T Nation

Protein intake per sitting



I was just wondering what would be the optimal protein intake (g) for one sitting (meals spaced out by 2-3 hours).

I've read that the body can absorb up to 100g of protein safely post-workout due to the starving state of the body. I've also read that the maximum amount that the body can absorb in one sitting is around 50g.

Here's the central issue: am I wasting my time by eating more than 50g of protein in one sitting? If so, then why do some strength athletes consume ridiculous amounts of chicken breasts or steak in one meal?

I'm currently weighing about 270 lbs. I'm eating 5-6 meals a day, with the goal of getting at least 50g of protein per meal. Does this sound reasonable? Man is it ever hard to get a decent amount of protein in your diet when you're large...



Nobody knows the exact amount of protein you can absorb in one meal. Everyone has a different answer. If I were you I would just worry how much protein you need per day 270 x 1.5= 405gr per day or 270 x 2= 540 gr protein per day..and divide that into 6-8 meals a day...Just be reasonable: 8 meals of 60 grams of protein per meal is better than 5 meals at 100gr per meal. A guy of your size needs to eat as many meals as possible to get the protein you need in one day. The more meals, the better...

hope this helps


There has been some "common knowledge" around bodybuilding for a while that your body really only processes about 30-40 grams per meal which was one of the reasons for having 6 meals a day; the ability to get protein into your system that your body actually uses. How accurate this might be is probably up for some serious debate.


I agree, there has been many different studies done relative to how much protein can actually be assimilated by the body. Each seems to be in conflict with the other.

I wonder if it has more to do with your own body weight, and how much your body craves the protein at that particular meal. If you are a 270lb person and you just finished a grueling workout, perhaps your body could use 50+ grams. On the other hand if you weigh 115lbs and you are not coming off a hard training session then maybe just 20gms would do it.

I am not sure, but as a rule of thumb I always gauge my protein meals with how hard I pushed myself that day. I would love to read more on this topic.


Well thanks for the help so far. It's difficult for most of us to eat 6+ meals a day because most of us can't afford to sit at home all day and eat.

Personally, I'm working 8 hours a day and I'm not able to bring any substantial meals to work. I usually get in a solid shake at work and have one meal of whole foods.

I've been pretty successful thus far this offseason, training intensely in the gym 5 days a week and getting around 270g of protein a day. I'm making some decent games and leaning out well. I doubt that I'd be able to get any more protein in me on a daily basis...

If anyone is in the same boat as me (i.e. they are 270 lbs. with a busy schedule), I'd really appreciate your input.

Oh, one more question: how should I handle off-days from the gym?? Do I still need to be getting 270g of protein (I take the weekends off from training)??

Many thanks.


yeah you still need the protein. Thats when your muscles are growing


Justin, my protein recommendations are 1.5g x LBM (Lean Body Mass). You'd have to get your BF% taken to calculate how much LBM you have. Since we eat protein to maintain and repair muscle, there's no need to eat protein for the fat mass you carry. Take the amount of protein you're required to eat and divide it by 7. Yup, I said 7. Plan on 6 meals like you're doing currently and make sure you drink a couple of LARGE glasses of water before you go to bed. When you wake up to hit the restroom, chug down your pre-made shake, sitting and waiting for you in the refrigerator.

As far as protein requirements go, pack some jerky and nuts for one meal and some protein powder for another. You can also pack a couple of Tupperware containers with spinach salad and a chicken breast for one and a lean ground beef patty for another. And the good news is you can do all that while preparing and eating your breakfast.

Even busy people can find a way to have the right food with them so that they can manage their body composition (i.e., put on muscle and/or drop BF) if it's important enough. It just takes some thought and planning, sprinkled with a healthy dose of EXECUTION! (wink)

You might want to order John Berardi's DVD. He talks about just this thing, how to juggle a busy life and manage your body comp.

Good luck to you!!! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.


Right on TT! Justin, I'm 5'10 220lbs so I am 50 lbs lighter than you but I eat 6-7 meals a day and anywhere between 300-450grams of protein a day. I work 2 jobs, the first one I'm on the road repairing refrigerators all day. I just pack a cooler with my food/mrp's...at night I'm a personal trainer and I bring my food/mrp's to the gym (we have a little frige to put stuff in. even if we didn't i would just pack my stuff in a cooler again). I know your busy, but so are most people.

I'm not trying to get on your case but if you want to look great, you have to put the effort in no matter what. If you want to look average, then eat 3-4 times a day whenever you have the time. If you want to look great, make the time. You have no choice! I'm not saying its easy, Its very hard to get all those meals in every day but you gotta do it! If you can't do it, then nothing we say is gonna help and you will not look or perform the way you want. Its as simple as that!

Do what TT says. Pack some jerky in your jacket pocket or in your desk. Buy some of those sealed bags of tuna. They can fit right in your jacket pocket or in your desk. Get a couple of shaker bottles and put your protein powder (3scoops in each=60gr protein!!) and fill them at the water fountain or pre-mix them and put them in a cooler in your car or under your desk. Also, check out the contest of Grow! recipes that was posted last week. A couple of people made their own protein bars/cookies. They used all high quality ingredients, not like the garbage you find in stores. They used cottage cheese, oatmeal, peanut butter, grow and some other stuff and made cookies. Make a bunch and throw a dozen in a ziplock bag and you can bring them anywhere!

