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How Much Protein can the Body Absorb in One Sitting?

Many people have a real FEAR of overeating protein in a single meal because they’ve been led to believe that the body can only use so much in a single sitting.

This is a “truth” that’s been floating around for FOREVER.

But is it actually true?

How much protein can the body absorb in one meal?

The usual recommendation is 25-30g or thereabouts. Any more and your body won’t use it for muscle building purposes and you’ve wasted your time (and money).

It’s a question that comes up now, so I’ll address it now.

How Much Protein Can The Body Absorb In 1 Sitting?

You DON’T need to worry about overconsuming protein in a single meal. Your body can and WILL use it.

Before I sat down to draft this article I had a big (and I mean BIG) steak. That bad boy will probably give me 60g of protein, if not a little more. And my body will use it all.

If the myth were to be believed, my body would only use a maximum of 30g of that protein, and another 30g would be totally wasted.

But since protein from a whole food source digests pretty slowly, I’ll still be getting the benefit from that steak many hours from now. An educated guess for the rate for absorption here would be 4-5g per hour for the steak. However, couple it with the fibrous veggies and cheese I had with it and we’re probably talking around just 3-4g of protein per hour.

A whey protein shake on an empty stomach will deliver your protein much faster at about 10g per hour.

Either way you slice it, the idea that you’ll turn catabolic if you don’t eat 30g of protein every 3 hrs is just not true. You will still be in an anabolic environment i.e. amino acids will still be being released and shuttled to your muscles.

However, you will still need energy in general to support the anabolic process, so I’m not advocating you eat all your daily food in one or 2 servings.

There are a number of factors that will affect the rate of absorption:

  • Type of protein e.g. whey isolate or a steak?
  • The last time you ate – are you having it on an empty stomach?
  • What are you eating it with? On its own or with fat and carbs?
  • The fiber content of the whole meal – more fiber equals slower absorption

But interestingly even the fastest method, whey alone in water on an empty stomach, still takes hours to be fully digested an utilized.  So if you took 50g instead of 30g, yes you will still use it.

But you certainly shouldn’t be getting a lot of your protein from a liquid source. Get your protein from food with 1 or 2 shakes max throughout the day, 1 being immediately after your workout.

So what’s the take home message here? The research on this isn’t 100% crystal clear as there are a number of variables to be taken into account: Trainee age, training intensity, total amount of protein given per day, type of protein administered, and so on.

What is clear is that eating say 4 times per day is going to be at least as effective as 6. There’s nothing wrong with eating 6 smaller meals per day either; if that suits you, go for it. But if it’s burdensome, drop it and go to a 4-meal frequency.

If that has you eating 50g of protein per meal, you’re doing just fine :) . Don’t sweat it.

I’m not confident enough to recommend a lower frequency than that just yet. As more research is done on this, we’ll more likely have a clearer picture.

Eat Big Steaks & Enjoy! :D

Mark McManus, trainer & author of the NEW fat-torching system “Total Six Pack Abs” & the BREAKTHROUGH Arm-Maximizer program “The Arms Blast Experiment Revealed!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Neal August 8, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Hi Mark,

    With regards to GLAD, why even bother eating 6 times a day if the effect of eating 4 times will still be the same?

  • Conor August 8, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Hi mark, is there a link between protein comnsumption and gas?? i mean, i have 50g of whey and water post workout and then about an 1hr or more later ill have a soild meal of 80g carbs and 60g protein which means my body is trying to absorb a large amount of protein and in turn i cant stop farting the rest of the day and you woundnt want to be in the same room as me LOL!!! nobody else in my house thinks its funny though, they think i need help!!!!! am i over doing the protein?? i read somewhere that excessive gas is a result of to much protein which cant be used or is not being used, any ideas???

  • Andrew Mast August 8, 2011, 1:34 pm

    @Conor – If you’re getting gas, it could be inferior whey blends or whey concentrate which some people have issues with. Check your whey and see what the ingredients for the protein are.

    Whey isolate doesn’t give me any gas. Examples I’ve had good experiences with are IsoPure or Cytosport Whey Isolate (http://www.cytosport.com/products/specialized/whey-isolate).

    Eggs, milk, beans, etc, obviously can increase that, but you might know that already!

  • Flabbomber August 8, 2011, 2:01 pm

    mmmm steak.

  • Ted August 8, 2011, 2:02 pm

    @ Conor
    Or try a different type of protein powder-egg whites for example

  • Jeremy August 8, 2011, 2:36 pm

    “A whey protein shake on an empty stomach will deliver your protein much faster at about 10g per hour.”

    Is that about as much as your body can absorb in an hour? If so, then you would never need to eat more than 240g of protein a day. Would you agree with that?

  • Zipper August 8, 2011, 5:05 pm

    @Conor: yes just as others said try a better whey protein also such as optimum nutrition Gold. I’ve tried so much (crap) out there and found the sugars are mostly responsible for that. However once I made the switch to a quality protein as I mentioned. Gas is pretty much gone. I also take a quality probiotic which is fantastic for digestion and relaxes gas when eating mixes IE: veggies beans etc. Hope that helps bro.

  • Tony August 8, 2011, 5:34 pm

    Great post. I had this exact conversation with my bio chemist friend. I was worried that I was eating too much or not enought and he was telling to simply eat more of it since it takes longer to process. And if your body doesn’t requuire whatever is left at the end of the day, it disgards it

  • Adam Weichel August 8, 2011, 7:00 pm

    Steaks and shakes! LET’S DO THIS!

  • mikey August 8, 2011, 10:40 pm

    Im glad to hear that because i have some buds that tell me the body only handles about 20 grams at a time. I kinda believed him because he is totally ripped. I guess ill keep this my secret.

  • ABU August 9, 2011, 2:32 am

    mark you just keep the info coming i like it as i am on my very first whey protein so i will see how it goes

  • Sunil August 9, 2011, 5:38 am

    http://markyoungtrainingsystems.com/2009/04/protein-after-exercise-an-interview-with-dan-moore/

    please go through the above link and now iam confused which expert to listen to benefit

  • Marvin the Muscle Maker Man August 9, 2011, 9:32 pm

    OKay i am glad you did this post becasue i was under the impression that if you ate too much it went into fat. But in actuality your body uses it but it takes some time for it to be absorbed.

    I see that everyone keeps recommending protein shakes as a supplement. I have read a lot about them but have never really incorported them into my diet.

    I may start to seriously try them on regular basis now as a way to get a good meal replaement along with my 4 other meals during the day.
    Kepp up the good work there man.

  • Mike August 10, 2011, 6:11 am

    If you were actually able to eat more protein than you can use,it can store as fat.”Any unused amino acids,are stored as fat” from The:Textbook Of Medical Physiology..60-70% of all protein is converted to glucose to fuel it’s own digestion.So eat up.