Protein is the peanut butter to fitness’ jelly. You don’t want one without the other.
Yet, in all the talk around protein – which type is right for you, how much should you intake in a day, etc. – one topic that seems to have some misconceptions is grams of protein per meal.
The popular belief is you can only absorb a certain number of grams of protein per meal, with most suggesting no more than 20-40 grams. The rest, some people believe, is then not absorbed and wasted.
That’s not necessarily accurate, though.
Technically, you can absorb a large amount of protein in a meal since absorption refers to the passage of nutrients from the intestine to the blood. So, for instance, if you consumed 100 grams of protein in a sitting, you could absorb all of it.
So, the question is not how many grams per meal is ideal, but how much protein in a meal is ideal for muscle growth.
The answer to that depends on your training intensity and your type and muscle mass.
If you have a low-volume training day, you will not break down as much muscle as you would during an intense-volume day. Similarly, leg day would most likely lead to more protein breakdown than an arm day due to the size of the muscles being worked. Your body can use more protein for muscle recovery after the larger-muscle-group training days and high-intensity days. Furthermore, the grams of protein needed at a meal can be determined by the muscle mass an individual holds. The more muscle mass a person has, the more protein they can use per meal for muscle growth.
So, if you’re only working your shoulders or training less intensely, there’s no need to fret over consuming an insane amount of protein in a day, or especially in each meal. But, on the flip side, if you’re killing your legs or planning on working out until you drop, you better plan accordingly with extra protein in your diet.
MS, RD, LD