How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb at Once?

I bet he'd be a good source of protein. Yum.

You’ve probably heard – at one time or another – someone recommend that you should only eat 30 grams of protein at a time. The idea is that body can only absorb so much protein at once and that any protein beyond the body’s limit will be wasted.

Though this belief is prevalent, I’ve never found any research that supports it. And on the contrary, there have been a few small-scale studies that suggest there is no advantage in observing the 30-gram limit.

Here’s a better strategy that I’d recommend:

  1. Calculate your daily protein needs. Typical people need about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. Active people require .6 grams per pound. And athletes or bodybuilders can require .9 grams or more per pound. Being the 160lb gym addict that I am, I aim for 140 grams of protein a day.
  2. Divide your daily protein requirement by the number of meals you typically eat. As is often advised for fitness enthusiasts, I try to eat 5 meals a day. This would suggest that I should take about 28 grams of protein per meal. If I eat 3 meals, I’d try for 40 grams – with a few extra grams during snacking.

As it turns out, most people will probably get a number around 30 grams. My dad, for example, is 220 pounds and fairly average in terms of his activity level. He’d need 88 grams of protein per day. He eats 3 meals, so that would equal – lo and behold – 29.33 grams. For this reason, I suspect that the 30 gram number originally emerged more as a recommendation than a rule. And then, over time, it took on a life of its own.

Bottom line: Even large amounts of protein can be digested and absorbed, and it appears there is no 30 gram limit. The body will only “waste” protein if you’re taking in more than you need on a daily basis.

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Comments

  1. When I saw “protein,” I was expecting something totally different.

  2. Nick Benson says:

    Sounds like a recipe for renal failure.

    • Maybe if you eat fried food everyday, but this seems like a snap judgment based upon the big I word.

      Some people probably need more or less than this depending on their personal needs, but this is protein in general, not red meat or soy protein, for this can be dependent on blood type (ideally), or at least upon someone’s belief system.

  3. Bullwinklemoos says:

    Hey Davey- I have a question- is this per pound or per pound of lean body weight? I’ve heard somewhere that fat doesn’t need protein the way that lean tissue does.

  4. Thank you for this post. This is the most succinct information I have found. I think I will look at the formula before trying out the .6 gram ratio….

  5. alexandru says:

    this is crazy, six grames for one pound of body wheight per day????????????????? I have 74 kg, that mean 910 grams a day? Are you mad? I don’t even eat that much food.

  6. No alexandru, it’s point six. (.6) it’s not visable here.. they needed to write 0.6..

  7. I’ve been told so many different things! i’ve been told that for trimming down your waistline the high carb lolw protein diet is good – when infact carbs cause an insulin spike and causes fat to be stored! Low carb high protein is good too – for keeping muscle mass and keeping the hormones ghrelin and insulin under controll! I am currently looking to trim my waistline down – while either maintaining or gaining lean muscle mass at the moment i’m 32 and a half inches – want to trim it down to at least 30 inches! i’m a 20 year old male – i train hard at the gym 4-5 times, I have a healthy diet, I weigh 80 KG, my height is 5″10! any advice or help would be appreciated! thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

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