What’s An Optimal Amount Of Protein For Growth And Recovery?

There is a ton of debate over supplements in general. When it comes to protein, everyone wants to know how much to take. What’s an optimal amount of protein for growth and recovery? Gym folklore would suggest that you can only absorb somewhere between 20-30 grams of protein at a time. The rest of the protein will just be excreted or stored as fat. But is that really true? Or is it just an assumption passed from one person to the next. Let’s get a little scientific support on this topic.

How Much Do You Need In The First Place?

Before we talk about how much you can absorb in one sitting we need to know how much you need throughout the whole day.

The DRI, which is basically the amount that is recommended daily, goes as follows:

  • Teenage boys – 52 grams/day
  • Men – 56 grams/day
  • Teenage girls & women – 46 grams/day
  • Pregnant women – 71 grams/day

The thing is, these recommendations don’t take into account active people who put a beating on their muscles in the gym. Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D. says that highly trained athletes benefit highly from 0.77 grams per pound of body weight. That comes out to 139 grams for a 180 pound athlete.

Even if you just go to the gym 3-5 times a week for an hour, your protein intake should be between 0.45 and 0.55 grams per pound of body weight. That means that the same 180 pound person would only need about 80-100 grams of protein.

I’ve even seen some fitness authorities recommending people to take in a full gram of protein for every pound of body weight. That would bring up the protein level a lot. So, really, the DRI recommendation is pretty low.

If you’re not going to the gym, then there’s your first problem. You need to start. And when you do, you’ll need to start taking in more protein. It’s pretty easy to meet the protein requirement if you just eat a medium sized piece of chicken, turkey, fish, or ground beef for every meal.

If you feel like you haven’t gotten enough protein through real food then a supplement might be a good idea.


So What About Those Rumors?

Now that we know how much we really need on a daily basis…..does it really matter how much you take in one sitting? After all, it’s well known that you can only absorb about 30 grams at a time, right?

Not according to these guys…..

First, a 14 day trial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared a group of people who consumed almost 80% of their daily protein in one sitting, versus a group who spread it out across four meals. There was no difference in the muscle mass or nitrogen retention in the two groups after the trial.

In fact, the same exact trial was done on the elderly population. The group that got one large single dose of protein actually retained lean muscle mass better than the other group who ate in multiple doses.

There’s no way that would have happened if the body only absorbed 30 grams of that one huge dose of protein.

But Wait…THere’s More!

Two more studies compared two groups of people, one of which intermittently fasted for 20 hours and then gorged on 86-100 grams of protein over a 4 hour span. The other group ate multiple times throughout the day.

One study showed no difference in preservation of lean mass between the two groups. The other study showed that the group which intermittently fasted and then at a large amount of protein actually improved body composition. The group who spread out their eating experienced no changes.

Protein Powder

These studies support the hypothesis that the body will use the protein that you consume, no matter the quantity per sitting. Basically, your main focus shouldn’t be the exact amount that you consume at one time. You just need to concentrate on getting enough. Don’t worry about how much you take in at one time.

I hope this article answered any questions about an optimal amount of protein for growth and recovery. If you liked the article, please share it on facebook. I think you’ll also be interested in 5 ways to eat vegetarian and still gain muscle.

Adam Pegg About Adam Pegg

Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.