Protein is one of the three macronutrients essential for the body, as it helps with tissue repair and maintenance. Most people who want to increase their protein intake do so for one of two reasons—to build muscle or lose weight.
Regardless of the reason, it’s crucial to ask yourself, “How much protein can your body absorb?” That’s because there’s a limited amount of protein your body can break down at any given time.
So, by frontloading your daily protein intake in a single sitting, you’ll not only deprive your body of the protein it needs, but you’ll also waste money on food or protein supplements that won’t give you the results you were expecting.
How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb in One Sitting?
How much protein can your body absorb in one sitting? Most nutritionists and researchers agree that the average person can absorb 20 – 25 grams of protein in one sitting. By “sitting,” we mean one meal.
However, one study suggests that the body can absorb more than 20 – 25 grams of protein at a time; it’s just that the rate of absorption significantly decreases.
The reason for this decrease is that after the 20 – 25-gram threshold, your body will begin oxidizing protein for energy. It also might use excess protein to assist with the formation of urea and organic acids.
For this reason, the study recommends that people consume a minimum of four meals per day, breaking up the amount of protein they need among these meals.
The good news is that you won’t harm your body by going over this protein recommendation a little. In fact, consuming more than the recommended daily amount of protein may support any muscle-building and weight loss goals you have.
How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb in an hour?
The amount of protein that your body can absorb in an hour depends on the type of protein you’re consuming.
For example, whey (a dairy-based protein) has a fast absorption time. So, one study shows that it takes the body two hours to absorb 20 grams of whey protein.
Following that logic, your body can absorb 10 grams of whey protein per hour. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you’re consuming protein strictly in the form of whey, you can eat 20 grams every other hour, and your body would, in theory, receive the full benefits.
In contrast, consuming protein in the form of casein, which is also a milk-based protein that undergoes different processing, can take up to around four hours to absorb. Therefore, you can expect your body to absorb casein at a rate of about five grams per hour.
The bottom line is that not all protein is the same, but the body can still only process 20 – 25 grams at a time efficiently. Therefore, if you’re getting your protein from multiple food sources, it’s wise to leave a few hours between protein consumption to improve your body’s chances of absorbing each serving.
How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb in One Day?
How much protein can your body absorb in one day? According to the same study, the average healthy young adult body can absorb between 0.4 – 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per meal.
If those numbers make your head spin, that comes out to 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram for the entire day. So, multiply your weight in kilograms by 2.2 to determine the maximum ideal protein absorption for your body in one day.
That said, your body might be able to absorb more than these numbers if you spread out your protein intake. However, these are the protein consumption guidelines that the study recommends.
Determining Your Ideal Protein Intake
Despite the numbers above, several factors impact the amount of protein your body can absorb in an hour or one day.
Protein Absorption Based on Age
Sarcopenia is a condition that causes people to lose muscle loss and strength as they age. Unlike the younger population, as people grow older, their body’s ability to respond to anabolic stimuli from amino acids decreases.
For this reason, it’s crucial to increase your protein intake as you age. It’s been suggested that the muscle in older people resists leucine absorption, which is one of the three essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Therefore, experts recommend increasing the amount of protein you eat by as much as 50% as you age.
Protein Absorption Based on Weight
Studies show that an increased protein intake won’t impact the amount of body fat a person gains in a controlled setting where people eating lower protein diets consume the same calories.
Nevertheless, the more you weigh, the more daily protein you need to consume. All cells in the body contain protein, so your body requires more amino acids to repair damaged cells and create new ones.
You should periodically recalculate the amount of protein you should consume based on the calculations shared earlier if you know that you’ve gained or lost weight.
Protein Absorption Based on Sex
Researchers mostly agree that there isn’t a difference in how men and women metabolize protein. However, there’s a notable difference in how much they should consume.
In almost all cases, men of the same weight and age should consume more protein than women. Of course, physical activity also comes into play, with people of both sexes who do more strength training requiring more protein, relatively speaking.
When looking at the ideal protein ranges, keep in mind that the lower end of the spectrum is generally for women, and the mid to high end is for men and active women.
How to Aid Protein Absorption
You can do a few things to help your body absorb protein. They include:
- Supplementing with vitamin B-6
- Eating acidic foods
- Consuming complex carbohydrates
Vitamin B-6 is crucial for the body because it supports enzyme breakdown, allowing your body to divide up amino acids in the protein you eat and carry them to your bloodstream. The good news is that many protein-rich foods contain high levels of vitamin B-6, including:
Similarly, acidic foods help break down amino acids. Therefore, try pairing your protein consumption with foods like citrus fruits, vinegar, and orange juice.
Finally, protein must have insulin to absorb the amino acids that vitamin B-6 and acidic foods worked so hard to break apart. Therefore, eating complex carbs like whole grains and seeds will increase your body’s insulin level and improve protein absorption.
Now that the question “how much protein can your body absorb?” has been answered, you may still have questions about protein absorption.
Can the body absorb more than 30 grams of protein in one sitting?
No, your body typically can’t absorb more than 30 grams of protein in one sitting. The rate of protein absorption significantly decreases after you eat 20 – 25 grams at a time. That’s because your body will begin oxidizing protein and excrete it or repurpose it for other uses.
Is there a limit to protein absorption?
Yes, there’s a limit to protein absorption based on the type of protein you’re consuming. You can expect faster-absorbing proteins, such as whey, to absorb at a pace of around 10 grams per hour. Furthermore, liquid proteins are typically faster to digest than solid proteins.
Are 100 grams of protein too much?
No, 100 grams of protein may not be too much for you. If you’re highly active, have a higher weight, or are older, 100 grams of protein may be a good option. In some cases, you might even need more than 100 grams.
Do incomplete proteins build muscle?
Yes, incomplete protein contributes to building muscle. Incomplete protein comes from food sources that lack at least one of the nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce. Whereas animal protein is complete, many plant foods have incomplete protein.
Final Thoughts: Are You Ready to Divvy Up Your Protein Consumption?
So, how much protein can your body absorb? The quick answer is 20 – 25 grams at a time.
All healthy adults require more than 20 – 25 grams of protein daily. For this reason, you mustn’t eat all your protein in one sitting. Otherwise, it’ll have little impact on breaking down into amino acids that your body can use after the 25-gram mark.
To help you determine how to divvy up your protein intake throughout your meals for the day, you first need to know how much protein you need based on your weight, age, and sex.
Some people can get away with getting their protein requirements in two meals and a snack, whereas other people will need to eat several spaced-out meals to ensure they’re maximizing their protein absorption.