When you see guys bulking up in the gym and wonder why you aren’t, you could be missing out on something… Protein intake!
Protein Intake. Protein is the guide to it all, from fit healthy bodies to bulking up and getting strong, protein is what’s making that happen.
Everyone seems to have a different view when it comes to protein. Some people think that your body is only capable of having a certain amount of protein for every meal. These people also believe you have to eat every couple of hours in order to build up your muscle.
But there are a ton of different opinions when it comes to protein. So-called experts state that you should stick to 40 grams of protein (or less) for every meals. Others say that you should go lower, while the rest say it should be more.
How can everyone be an expert, yet all have different answers? Who is right?
If you’ve read any of our other articles, you might already be thinking of something else, but it isn’t as simple as just one solid answer.
Take a look at a quarterback in the NFL. Now take a look at your friend or family member that has a body similar to a toothpick. Odds are, their protein intake is going to be different. Very different. Protein intake is going to vary because of different factors. Two of the most important factors are your lifestyle and habits, and the lean mass in your body. These two key factors are going to play a big role in your protein’s metabolism.
If you think about it, if a person was only able to eat a small amount of protein in one meal, then ate larger amounts (like what we eat daily) in two to three meals would have protein deficiencies. Now you might be wondering how humans were able to survive before the whole hunter/gatherer time, but as you know, the body is an amazing thing and is able to change depending on the situation.
Here’s is our question: how much protein can we eat and absorb in just one sitting? Another question is, how often do we have to eat protein in order to build up our muscles?
Let’s take a look at what your body goes through when you eat protein.
The first step starts with your mouth, you eat it. You make it, buy it, whatever. You eat it and the protein goes to your stomach. Here, the aid and enzymes found in your stomach start breaking the protein down. It does this so it can turn it into building blocks, which are called amino acids. From here, these amino acids go into your bloodstream. They take a ride with specific cells that are found up and down the intestines. These cells deliver the amino acids all over your body. Because our bodies have a small amount of these special transporter cells, we have to limit the amount of amino acids that are able to get into the blood.
So when we say protein absorption, that’s what we’re talking about and how fast our bodies are able to absorb amino acids into the bloodstream.
It’s a known fact that each human body and the rate it absorbs protein is going to be different depending on the person. In fact, in one review, whey ended up showing that it was absorbed 8 to 10 grams an hour. Casein on the other hand was about 6.1, with soy coming in at 3.9. Not-so-shockingly, egg gets absorbed around 1.3 grams an hour. While these numbers aren’t exact, things can get a little messy when it comes to measuring protein absorption. Some proteins are able to absorb quickly while others not so much.
A lot of types of food travel through the digestive tract differently, so they aren’t going to leave certain areas the same way they came in.
For example, protein intake in your stomach is going to work with a certain hormone that can actually stop “gastric emptying,” which is when the food in the stomach gets emptied. This is going to slow down contractions in the intestines. From here, food is going to move a lot more slowly while it’s traveling through the small intestines. This is where nutrients are absorbed and where your body buys itself time in order to get protein from all the food you eat. As your body is working on absorbing protein, both carbs and fats can get completely soaked up.
How Does The Process Of Protein Intake Work
Next, the protein intake metabolism process happens when the amino acids finally find their way into the bloodstream. When they make it here, your body does many of different things with them, depending on what it needs, such as tissue repair and growth or even storing extra amino acids for up to 24 hours within the muscles. If there are still some amino acids lingering in your blood after this, your body breaks them down to use as fuel for both your brain and other cells.
So let’s think about that for a minute. If that’s the whole way our bodies process the protein we eat, how can people claim that it is only possible to burn a certain amount of protein for one meal?
That’s exactly it, there is a problem with these set number claims when it comes to protein absorption. When people say there is only so much protein that can be absorbed in one sitting, it’s usually because of one or two of these things.
