Monday, October 24, 2011

Protein Absorption: The Myth of 30 Grams


Based on absorption, how much protein should you be ingesting per meal?

There is a popular (mis)belief that the human body can't absorb more than 30 grams of protein protein per meal. I remember back in my swimmer days that my coach told us that our body couldn't handle more than 25 grams of protein at a time, it wouldn't know what to do with the excess and it would make us sick. But then again, he also told us to eat carbs before and after practice, and to load up on spaghetti the night before swim meets.... I am going to channel my inner Professor Platek and look at this from an evolutionary point of view. In ancient human history, could our bodies really only handle 25 grams of protein at one time?

Science and common sense seems to refute this claim.

Researchers in France have found that eating protein all at once can be just as well absorbed as spreading it it out over your day. A group of 26 year old women were given either 80% of their protein for the day at one meal or spread over multiple meals. After two weeks, there was no difference between the subject and control groups, in terms of nitrogen balance, whole body protein turnover, whole body protein synthesis, or protein breakdown.
Huh, Soy is way down the list....Who knew?
In both subject and controls, the amount of protein given was 1.7 grams of protein per kilograms of fat-free mass per day. This means that for a 26 year old, 125 pound woman, eating 77 grams of protein in one meal had the same effect as spreading it out. While I don't view 1.7 grams of protein per kilo of fat-free mass as sufficient for a weightlifter, it is still nearly triple the amount you can supposedly ingest, according to what you hear from the uneducated.

The experiment was then repeated in older subjects, with whom, it turns out, eating protein all at once can actually lead to better protein retention. Giving elder women 80% of their protein for one day in a single meal for two weeks led to almost 20% more synthesis and retention of protein compared to dividing it in smaller doses.

It appears that daily protein is more important than per-meal protein. For some people though, including my wife, eating 80% of your protein in one meal just isn't going to happen (spouses can be stubborn, can't they?). In that case, I WOULD recommend protein at every meal, just to make sure they reach the daily dose.

Stubborn as a mule.
It's also important to remember that food weight does not equal  protein weight. For example, if you weigh near-fat-free chicken breasts on a food scale and the total is 140 grams it doesn't mean you are getting even close to 140 grams of protein. In fact, 140 grams of chicken contains about 43 grams of protein, less that 1/3 of the total weight. People forget the heaviest piece: water.

A good rule of thumb for daily intake: 1-2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight. However, if you are currently lifting big and trying to get big, I suggest 1.25-2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, which means you subtract your your bodyfat first.

Here are a few examples:
100lbs of LEAN mass= 125 grams of protein
120lbs = 150 grams
150 lbs = 187.5 grams
200lbs = 250 grams

Not gaining muscle? Here is a tip: Track your protein intake over 1 day. Then eat more.

Article excerpts taken from "The Hour Hour Body" by Tim Ferris.

25 comments:

  1. I think the problem is in meal speed absorption. Should be 25 g of protein/x hours or something.
    The type of protein make them go into the blood stream faster or slower.
    You cannot put a shake and a steak in the same category.
    And another thing, if you don't eat enough calories you will use the protein for energy.Which can make you sick in time.

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  2. This was a great little article. Especially for a newbie like myself. Thanks for posting it up.

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  3. I think you mean, "The Four Hour Body," not, "The Hour Hour Body"

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  4. Bacon smoothies all day.

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  5. I agree with the first comment if your body is in a non anabolic or storage state then it will be harder for absorption and if all the protein is immediate absorption than what might happen is a use of same and wasting of other. Whole food sources probably are better absorbed because of slower rates. Plus at these meals were other foods taken in to alter blood insulin response?

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  6. Terrible article from an unreliable source (sorry). Everyone has their own maximal effective doses response to protein intake. Generally if the body needs it the body will use it. Tipton, K.D., Ferrando, A.A., Phillips, S.M., Doyle, D. & Wolfe, R.R. (1999). Post exercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. American Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 276, E628-E634.

    There are so many unanswered questions with the the four hour body article. Do men absorb protein at different rates? And off course the elder will absorb more protein they need it as degradation exceeds synthesis with age. I'm a triathlete (big fan of crossfit)but the your nutrition advice is based on poor research. The worse thing is people with no nutrition knowledge will absorb this poor advice like a sponge. On the other side of the coin, xfit training is fantastic keep it up!

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  7. The cavemen will have meals of 100+ protein and heaps of fat in one sit and they won't eat again for maybe 2 days depending on the hunting and weather. Other bodies are not design to eat all the time. But to eat big and store food, that's why we have 2 hormones: insulin and glucagon. One stores, one burns. The body can absorb 30 grams of protein every hour. If u eat 60 grams of protein ur body won't urinate it. The body will store it and use it at te following hour. That's why is important to have big protein dinners, so as to feed the muscles during sleep. Everybody need to think about the human as an animal. Not the consumption victim of the 2012 capitalism which tells u to eat every 1 hour. Meet ur protein daily goal. Store it and don't it for 16+. Mix intermittent fasting and paleo diet and that was the caveman.

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    1. BEST REPLY SO FAR!! GROK ON

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    2. You have to remember though, that palaeolithic hunter-gatherers were light and slender people - the total opposite of the physique that bodybuilders are trying to accomplish. Look at pictures of the San Bushmen in Africa. That is what your palaeolithic ancestors looked like. Their protein requirements are probably fairly low.

      If you're a hunter-gatherer, your body is optimized to be light, so that you expend a little energy as possible when travelling over long distances.

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  8. What a load of crap. What 125 pound woman eats 1 lb of lean meat a day? On top of that she's supposed to have her 8 servings of fruits and vegetables, plus dairy for calcium? You talking about a woman, or a cow?

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    1. I don't eat 1 lb of lean meat every day but I make it work.. and I'm not a cow. I'm a 28 year old 5'4 female who has weighed 126 lbs since I was 21 however since weightlifting and focusing on more protein intake 1 year ago (no other alterations to my diet) I'm now 119 lbs. I get a minimum of 80 grams of protein per day, take a liquid calcium supplement, and use a juicer or blender to get my fruits and veggies in. It is probably easier to be a cow instead of a woman :p

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  9. This guy is lost
    So I should eat all my proteins in one go?

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  10. ... You SHOULD eat cooked pasta, no sauce,no cheese 2 hours before a workout. The carbs break down slower providing sustained energy for a prolonged workout. So... You're a moron. Stopped reading after the first paragraph.

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  11. oh i thought vitamins played a role in absorbing protiens and breaking them down and building muscle.

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  12. i think we shouldn't eat more than 40g at once , especially fast digesting proteins , because your gonna launch too much ammonia in the bloodstream suddenly , and you probably gonna piss a good part of the hard earned protein . just keep it simple , and eat the necessary . no more no less

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  13. The thing I always found stupid was how people recommend 5-6 meals a day, then say do NOT exceed 25-30 Grams a day. So how do these 300lb Mr Olympia contestants go about getting there protein intake? at 1.25 grams per lb. That would be 375 Grams a day, which would equate to 12 Meals a day! Eating roughly every 80 minutes!

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  14. Do you have a reference or link to the experiment on the French girls / old women?

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    1. I second that, source ur info or it didn't happen.

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  15. This is copied word for word from 4 hour body.

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