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How Much Protein Can You Absorb in One Meal? (From a Doctor)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 2, 2022

Any athlete who takes their training and recovery time seriously will be taking some form of protein powder. And while there are easy ways to calculate your ideal protein consumption for the day, people often wonder how much they can or should take in one go.

To answer this question, I teamed up with a dietitian to research what medical science says about protein absorption rates.

So, how much protein can your body absorb in a short space of time?

Let’s take a closer look.

Quick Summary

  • The human body is very well adapted to processing large volumes of protein, but that doesn't mean you should plan your daily intake all at once.
  • If you’re trying to boost weight loss and muscle protein synthesis, then you need to take in protein multiple times a day.
  • It may seem like maximum protein consumption will grow even more lean body mass, but you need to carefully plan the amount and timing.

How Much Protein Can You Process At Once?

Man flexing his muscles

The body can process about 0.2 grams per pound of body weight in one meal sitting.

Scientists have carefully analyzed multiple studies and have arrived at this number for optimum muscle protein synthesis in a very clever way [1].

First, they looked at what the overall optimum amount of protein was for an athlete.

They came to a guideline of 1.6 grams per kg per day, which is roughly 0.8 grams per pound per day.

So, for a person weighing 200 pounds, that would mean 160 grams of protein throughout the day.

The important thing to keep in mind is that your body needs a steady supply of essential amino acids throughout the day, and these are the types of amino acids that your body doesn't produce itself [2].

So, to spread out the protein over the day, we can work on the basis of three main meals and a protein shake after training. And if you divide 0.8 grams per pound by four, then you get to the recommended 0.2 grams per pound as a recommended amount to take in one go.

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Is There Too Much For One Meal Or Shake?

Yes, there is too much protein for one meal or shake. Based on scientific evidence, taking in more than 30 grams in one meal or shake is a waste [3].

And here’s why.

While your stomach will process and absorb the protein, your muscles and other organs can only process a certain amount at one time. 

There’s no place to store excess protein, so your body will start to filter and flush out those amino acids through the kidneys.

Essentially, you could end up paying a lot of money on protein powders, only to pee them out.

Is There an Optimal Time To Eat Protein?

Raw protein foods on table

Yes, there is an optimal time to eat protein, especially when it comes to muscle growth and recovery.

Plan to drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of a straining workout session, as this is when your body will need amino acids the most [4].

This is the time to boost your muscle protein synthesis, and you’ll quickly notice the difference in muscle soreness and growth if you stick to this plan.

The remainder of your daily protein allowance should come from your main meals and possibly another protein shake or bar if you have a particularly high requirement for muscle building.

“For prime muscle recovery, consume protein within 30 minutes after exercise. This is when your muscles are best able to receive the fuel they need to recover. Protein doesn’t act alone in feeding your muscles. Your body prefers a combination of carbohydrates and protein in a 3-to-1 ratio for best recovery.”

- Shannan Bergtholdt, Health and nutrition writer at sfgate.com.

Tips For Maximizing the Intake

While you should carefully plan a certain amount of animal and plant-based protein for each meal, athletes will find it much easier to plan a diet with protein powder supplements.

Unless you’re vegan or dairy intolerant, I recommend that you stick with whey protein supplements over a slow-digesting protein like soy or pea [5].

I also recommend whey protein isolate over whey protein concentrate products, as the isolate is far more concentrated and contains fewer carbs and fat.

The overall advantage you gain is that you don’t have to constantly look at your dietary protein requirements from yet another chicken breast.

Believe me; there are only so many of them you can face in a day.

FAQs

Are 100 Grams Of Protein Too Much In One Go?

Yes, 100 grams of protein is too much in one go. While your stomach can absorb that amount, your body can’t store the excess. As a result, your kidneys will flush out the protein, and it’s just a wasted effort.

Is It Better To Spread Out Your Protein Intake?

Yes, it’s better to spread out your protein intake over the day. If you want to consistently build muscle mass for leaner body composition, then keeping your amino acid supply consistent will provide fat better results.

Plan The Right Amount Of Protein Per Meal

Based on all my research, experience, and the feedback I got from a dietitian, the best thing you can do is to plan for an even distribution of your protein. There’s so much you can absorb in one sitting, and any more protein simply gets flushed out.

To help with getting the right boost after training, I recommend that you choose a fast-absorbing protein.

Check out the next recommended products that can have a significant impact on your fitness efforts and muscle tissue.

These are all tried and tested products that our team and clients rely on the most.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5828430/
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm
  3. https://www.eatthis.com/protein-per-meal
  4. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/time-drink-protein-after-workout-10122.html
  5. https://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/view/plant-protein-versus-dairy-protein-muscle-building

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