First, a lack of knowledge about how food makes its way through the digestive system. In fact, some people state that all types of foods go through the small intestine within 2 to 3 hours. So, even if you eat fast absorbing protein, which is about 8 to 10 grams an hour, you can actually only soak up 25 to 30 grams of protein during one meal. So, if you eat more protein than what is being absorbed, fewer grams of protein will enter the bloodstream.
Sound a little fishy? Our bodies are a bit smarter than we think and deserve more credit. They keep track of the speed that protein moves through the small intestines. Why? Because it wants to make sure it is able to take advantage of all the amino acids that are available.
The second reason has to do with various types of studies. These studies, which look into the anabolic response to the protein consumed, aren’t as exact as you think. One of the most commonly cited studies that has to do with protein absorption had some shocking results. It showed that having 20 grams of protein after a workout really helped muscle protein synthesis in younger men. That means that eating more than 20 grams of protein after a workout didn’t do anything special when it came to stimulating muscle growth.
This one seems a little iffy too. The biggest issue we want to point out here is that you can’t listen to studies that look at anabolic responses when it comes to protein intake in order to figure out how much protein our bodies are able to absorb in one meal. It simply doesn’t give us enough information to go off of because we’re only getting one piece of the puzzle here. Protein absorption is connected to how many amino acids that are around for longer periods of time. So this is going to not only stop muscle breakdown, but also gives us raw materials that help with growth. As we know all too well, our body doesn’t simply look away towards amino acids that aren’t there right away. Rather, it thinks on its own and stores them for later use, which is surely needed.
The Human Nutrition Research Center supported this idea even further with a study done on its own. With a group of 16 young women, they instructed them to get 79% of the entire day’s protein (which averages out to somewhere around 54 grams) in either one meal alone or four meals. This was done over the course of 2 weeks. When the researchers studied the results, they found out that there wasn’t a difference between the two groups when they looked at protein synthesis and degradation.
If we take an even deeper look at the amount of protein the study used in terms of body weight, it evens out to about 1.17g/kg. Think about a man who weights about 176 pounds, (which is normal). That comes out to a whopping 94 grams of protein in just one sitting alone! We know this isn’t legit evidence but it’s something to think about.
Another thing to think about is the study on intermittent fasting, which is a popular style of dieting. If you aren’t familiar with this, here’s how it works. The dieter goes into a faster period for long periods of time. After the long period, they follow up with a feeding window, which can last anywhere from 2 hours up to 8 hours. In fact, one study showed that stuffing an entire days amount of protein into a 4 hour feeding window (which was right after a 20 hour fasting period) didn’t have any negative outcomes.
The Relationship Between Protein Intake And Metabolism
There are a lot of different things that can affect protein metabolism, like how much muscle you have. The more muscle you have in your body, the higher the amount of amino acids your body is going to need in order to keep your musculature, so there are going to be more places for your body to store. It can also depends on how active you are, since the more exercise you do, the more your body needs protein. Your age also factors into it because your body needs more protein in order to keep muscle as you age. Like everything else, hormones have a hand here too. Having higher levels of growth hormone and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) can actually stimulate muscle synthesis. So, if your body has higher levels of this, it’s going to make better use of protein than someone who has lower levels.
So even though we talked earlier about 20 grams of protein being enough to stimulate the max amount of muscle growth in very specific conditions, it doesn’t mean this is going to work for everyone.
What we’re trying to say is that your protein intake doesn’t have to be rigid. You can be pretty flexible with it.
It’s nearly impossible to put a number on just how much protein each body needs to absorb in one meal. But we do know it’s more than the 20 to 30 grams in which some so-called experts believe.
Protein timing isn’t exactly as important either. There isn’t any need for you to eat protein every 2 to 3 hours in order to get the max amount of muscle growth. What really matters is how much you eat in a 24-hour basis.
With that being said, it’s always a good idea to have protein both before and after training or a workout session. But, you also want to break it up throughout the rest of the day. Your body can take it from here.
We suggest you to eat every couple of hours and add protein each time. Or, if you’re one of the people who like to eat bigger meals less often, make sure you get enough protein for each one of these meals.
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