How Much Protein Should We Ingest in Each Meal for Hypertrophy

Find out what science and practice have to say about the breakdown of protein intake throughout the day or, in a simplistic way,

how much protein you should have per meal to meet your daily requirement for this macronutrient.

From the start, regardless of the number of meals that appear to be ideal and the maximum amount of protein per session that our body can use to maximize hypertrophy, don't get me wrong, the most important thing is and remains the quantity. total protein you eat in the morning.

This is important for a very simple reason: it is common to hear that you need to consume proteins at a certain time or they will all be lost.

When at the end of the day, again, the important thing is the total protein intake.

Also, remember that many people expect you to believe you need a lot more protein than you really need, because part of the money they make comes from promoting protein supplements.

Therefore, it is very profitable for all of these individuals to put the need and fear of needing an exorbitant amount of protein into their head every day.

And if you don't get this, you will lose all your muscle mass, because in this context it is much easier for you to end up resorting to shakes and supplements to cover your protein needs.

Remember that the amount needed to build muscle mass in a caloric surplus (by mass) is 1.2 to 2 grams / kg of daily weight. Believe me, that's not that much protein.

And if you have a calorie deficit, it may be advisable to increase this amount a little, reaching a maximum of 2.2 grams / kg of weight. Again, that's not as much protein, and certainly a lot less than people generally believe.

Consuming more protein than necessary is not only useless, but you will lose money (protein is not cheap) and will shift your consumption away from other nutrients that are much more interesting in that context (mainly fats and carbohydrates).

The problem

Many people ask "how many proteins can our body absorb at one time".

When what they really want to ask is "how much protein can our bodies use at one time to build muscle mass".

The second question is what matters, while the first (and most people) is easy to answer.

Our body can absorb pretty much anything (in terms of food) that you throw at it.

You have to eat an exorbitant amount so that your body is unable to absorb something you ate. I'm talking about several thousand calories.

Remember that right now you are reading this text, there are strength athletes who eat 10,000 calories and many of these calories come from protein. And no, they are not wasting them for their purpose.

It is also necessary to reflect on whether at an evolutionary level it makes sense that the body is unable to absorb such a small amount of protein at one time.

If so, we most likely weren't here, me writing this article and you reading it. We would have been extinguished as useless (physiologically speaking, of course).

Poor Eskimos who live in ice and their diet is mainly based on fish (and guess what the main macronutrient these fish provide).

The body has, let's say, an unlimited capacity to absorb nutrients and calories. That is, you can absorb many proteins at the same time, no problem.

But another thing, and our problem to face, is the optimal amount of protein to optimize muscle growth.

The solution

The amount of protein we look for is primarily based on the optimal amount of leucine needed to stimulate muscle growth.

We now know that leucine is the main regulatory amino acid of the mTOR pathway, responsible for protein synthesis (building new proteins), so ensuring there is enough leucine at every meal becomes a priority for optimizing results.

Be very careful, since we can now fall into the trap of thinking that we must consume leucine if we cannot maximize hypertrophy.

Nothing is further from reality. There comes a point where no more leucine is needed and consuming more is simply wasteful.

How Much Leucine Is Needed?

About 2.5-3 grams per meal, although some studies have found 1.8 grams is enough to maximize protein synthesis.

To be sure, we go in the range of 2-3 grams per meal.

And knowing that, let's move on to the total amount of protein per session, which is the main problem to be solved.

For this we will refer to a review carried out by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld on the same topic in February 2018, which ended as follows:

Based on the available evidence, we conclude that to maximize anabolism, proteins should be consumed in a range of 0.4 g / kg / meal distributed over a minimum of 4 meals to reach approximately 1.6 g / kg / day.

That is, using the ranges of 70-90kg for a healthy adult male and 48-68kg for a healthy adult female as an example, we would have the following approximate protein ranges per session:

Men: 28-39 grams of protein per meal in the lower weight range and 36-50 grams in the upper weight range, depending on the total amount of protein established.

Women: 20-26 grams of protein per meal in the lower weight range and 27-37 in the higher weight range.

Obviously if we weigh more or less we will have to adapt the quantities. We are talking about very generic numbers.

With this amount of protein per meal and 4 meals per day, given the available evidence, protein synthesis is maximized because there will be enough leucine at each meal to activate the mTOR pathway.

Limitations of the study

Despite this, there are some limitations:

Most of the studies included in the above review use whey as the main source of protein.

This has a major bias as whey protein has a very high absorption rate which is not representative of other high protein foods.

For example, 70 grams of beef protein had a greater anabolic response and stimulated protein synthesis in more than 40 grams of beef.

A previous fast increases the anabolic response of the next meal, so it is possible that after a fast the above threshold will increase.

The more muscle mass we have, the greater our body needs and therefore the greater the amount of protein our body can benefit from per meal.

It is also important to note that there are a significant number of studies finding that reducing the frequency of meals from 7 to 6 to 2 to 3 per day has no effect on muscle retention or fat loss. We are talking about studies done on people with a calorie deficit.

Therefore, intermittent fasting, as well as its better known variant “Lean Gains”, are very valuable tools for cutting. However, this cannot be applied to bulking people with training experience, as unfortunately there are no studies on these characteristics.

Anyway ..

The body has a virtually unlimited capacity to absorb calories and nutrients.

The fact that a very high amount of protein can be absorbed does not mean that it will be used to build muscle mass efficiently.

In light of the current evidence, it appears that 3-4 meals with 30-50 grams of protein each in men and 20-40 grams in women appear to be a good way to proceed and optimize results.

See bibliography used Diet-hormone interactions:
the protein / carbohydrate ratio mutually alters the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in humans. Life Sci 1987 May 4; 40 (18): 1761-8. doi: 10.1016 / 0024-3205 (87) 90086-5.

How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle building? Implications for the daily distribution of proteins. Brad Jon Schoenfeld and Alan Albert Aragon Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition volume 15, article number: 10 (2018)

The anabolic response to a meal containing different amounts of protein is not limited by the maximal stimulation of protein synthesis in healthy young adults. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. January 1, 2016; 310 (1): MI73 – MI80. November 3, 2015 doi: 10.1152 / ajpendo.00365.2015

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