JUST REMEMBER! This is without the aide of Pro Hormones or SARMs. You can double to triple this number when on cycle!
HOW MUCH PROTEIN CAN YOUR BODY REALLY ABSORB AT ONE TIME?
By: Robert A. Schinetsky
For quite a long time, a debate has raged in the bodybuilding world about how much protein the human body can use at any one time. Some “experts” have said the body can only use 20-25g of protein, while some others go a bit higher and theorize that 30g is the “perfect” amount of protein to maximize muscle growth and repair.
But, let’s say you have a 16oz ribeye steak which has upwards of 75-80 grams of protein. If the body can realistically only use 20-30g at any one time, what happens to the rest?
The common belief is that it’s essentially “wasted”. Any amount of protein over this magical threshold would then be oxidized (“burned”) for energy or be transaminated (“converted”) into urea and/or other organic acids.
Up until now, there hasn’t been much research looking into the “ideal” amount of protein that lifters should consume to maximize muscle protein synthesis and minimize waste…until now that is. Brad Schoenfeld (“The Hypertrophy Doc”) and leading nutrition expert Alan Aragon decided to find out how much protein the body can use in a single meal for the purposes of building muscle.
Let’s see what the gurus had to say, and if it really is necessary for all the aspiring bodybuilders out there to keep eating 25-30 grams of protein 6 times per day to maximize growth.
Before we get to the latest study, let’s take a look at how the current 20-30 grams of protein per meal recommendation came to be.
In 2009, researchers examined changes in muscle protein synthesis and “anabolic efficiency” in young and elderly subjects in response to a single feeding of protein. Subject consumed either a “moderately-sized” portion of protein (113g lean beef containing 220 calories and 30g protein including 10g EAA or a “restaurant-sized” portion of beef that was three times larger (340g lean beef, containing 660 calories and 90g protein, including 30g EAA).1Researchers noted that consuming the moderately-sized 4 ounce (113g) serving of lean beef increased muscle building activity in the body by 50%. Common thinking is that if a little of something works, a lot of something will work that much better.
But it turns out that’s not exactly true, at least when we’re talking about maximizing muscle building per meal. Researchers noted that the group consuming the 12 ounce portion of lean beef (340g) did NOT experience any significant increase in muscle-building activity compared to the 4 ounce serving group.
Based on these results, you can begin to see how some trainers, fitness professionals, and bro scientists around the globe came to the conclusion that the body can only use 30 grams of protein at most, with the belief that the rest was going to waste. But there’s more still.
Other research has shown that the body could only use at most 20 grams of protein in the post workout “anabolic window”, but just because that’s the most the body could theoretically use post workout doesn’t mean that 20 grams is the most the body could utilize for muscle-building during a meal outside of the post workout time frame.2Muscletech Nitro TechAdditionally, there’s a few other things to consider which could impact the amount of protein the body can utilize at any one time. Surely a 200 pound bodybuilder can (and will) use more protein than a 120 pound female gymnast, which brings us to the factors that can affect how much protein your body uses in one sitting.
• Amount of lean muscle mass
The more lean mass you’re carrying around, the greater your protein requirement is overall, and the more protein your body can use at any given time.
• Activity level3
The more active you are (walking, running, weightlifting, fidgeting in place), the more protein your muscles will require.
The older you are, the harder it is for your body to hold onto muscle, which means higher amounts of protein may be required in the elderly than the young.
Hormones including IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) and growth hormone (GH) stimulate protein synthesis in the body. If you have higher levels of these important hormones, your body becomes more efficient at using protein and may be able to use more than someone with poor hormone production.
Suffice it to say that up until now, there hasn’t been a specifically identified threshold that each person can use based on their respective size and weight. We know it’s somewhere in the 20-40 gram range, but don’t have any conclusive evidence saying it’s “x” amount of protein per meal. It’s safe to assume that if you’re intent on building muscle and working out several times per week, you’re going to need more protein than the average sedentary couch potato, but wouldn’t it be better to know exactly how much protein you should aim for per meal in order to optimize your training and diet for maximum gains?
It sure would, and that’s exactly what the latest study conducted by the dynamic duo of Aragon and Schoenfeld set out to determine.
The Latest Research
So, what is the upper anabolic threshold for protein intake per meal? With this information, bros around the world could finally figure out exactly how many meals they should be eating each day to maximize their gains. Is it 4, 6, or 8? Maybe they could just get by with one or two.
Schoenfeld and Aragon conducted a meta-analysis6, whereby they pool dozens of papers that have examined protein digestion and muscle protein synthesis in various populations, including everything from young to old, active to inactive. With these two buff brainiacs at the helm, surely they could glean some kind of conclusive idea on how much protein the human body can utilize in one meal to maximize muscle growth.
Based on the current research, the duo has surmised that the recommended DAILY goal for protein intake should be between 1.6 g/kg/day to the upper daily intake of 2.2 g/kg/day. In order to maximize muscle building (anabolism), lifters, athletes, and bodybuilders should aspire to consume of a minimum of 0.4 g/kg/meal across a minimum of four meals to hit the bottom end gaol of 1.6 g/kg/day. If you’re going by the upper limit of 2.2g/kg/day (1g/lb/day), you should aim to consume 0.55/g/kg/meal (0.25g/lb/meal), spread out over four meals per day.
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In their own words:
“Based on the current evidence, we conclude that to maximize anabolism one should consume protein at a target intake of 0.4 g/kg/meal across a minimum of four meals in order to reach a minimum of 1.6 g/kg/day. Using the upper daily intake of 2.2 g/kg/day reported in the literature spread out over the same four meals would necessitate a maximum of 0.55 g/kg/meal.”
To put it in simpler terms, let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and are trying to figure out your “ideal” protein intake over the course of a given day.
Using the 1 gram of protein per pound per day (g/lb/day) of bodyweight recommendation, that means you’d need 200 grams of protein everyday to maximize anabolism. So, 200 grams spread across your four meals (consuming 0.25g/lb/meal) per day would give you 50 grams of protein at each meal.
And there you have it!
The answer to how much protein can the body absorb and use at one time has finally been answered. If you’re especially active, it’s probably safer to hedge on the 0.55g/kg/meal recommendation and if you’re only training 2-3x per week, but still want to make gains, maybe opt for the lower to middle end of the spectrum.
1. Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Wolfe RR, Paddon-Jones D. Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109(9):1582-1586. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.06.369.
2. Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(1):161-168. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26401.
3. Lemon PW. Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(5 Suppl):513S-521S.
4. Campbell WW, Trappe TA, Wolfe RR, Evans WJ. The recommended dietary allowance for protein may not be adequate for older people to maintain skeletal muscle. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(6):M373-80.
5. Umpleby AM, Russell-Jones DL. The hormonal control of protein metabolism. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996;10(4):551-570.
6. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2018;15:10. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1.