain proteins are incorporated very gradually and others are processed fairly quickly.

You should also understand that food substances don’t move evenly through the digestive tract and they don’t surely leave parts in the same order that they entered.

For example, the presence of protein in the stomach stimulates the generation of a hormone that delays the emptying of the food from the stomach.

This slows down intestinal contractions and therefore how fast the food passes through the small intestine, where nutrients are assimilated.

Fats and carbohydrates can move within your small intestine and be fully absorbed, while the protein is still being worked on.

When the amino acids enter the blood, the body does different things such as tissue growth and repair.

It can also temporarily collect excess amino acids in muscle for near-future demands.

If there are still amino acids in the blood after doing all these, your body can transform them into glucose and use it as a propellant for your brain and other cells.

Protein Absorption Plafond

If the theory that your body was in a race against time to process the food you eat was true then we wouldn’t have talked about this. Even if you consumed a very fast-absorbing protein similar to whey, you could only absorb 25 to 30 grams before it would be too late. But now you know that this is not true

Your body is capable to manage the rate at which protein passes through the small intestines to guarantee it can incorporate all of the available amino acids.

An experiment made at the National Human Nutrition Research Center (France) was made on 16 young women that consumed 79% of the day’s protein in one meal or four meals. The study lasted 14 days.

Researchers found no discrepancy between the groups in terms of protein metabolism. Besides, if we study the amount of protein in the high-protein foods related to the average body weight of the subjects, it comes out to about 1.17 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Implement that theory to a man weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds), and you get about 94 grams of protein in each meal.

Yes, this isn’t conclusive scientific evidence but it makes you think.

Research on intermittent fasting diets is also appropriate. This regime makes people fasting for extensive periods, followed by anywhere from 2 to 8-hour feeding windows and it doesn’t result in muscle loss.

A study usually mentioned as proof of limited protein consumption found that 20 grams of post-workout protein stimulated the greatest muscle protein synthesis in men. By eating more than 20 grams of protein after training the stimulation muscle growth will not be modified.

The most noticeable defect, in this case, is that you can’t do studies on the anabolic reply to protein consumption to extrapolate ideas about how much we can absorb in one sitting.

Serious anabolic responses to protein single meals just don’t give us the complete picture.

Protein absorption relates to the infusion of amino acids into the bloodstream over extended periods of time whereas protein synthesis relates to the use of those amino acids to build muscles.

Amino acids are the building blocks and protein synthesis is the process of building. What this research truly informs us is that each time we consume protein, we would eat at least 20 grams.

Keep in mind that the research found that 20 grams of post-training protein stimulated maximum protein synthesis in young men. However, don’t think that this 20-gram amount applies to every person because protein metabolism is influenced by various things such as:

  • Your muscle mass. The more you have, the more amino acids your body requires to support your musculature, and the more places your body can collect excesses.
  • How active you are. The more you move, the more protein your body requires.
  • Your age. The older you get, the more protein your body demands to support its muscle.
  • Your hormones. High levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) stimulate muscle synthesis. If your body has raised levels of these anabolic hormones, it will use protein better than someone that has reduced levels.

High levels of cortisol will decrease protein synthesis and stimulate the process of how the body breaks down amino acids into glucose also known as gluconeogenesis.

Therefore, 20 grams of protein might be sufficient to maximally spike protein synthesis levels, but this will not be applicable to everyone. Many people will need extra protein to observe identical results.

Conclusions regarding Protein Absorption

So, as you can see, it is not recommended to state a specific amount of protein your body can absorb in one meal. But regardless of the case, it is a lot more than the 20 to 30 grams. Also, protein timing isn’t as significant as some people think. You don’t have to consume protein every 2 to 3 hours to increase muscle growth.

Consuming sufficient protein every day is what values most, not the incidence of your feedings.

While it’s indicated to have a good amount of protein before and after exercising, split the rest of your daily necessities however you desire and let your body take care of the rest.