It can be done! If you are not willing to go that extra mile, don't expect to see the results you want!

Oh, and 1 more thing. 270 grams of protein on your off days are the minimum! On your workout days, it should be around 400!



Do you think that first Protein meal of the day is the most important one, or is the protein meal after your workout the most important one? I am aware that both are important, but if you had to leave one out which would it be?


Thanks again for all of the help, guys.

I liked the idea of packing jerky and some of the other things in my pack when I head off to work.

I was just wondering about the sodium content of jerky... What kind of effects would excess sodium have? Would I just have to increase my water intake?



John DeVito, boy, you're really a Nike kinda guy, aren't you, "Just do it!!!" (grin)

ZEB, I know it doesn't answer your question, but they're both times that are catabolic and both times that benefit from protein intake to initiate a shift from a catabolic state to an anabolic one. Since I believe protein should be taken in every meal, I can't see choosing one over the other.


Thanks Terry!


I agree no one really knows how much we can digest and it all depends on many factors as well I this answer below from Paul Cribb.

The notion that the body can only utilize around 30-grams of protein in one meal has been passed down through the bodybuilding industry for the last 50-years. However, this ridiculous notion is not true. Not true at all. I have no idea where this idea came from; it definitely did not originate from scientific research.

Protein utilization is dependant on many factors. The nutritional status of the individual consuming the protein, the manner in which the protein is presented to the stomach (whole as opposed to peptides), the protein?s amino acid composition, rate of digestion and absorption are just some of the factors that influence protein utilization.

Biological value (BV) is probably the most relevant method of assessing protein quality. It is measured as the amount of nitrogen absorbed and assimilated per 100-grams of the protein ingested. There is a wide range in the BV score among protein sources.

Illness, infection, calorie restriction and intense exercise all dramatically increase the body?s need for protein. If it where true that the human organism were able to absorb only 30-grams of protein at a time, we as a species would have perished thousands of years ago due to an inability to meet daily metabolic demands.

Scientists still do not know what is the optimal amount of protein for building muscle. Since we know that high protein intakes are harmless in healthy people, it is far wiser for active people to consume more protein at each meal than to senselessly restrict their protein intake at meals based on an ?old wives tale?.


Justin, the only time sodium is contraindicated is when you have something called salt-sensitive hypertension. Other than that, salt your food and, yes, drink lots of water. Your body will excrete anything it doesn't need.


LOL TT! My girlfriend makes fun of me and calls me a drill seargent! I'm a no excuses kind of guy. Excuses get you nowhere!!! Unless of course you are hurt or injured, then I understand. Hey, I know I'm a hard ass but I do have some sympathy (grin).

I just hate people who make excuses! Especially the people who want these perfect physiques but don't want to put that extra effort to get their six-pack! Hey, if you want to just look ok or a little above average, then eat ok once in a while, eat only 3x a day and look average. Thar's fine by me! If you want to just be in decent shape then thats all you need to do. BUT, if you want to look perfect and be all jacked and ripped, you have to eat perfect, train perfect, and do everything perfect!!! You are not going to look like a greek god or goddess (unless you are a genetic freak!) by doing things half ass!

I hear these people all the time and it drives me freakin nuts! They say, "I want to have a 6-pack by the summer and be jacked!" OR MY FAVORITE: "I WANT TO BE TONED!" and I say this is what you have to do. And they're like "you want me to eat 6 times a day?!?!" "You want me to eat that much protein?!?" "You want me to eat fat?" I can't do all that! I don't have the time...and I'm not giving up my carbs! and I'm like well you are never gonna look the way you want!!! Then they get all defensive and aggravated! If it was easy to look great then everyone would look great! Nobody said looking great was easy!!! It's a lot of hard work, dedication and a TREMENDOUS amout of discipline!

If I get out of shape, I know why it happens. It's because I screwed up on my diet and wasn't "dialed in". I don't make excuses why I ate bad, and I know if I want to look good again, my diet has to be "dialed in"!

What drives me nuts is when a person posts a question about changing their physique and they get a 1000 posts saying to eat 6 meals a day, 1.5x your bodyweight in protein, limit carbs, eat healthy fats, etc, etc...they make every excuse known to man why they can't do it, yet everything they tried up to that point has failed. But they won't take the 1000 people's posts advice who had great success but they'll take the advise of 1 bonehead genetic freak who can eat whatever he wants, whenver he wants and still look good, he'll take his advice because its easier. They won't get results and then they will post again a couple of months later that they tried everything and still look like crap and they wonder what went wrong!


sorry for the rant TT! :o)


People are way too anal when it comes to this...nobody knows the definitive answer! Everyone's body is different! People try to split the atom on this and they spend so much time worrying about it they just missed one of their meals and lost muscle! Stop worrying about it, do the tried and true method of 1.5-2gr protein x your bodyweight, divided among 6 meals a day, and you will be fine!!! It's been done successfully forever now, why try to change it??


My point to this issue is I just eat whatever I can at the time of the meal cause I haven't found the answer to this never answered question. It might be 50 to 60 grams in one meal but maybe 20 the other so it averages out to about 40 grams of protein a meal, eating 5-6 meals a day comes out to about 200 grams a day. It's worked great for me for mass gaining, so far.


Exactly T- Quinn! People get way too anal when it comes to this. They try to re-invent the wheel...Just eat your amount of protein divided into 6 meals a day, and guaranteed you will succeed!