How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb

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Protein absorption is a commonly debated subject amongst the health, wellness and fitness communities. Not only is there conflicting information about how much protein your body can absorb total, there’s also a fair amount of disagreement regarding how much protein your body can absorb in one sitting.

We’re here to set the record straight.

The Carbon Controversy

Some sources simultaneously claim that your body can only absorb 30-40 grams of protein per meal and that you can and should consume 200-300 grams of protein per day (dependant on body weight). With those recommendations, you’d be spending hours a day eating upwards of six meals! So where did this 30-40 gram limit come from? I mean, if you’re only supposed to consume 30-40 grams per sitting, why do some protein powders containing 50+ grams per serving exist?

Because protein is the only macronutrient that contains nitrogen, scientists were studying nitrogen levels in urine as a means to determine how much protein is too much protein. When subjects consumed more than 30 grams in one sitting, scientists noted excess nitrogen in their urine samples and concluded that if you’re releasing the higher levels of nitrogen, your body must not be processing the protein correctly and, in theory, you’re ‘wasting’ its nutritional value. Of course, now we know that protein contains other elements in addition to nitrogen and increased carbon levels in urine don’t equate to less absorption.

In layman’s terms: Just because carbon is showing up in your urine doesn’t mean that your muscles aren’t reaping the benefits of the massive steak you just ate.

How is Protein Used in the Body?

If you read any bodybuilding forums or fitness magazines, protein is first and foremost discussed in terms or protein synthesis. It’s what helps your muscles recover and grow. But, that’s not all it does. Proteins are made up of amino acids which are in essence the building blocks of your body.

Your stomach uses acid to break down protein and uses it to build enzymes, hormones, immune factors, to transport and store other molecules, and to build bigger, stronger muscles. Your body needs protein for all of these functions. But, what happens when all of these functions are carried out and there’s still protein left over? Does your body shut down? Do you explode? Of course not! The protein is metabolised into glucose and used as an energy source. BUT, bear in mind that if the protein isn’t used as energy (in those that live sedentary lifestyles, for example) the glucose will turn to fat.

So, How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb?

While some studies show that the body absorbs 8-10 grams of whey protein per hour, 3.9 grams of soy protein per hour, and 2.9 grams of cooked egg per hour, there is no limit to how much protein your body can absorb. As we’ve said, so long as you’re active, the protein will be used as energy. No harm done. Your body is a fine-tuned machine that self-regulates.

While there isn’t a limit to how much protein your body can absorb, there is an ideal amount of protein that you should be consuming per day. To find this number, you should consider your age, height, goals, and level of physical activity. This number can vary between 2.2 and 4.4 grams per kilogram of your body weight. Bodybuilders will of course need more protein than someone who doesn’t work out very often.

Still, even with this information, people want to know if there’s one way of consuming and absorbing protein better than others.

Frequent Feeding vs. Big Meals

This is a difficult question to answer and as with many debates regarding fitness and nutrition, it comes down to individual preferences and goals. What we can do is give you the facts. Eating more frequently often equates to more gains while eating larger meals less frequently results in slow digestion.

But, assuming that your curiosity towards protein absorption stems from your desire to gain muscle mass, we recommend eating several small to medium sized meals a day and dispersing protein amongst them based on the timings of your workouts.

Meal Timing

We recommend adding extra protein to three of your smaller meals per day. Consider adding our delicious, ready-made PRO 2GO PROTEIN drink to your first meal of the day. After eight hours of sleep, your muscles will be craving it. Your next protein-packed meal should come around your third grazing of the day, when your body might be feeling run down. Because it might be hard to find the time to prepare a protein-rich meal, you can easily add 36 grams of protein by using our OMNI MX RIPPEDCORE powder. Finally, give your muscles the support they need by using our ULTRA WHEY powder before or after your workout.

This isn’t an exact science. Even with all of this information, the short answer really does come down to this: Eat as much protein as you feel comfortable with. Know your body and feed it what it needs, it’ll do the rest (including absorption!) on its own.

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