I’m sure most of you will have heard something along the lines that your body can only absorb ~30g of protein in a meal….well, is this actually true?
How much protein can you actually absorb at once?
When we think of absorption, we think of the passage of nutrients from the gut into systemic circulation. Based on this definition, the amount of protein you can absorb per meal is pretty much limitless…
By all means, if you eat 200g of protein at once, absorption will take longer as you’ll get a bottle neck situation in your gut where amino acids will compete with one another to be transported through the intestinal wall.
I.e. 20g of fast absorbing whey protein will be fully absorbed in 2 hours (~10g per hour), where 20g of slow absorbing protein from eggs will take 7 hours (~3g per hour).
Once absorbed, some of these amino acids will be utilised by the liver, where the remaining amino acids will become available for other tissues (i.e. muscle).
And this is where the saying somewhat gets butchered…the question shouldn’t be ‘how much protein can I absorb’ but ‘how much protein can I utilise’?
Once the amino acids within the blood are used by the muscle to become ‘full’, it’s believed that the remaining amino acids will be used for energy or used for other physiological demands aside from muscle growth.
That’s why there’s a strong case for focusing on protein intake on a per meal basis as opposed to your total daily intake.
Therefore, to maximise muscle protein synthesis whilst minimising any ‘wasted amino acids’ the recommendations are between 0.4-0.55g/kg of protein per meal to reach an anabolic threshold.
i.e. an 80kg athlete would require anywhere between 32-44g of protein per meal (~4 meals/day).
So, even though the gut can absorb far more, the muscle can only utilise a smaller fraction
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