Before starting with the subject in question, I would like to make clear a series of things that I think are essential before continuing. Very schematically.
- Regardless of the number of meals that appear to be optimal and the maximum protein per sitting that our body can take advantage of to maximize protein synthesis … don’t kid yourself. The most important thing is and will remain the total protein per day. If you have not read my article on CLEAR PRIORITIES yet, I highly recommend it as it is one of the most important articles on the blog and a must-have before continuing with more advanced topics such as the amount of protein per sit.
- Speaking of total protein, remember that many people in the world are wanting you to believe that you need much more protein than you need, because part of the money they earn comes from promoting protein supplements. Therefore, it is very lucrative for all these individuals to get into their heads the need and the fear that you need an exorbitant amount of daily protein, and that if you do not do that you will be losing all your muscle mass because in that context it is a lot easier than you end up turning to shakes and supplements to cover that ridiculous amount. And that’s when all these people get a slice of it, has created a need for you that didn’t exist in the first place.
- Remember, the amount needed to build muscle mass in a calorie surplus is 1.8-2 grams/kg of daily weight. Not so much protein. And if you are in a caloric deficit, it may be advisable to increase that amount slightly, being able to reach a maximum of 2.7 grams/kg of weight. I repeat, it is not so much protein, and certainly much less than what people usually believe. Consuming more protein than necessary is not only useless, but you will be losing money (protein is expensive), you will be displacing the consumption of other much more interesting nutrients in that context (fats and carbohydrates mainly) and even excessive consumption of protein can lead to decreased testosterone levels, both free and total.
Another issue that I think needs to be resolved before proceeding is the misconception that many people have when we talk about the question at hand. I explain.
Many people ask “how much protein can our body absorb in one sitting” when what they want to ask is “how much protein in one sitting can our body use to synthesize muscle or use it for hypertrophy”.
It is important to note this because the second question is what interests you, while the first (and what most people ask) is easy to answer. All Literally, the body has a virtually unlimited ability to absorb nutrients and calories. That is, it can absorb a lot of protein per sitting, another thing is that it is the most optimal to maximize muscle growth.
However, if you weren’t able to absorb more than 20 grams (a number that many people believe to be the absorption limit and coincidentally similar to the protein in a Whey supplement pot) each time you consume more than 20 grams of protein at once would have a tremendous breakdown and go straight to the bathroom.
That does not happen. Why? Well, because our body can absorb practically everything you throw at it. You have to go through a lot so that your body is not able to absorb something you have eaten. I am talking about several thousand calories.
SOLVING THE DOUBT
Once we have all of the above clear, we will resolve the question at hand.
What is the protein limit per sitting that our body can use to build muscle mass?
The amount of protein we are looking for is primarily based on the optimal amount of leucine that is needed to stimulate muscle growth. We know today that leucine is the main amino acid that regulates the mTOR pathway, which is responsible for muscle growth, so ensuring that there is enough leucine in every meal becomes a priority to optimize results.
Be very careful, since now we can fall into the trap of thinking that we have to consume leucine to failure to maximize muscle gains. Nothing is further from reality. There comes a point where more leucine is not needed and consuming more is simply redundant.
How much leucine is necessary? Approximately 2.5 and 3 grams per sitting, although some studies have observed that 1.8 grams are sufficient to maximize protein synthesis.
But to be sure, we will move in the range of 2.5-3 grams per meal. And knowing this, we are going to transfer it to the total amount of protein per sitting, which is the question we want to solve.
For this we are going to refer to a review carried out by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld on this same topic in February 2018 and which concluded the following:
That is, assuming an approximate weight range of 70-90kg for a healthy adult male and 48-68kg for a healthy adult female, we would have the following approximate ranges of protein per sit:
MALES: 28-40 grams of protein in the low range and 36-50 in the high range.
WOMEN: 20-26 grams in the low range and 27-37 in the high range.
If we weigh more or less we will have to adapt the quantities. We are talking about very general numbers.
At that amount of protein per sitting and at that frequency, given the evidence, protein synthesis is maximized since in each sitting there will be enough leucine to activate the mTOR pathway.