How Much Protein Can a Body Absorb?

In the fitness world for quite some time there was the notion that the human body could only handle a certain amount of protein in each meal, and the rest would be excreted or oxidized. Athletes and trainees would use the advice and try to maximize their muscle anabolism or muscle retention by consuming several doses of protein during the day. The practice of protein feasting went hand in hand with the idea that you have to eat at least six meals each day in order to keep the metabolism working hard. Since the concept of eating frequently to keep the metabolism revved up has been proven futile, now let’s have a look at protein dosing and its limits.

How Much Protein Can a Body Absorb?

Absorption by Body Weight

According to the University of California, Los Angeles, the body can absorb up to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight. This statistic is more than the recommended levels for both sedentary and strength athletes, which is 0.36 and 0.82 grams per pound respectively. Yet it only adds up to 118 grams per day for a 130-pound person, 154 grams per day for a 170-pound person, and 190 grams per day for a 210-pound person.

Absorption per Hour

Consumer Reports magazine published an article in July 2010 said that your body will only absorb between 5 grams and 9 grams of protein per hour. Therefore, ingesting large amounts of protein in one go could be disadvantageous. If your body managed to absorb the maximum of 9 grams of protein per hour, then spreading out protein intake over the course of the day at this rate lands you at 216 grams of protein absorbed in one day.

Protein by Types

How much protein can a body absorb in one hour? Approximately speaking, the body can absorb 8 to 10 grams of whey protein, 6.1 grams of casein protein, 3.9 grams of soy protein, and 2.8 grams of cooked egg protein per hour. The type of protein you consume, as well as the last time you ate affects the rate at which your body will absorb protein. Also, what you eat the protein with can change the way your body processes it. For example, fiber slows down protein absorption.

The Science of Protein Absorption

Digestion of Proteins in the Stomach

The stomach secretes two substances called HCL (hydrochloric acid) and pepsinogen which work together to create the enzyme pepsin, which is very important for protein absorption, also known as hydrolysis. It occurs when enzymes break down the proteins. How long the breakdown will take is determined by a number of factors such as enzyme concentration, protein quantity, stomach acidity, and food temperature to name a few.

Hydrochloric acid severs the bonds between proteins which then become amino acids, essential for a healthy metabolism. Pepsin is the enzyme responsible for breaking down collagen, the fibrous protein found in animal tissue.

Digestion of Proteins in the Small Intestine

The pancreas secretes enzymes known as trypsin and chymotrypsin, which help digest protein and fat. After the proteins are broken down in the stomach, they move on to the first section of the small intestine where trypsin further disintegrates them, creating more amino acids. Hydrolysis occurs again, splitting the amino acids into smaller parts with a water molecule, enabling the tiny amino acids to penetrate the lining of the intestine, entering the blood stream. The blood stream carries the amino acids to different parts of the body that need repair or growth.

Absorption of Amino Acids

The protein source can significantly impact the amount of time it will take the amino acids to be absorbed by the body. Specifically, milk and soy proteins are digested differently, and there are differences among types of milk protein. Milk protein is 50 percent absorbed between the stomach and the middle segment of the small intestine, and 90 percent absorbed in the final section of the small intestine.

What Are Good Sources of Protein?

Since you have known the answer that how much protein can a body absorb, you may want to learn about what are the good options of protein rich foods.

  • Seafood: Seafood is high in protein and low in fat, which makes it a great choice.
  • White-Meat Poultry: Skinless white-meat poultry is an excellent source of lean protein. Dark meat poultry is higher fat, so much less beneficial.
  • Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt: Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt do not only provide you with protein, they’re also loaded with calcium.
  • Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein, and healthy adults can indulge in one egg daily.
  • Beans are full of fiber, and a half cup of them could provide you with as much protein as an ounce of steak.
  • Lean Beef is a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
  • Protein on the Go: Meal replacement drinks, cereal bars, and energy bars could be a great choice, as long as it’s high in protein and low in fat and sugar.
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