How Much Protein Can Your Body Absorb?
It can be a bit of a challenge to really hone in on your nutrition, but ask just about any bodybuilder, gym junkie, or health nut, and they'll likely tell you that the struggle is well worth it — especially if you have fitness goals.
That being said, if you've been on your wellness journey for quite some time and aren't seeing results, you could be overlooking something essential — like protein absorption. While it may sound pretty straightforward, the way your body absorbs and utilizes protein is complex.
Are you interested in learning more? We can help. Read on as we explore the essential macronutrient to uncover everything you need to know about protein absorption. Are you ready?
Let's dive in!
First, Things First — What’s So Special About Protein, Anyway?
In addition to carbohydrates and fats, protein is one of the three macronutrients that your body needs in substantial amounts. And without it, you simply would not survive.
From your muscle tissues and skin cells to the enzymes that digest your food, proteins are found everywhere in your system.
When you fuel your body with the important macronutrient through the foods you eat or the delicious protein shakes you drink, it gets broken down into smaller compounds called amino acids — aka, the building blocks of life.
Hundreds of amino acids exist in nature; however, the human body only needs 20 of them to function optimally. That being said, your body can actually make 11 of the 20, but the remaining nine — called essential amino acids — must be provided from your diet.
How Protein Is Used in the Body
Depending on the bioavailability of the amino acids found in the food you eat, a certain percentage of them are absorbed from your small intestine through cells in the intestinal wall into the blood — this is known as protein absorption. The blood then transports the amino acids to where they are needed in the body.
Those amino acids are recombined in different combinations through protein synthesis. The new proteins are then used to build or repair skeletal muscle and tissue, strengthen the immune system, create hormones or perform any of the other many incredible functions of protein.
Needless to say, protein is pretty important!
The More Protein We Eat, The Better for Muscle Mass— Right?
Seeing as the essential macronutrient plays such a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing, you may think the more protein you chow down on during a meal, the sweeter the muscle gains — however, your muscles don't necessarily work that way.
You see, thanks to protein synthesis, there's only a certain amount of protein that your muscles can actually absorb in a single sitting.
To be clear (and despite what many people may think), if you consume more protein than your muscles can absorb, that protein doesn't just go to waste. Remember, protein has multiple functions — if your muscles can't use all the protein from your meal, another area in your body will gladly absorb what's left.
The process works like this:
- Exercise creates tiny micro-tears in your muscles. The harder you push during your workout, the more these little tears occur. Protein repairs these micro-tears, and this, in turn, then leads to more muscle mass and strength.
- If you don't supply your muscles enough protein after your workout, those micro-tears will linger due to not having what they need to heal.
- On the flip side, if you fuel your muscles with more protein than what they can absorb, they will use what's needed to repair the micro-tears, and then the remaining protein will go to other parts of the body where it can be utilized.
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How Many Grams of Protein Should Be Consumed Daily?
So, if the body can absorb a virtually unlimited amount of protein, does that mean you should be noshing on as much protein as humanly possible?
No, not exactly.
While there's no upper absorption limit, there's also no logical reason to devour your body weight in steak, eggs, bacon, and protein bars. In general, you should aim to get at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. However, protein needs will vary from person to person depending on a few different factors:
- Age: Older individuals are advised to get more protein in their diet to prevent muscle loss with aging.
- Lifestyle: Athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness fanatics who are anything but sedentary need more protein, around 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound daily.
- Weight: As mentioned, the amount of protein you should eat depends on your body weight. This is why men tend to have a higher recommended daily protein intake than women.
Is Consuming Too Much Protein Unhealthy?
For most folks, eating excessive protein isn't really a problem. Still, if you do consistently overindulge in the beloved macronutrient, it can eventually overload your digestive system, kidneys, and liver, ultimately resulting in issues like:
- Digestive distress
- Brain fog
- Bad breath
What's more, the body can't store protein to use for later. This means that after absorbing all the protein your body needs from a protein-rich meal to keep it in tip-top shape, the extra protein that was not utilized could convert into sugar —which is stored as body fat.
So, how much protein is too much, you ask? Simply put, if more than 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein — it's a good idea to reconsider your diet. Remember, balance is key when it comes to good nutrition to keep your body healthy.
So, how much protein can your body absorb, you ask?
Here's the deal — your body can virtually absorb an unlimited amount of protein. On the other hand, your muscles have a limit of around 30 grams of protein.
This means any protein consumed over 30 grams won't necessarily go to your muscles but will get used by other areas of the body. From your skin cells to your tissues and bones, your entire body depends on the essential macronutrient to function at its best — not just your muscles.
Stick with the recommended dietary guidelines to keep your health in tip-top shape and your body working optimally. This way, you can be sure that you're providing your body with the nutrients it needs — like protein, carbs, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals — to support you on your fitness journey.
Here at BioHealth, we know how tough it can be to dial in on your nutrition. Our high-performance products, however, can help to make it easier. Whether your goal is to up the ante on your protein intake, build lean muscle mass, or simply improve your health, you can always count on us to have your back.
You see, with us, your choice is always simple, your nutrition is second-to-none, and your body is better than it was yesterday! Check us out today and see how we can help you to reach your goals tomorrow.
Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise | NCBI
Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients | NCBI
How Much Protein Is Simply Too Much? | SCL Health
Are you getting too much protein | Mayo Clinic Health System