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How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb? (Per Meal & Day)

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a bunch of protein-packed foods like fish, chicken meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, etc, how much protein can your body absorb
David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

Table of Contents

Most people who aim to gain muscle know the importance of having a high-protein diet and likely consume as many protein-rich foods as they can. 

But how much protein can your body absorb in one day, and is it necessary to go overboard with your protein intake to build muscle? 

In this article, we explain how protein is absorbed and how to maximize protein intake for muscle growth. 

How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb?

If you aim to grow muscle or get more defined, it’s a good idea to monitor your daily protein intake. But have you ever wondered how much protein can your body absorb at once? 

Before we dive into why achieving your protein requirements within one meal may not be the best option, let’s talk about the digestion and absorption process of this macronutrient.

Protein Digestion

The absorption process of proteins starts when they are broken down into smaller building blocks called amino acids by digestive enzymes in the stomach and the small intestine. 

Once in the small intestine, amino acids get absorbed by the body and can either get to the bloodstream or be used by the tissues in the gut. 

Protein absorption is affected by many factors, such as the structure of the protein itself, the total amount of protein consumed, the meal composition, age, gender, total lean body mass, and the level of physical activity performed. [1] 

How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb in One Meal?

How much protein can your body absorb in one meal? More importantly, how much of it goes to muscle synthesis? 

It is now known that eating too much of this macronutrient may not necessarily lead to greater muscle gains. 

Some studies have demonstrated that intakes over 20 to 25 grams of protein per sitting lead to greater amino acid oxidation but not to additional muscle gains. 

However, the fact that excess protein is oxidized doesn’t necessarily mean it goes to waste, as it is used by the body for other biological functions, such as building other tissues or producing energy. [1]

With that said, you wouldn’t want to try to eat 100 grams in one sitting. More on that below.

How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb in One Day?

Some studies demonstrate that amino acids are absorbed at a rate of 1.3-10 grams per hour, suggesting that a total daily absorption can reach a maximum of 240 grams. [2] 

However, research hasn’t yet found a definite maximum limit for daily protein absorption, as this depends on a series of factors that will be discussed more thoroughly in the following sections. [2] 

All in all, our body can absorb most of the protein we eat; however, the amount used for muscle growth is limited. 

Factors That Influence Protein Absorption

Below, we will outline the main factors that can affect the absorption rate of protein. 

Biological Factors

Biological factors can greatly influence protein absorption, as they can affect how protein is broken down and absorbed. 

This includes digestive disorders and kidney diseases, as these conditions, despite being uncommon, can seriously alter the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. 

Even age can influence how protein is digested and absorbed, as the production of digestive enzymes decreases as we get older. [3] [4] [5]

Protein Sources & Food Combinations

It is important to note that not all proteins have the same absorption rate. Some proteins are, in fact, more easily digested, whilst some oxidize faster than others. In this regard, animal proteins have greater absorption rates than plant proteins, as the latter oxidize more promptly. [6] 

Pairing protein with other nutrients can also impact its rate of absorption. For instance, pairing chicken with fiber-rich foods, such as brown rice and vegetables, can make your enzymes take longer to digest proteins and other nutrients. [7] [1]

Allowing protein to take longer to digest helps increase postprandial muscle synthesis, as it rations the amount of amino acids released into the body.

Protein Timing and Distribution

Even though most of the protein we eat is absorbed by the body, this doesn’t mean that it will all be used to synthesize muscle tissue, especially if consumed all at once, as this leads to greater oxidation and protein deamination. 

If your goal is to increase lean mass, then you should opt for smaller protein intakes multiple times throughout the day, so to maximize its utilization for building skeletal muscle. [1] 

And to further boost muscle growth, ensure to consume some protein following intense workout sessions. A great and convenient way to do this is with a protein shake. [8] 

So, How Much Protein Should You Eat?

As demonstrated by some studies, protein intakes for anabolic purposes should be 0.4 grams per kilo of body weight per meal. 

Ideally, this protein intake should be achieved in at least four meals each day, so to reach the recommended daily protein intake of 1.6 grams per kilo of body weight, which is the suggested lowermost threshold for those who aim to build muscles. [1]

As previously mentioned, monitoring your daily protein intake and making sure you divide it over multiple meals throughout the day is indeed enough to support muscle growth.

Wrapping Up

Eating protein is very important for our health, but even more so if the aim is to build more muscle. Below you can find the key points about protein intake and absorption and how it affects muscle growth:

  • Protein absorption starts with enzymatic digestion in the stomach and the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, protein is either released in the bloodstream or kept in the gut for building other tissues.
  • Intakes over 20-25g of protein per sitting can lead to greater oxidation rates rather than muscle growth. However, the excess protein is not wasted as it is utilized for other biological functions.
  • Daily protein absorption rates vary based on a series of factors. However, we tend to absorb most of the protein we consume, but only some of it is devolved to building muscle tissue.
  • Some digestive disorders and kidney diseases can affect protein absorption.
  • Getting older can result in impaired protein absorption due to a natural decrease in digestive enzymes.
  • Protein source and food combinations can affect the absorption rate of this nutrient.
  • If you aim to build muscle, you should focus on your total protein intake. Although dividing it into smaller portions across more meals can help you prevent protein oxidation and support muscle growth.
  • Include around 0.4g of protein per kilo of body weight in at least 4 meals a day to achieve greater amino acid absorption in the muscles and reach the recommended daily intake for muscle growth.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!



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