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PROTEIN HOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN
From the time that the first physique enthusiasts & bodybuilders ever started choking down extra chicken breasts, steaks, and vile concoctions to increase their protein intake for the purposes of gaining muscle; the question of just how much protein is optimal has been debated. Fast forward more than half a century and people still debate the same question without much of a consensus. Many people believe that protein is already over consumed by the typical person and bodybuilders and athletes have no need to take in extra, while there are those who will tell you that there is no upper limit to the benefits of protein. In reality the answer to this question probably lies well within the middle of these two extremes. The question of protein quantity at a meal and frequency of protein consumption has been debated almost as often as total protein consumption. Quite often we see the question, “what is the max level of protein that one can benefit from at a meal and how long often should I consume it?” Fortunately for us, this question actually has some data that we can start picking apart to get some general guidelines for protein size and frequency at meals.
Many ‘experts’ or gym know-it-alls out there who will tell you to only consume “X” amount of protein at a meal because only “X” amount of protein can be absorbed by the body at a meal (I’m sure you’ve all heard this one before). Let this nonsense stop here and now. To begin with, this entire train of thought isn’t even on the correct track. Hell it didn’t even depart from the right train station! Assuming that you have a healthy digestive system, the absorption of the amino acids from a meal containing protein is very efficient and almost never a limiting factor. Absorption only refers to nutrient uptake & absorption via the digestive track (most absorption occurring in the small intestine). If our digestive systems didn’t absorb most of what we eat than anytime you had a big meal you would have diarrhea like clockwork from the undigested material in the gut! It also makes very little sense from an evolutionary standpoint to be very wasteful with nutrients when primitive man may have only been able to eat one large meal in a day at times. Our species would not have survived very long if we were wasteful with nutrients and did not absorb amino acids beyond a certain level. In reality, the body has an extremely high capacity for amino acid absorption. What these people who spout this nonsense are really referring to is amino acid utilization. You see, even if we absorb 100% of the amino acids we ingest, that doesn’t mean they will all reach the skeletal muscle and input towards building muscle mass. In actuality a very small percentage are used for that role. The cells of the small intestine and liver extract a huge amount of amino acids for energy and their own synthesis of new proteins in first pass metabolism before they ever reach the bloodstream! Once in the bloodstream amino acids can also be taken up and utilized by other tissues such as the kidneys, heart, skin, etc. So it is not a question of how much protein/amino acids can be absorbed at a meal, rather the question is what level of protein at a meal gives the maximum benefit for muscle building? Essentially anything below this level would not maximally support muscle building, while at a protein intake above this level, the body would merely oxidize the excess amino acids for energy.
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By: Layne Norton