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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 09, 2012

Dear Mark: How Much Protein Can You Absorb and Use from One Meal?

By Mark Sisson
137 Comments

Early last week, I received an email from a reader. The subject was protein absorption, and it referred to something I’d written several weeks past in this post on Leptin Reset among other things. I had suggested that your body can only deal with about thirty grams of protein in one sitting. I immediately realized that this statement wasn’t nuanced enough and might give the wrong impression, so I explained what I meant in a bit more detail in the comment board. After receiving the following email (thanks for keeping me honest, Brandon!) I figured I would revisit this topic and further articulate what we know about the human body and dietary protein utilization.

Let’s go.

Hi Mark,

I had a question about protein intake. In an older post, you mentioned something about anything beyond 30 grams of protein in a single meal likely being turned into glucose or fat, but I’ve heard different things from others. So, how much protein can you really use in one meal?

Brandon

First off, “meal” is the key word, one that I omitted in my original statement. Eating 50 grams of straight protein – and protein alone, whether it’s whey protein or 99% fat-free lean sirloin – is probably going to have a different effect than eating a mixed meal which contains 50-some odd grams of protein in addition to fat and digestible, fermentable, and insoluble carbohydrates. In other words, protein is rarely eaten alone. It’s eaten atop salads, alongside veggies, with starches, and it often comes imbued with animal fat (as meat). It’s eaten as a meal.

Digestion takes a long time, and it’s not a segmented procession of different meals through the gastrointestinal tract. Food isn’t separated into “meals” in your stomach. It’s just all food, all mashed together. If you still have breakfast in your stomach when your lunch enters the picture, lunch and breakfast will meet and mingle. Stomach acid breaks the food down into a big semifluid mass of partially digested food components, water, digestive enzymes, and hydrochloric acid – all referred to as chyme.  When the chyme is “ready,” it’s pushed through the duodenum (where nutrient extraction begins) and into the intestines.

Once the protein part of the chyme has been broken down by enzymes into amino acids, amino acid absorption by the intestines can begin. Amino acid transporters  grab amino acids and transport them through the cells lining the intestinal wall and from there into the bloodstream to be delivered to other parts of the body. But because the pool of amino acid transporters is limited, amino acids are typically absorbed by the small intestine at a rate of 5-10 grams per hour. This would suggest, at first glance, that the original “30 grams of protein per sitting” figure is close to correct. If you can only absorb, say, 7 grams of protein per hour, and the bolus of digested protein and other foods takes 4 to 5 hours to wind its way through the intestine, you’re gonna absorb maybe 28-35 grams. Right?

Not exactly. It turns out that our digestive process is fairly fine-tuned and regulated by the composition of whatever’s being digested. The presence of protein in chyme actually causes the secretion of CCK, a hormone that slows down the intestinal contractions that move food along, thus giving the protein more time to be transported by amino acid transporters. So, while it’s technically true that we aren’t absorbing 30 grams (let alone more) of protein all at once, it will eventually be absorbed.

Clearly, a fair amount is directed to normal tissue growth and repair. If it’s much more than that, a few possibilities enter the picture. Some will be directed towards a short term storage option referred to as the “labile protein reserve.” In this case, skeletal muscle tissue will take up some of the excess amino acids and simply store then for possible near future use (like within a day or so or for emergencies). Beyond that, your body will want to oxidize excess amino acids directly for fuel or convert them to glucose in the liver via gluconeogenesis. It will convert the nitrogen from the amino acids into ammonia and you will excrete that in your urine. If levels get too high in the bloodstream, your pH will shift (more acidic) and calcium will be called upon to balance pH out again. As we have seen with some people going full Primal, larger intakes of protein can offset lowered carb intake by generating significant rises in glucose through gluconeogenesis. Indeed, there are a lot of options the body has when you eat a high protein meal.

I still wouldn’t “stuff” myself on protein. If you have to force feed that lean chicken breast, perhaps your body’s trying to tell you something. Upon digestion, excess carbs and fat can be limitlessly and easily absorbed and assimilated (as body fat or glycogen) or burned off, but excess protein still requires extra work. Protein digestion produces toxic metabolites that we can usually get rid of, even on higher protein intakes, but there’s clearly a limit. Our bodies finding protein to be extremely filling? Our intestines actually slowing down the digestive process when protein is present? This is just how our bodies absorb protein at their own pace. They take their sweet time, but they get it all.

Okay, so we do absorb most of the protein we eat, whether it’s a 30-gram whey shake that’s absorbed in a couple hours or a large porterhouse whose protein is absorbed in ten hours. We’re not pooping amino acids. But are we using all that protein? Is it doing uniquely proteiny stuff, like building muscle? Or will everything above 30 grams get converted into glucose?

That depends. Many factors affect how your body utilizes a given amount of protein:

Body Size

If you’re a bigger person (longer limbs, more potential spots for amino acids to be utilized), you can handle more absolute protein, and that protein will be more likely to go toward muscle protein synthesis.

If you’re smaller, the reverse is true. You simply don’t need as much absolute protein for structural demands, and you’ll have a lower threshold before protein becomes an energy substrate. If you eat the same steak as the bigger guy (all else being equal), you won’t “use” as many of the amino acids as he will.

Activity Level

Are you sedentary? You require less protein. Your muscles aren’t getting the signal to build and grow stronger and adapt to an imposed demand. The RDA of 0.36g/lb bodyweight should suffice.

Are you moderately active, jogging here and there, maybe riding the bike to work once or twice a week, and doing some basic lifting in the gym? You can use a bit more, as physical activity increases protein demand.

Are you actively trying to pack on muscle mass, and working out accordingly? You can use a lot more protein, up to and perhaps even over 1g/lb bodyweight.

Age

Muscle maintenance in the elderly seems to require larger relative amounts of dietary protein. In one study, the RDA of 0.36g/lb bodyweight wasn’t enough to prevent some muscle catabolism.

Stress Level

Chronic stress, as indicated by chronically elevated cortisol levels, reduces muscle protein synthesis (protein doing proteiny stuff) and increases gluconeogenesis (conversion of protein into glucose).

It’s also worth noting that amino acids do other stuff, too, beyond building muscle and providing energy substrates when in excess. It’s not as if amino acids that don’t go toward rippling pecs are immediately converted into glucose. No, they’re also:

  • Taken up by the intestines, both as an energy source for the small intestine and to form a reserve pool of amino acids that the body can draw upon during fasting or starvation (when there’s little to no dietary amino acids input) instead of breaking down skeletal muscle to turn into energy, at least in rats.
  • Precursors for various neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine).

So, to answer the question – yes, we’re probably absorbing all the protein we eat, but, depending on what we’re doing with our time, how old we are, how large or small we are, how active we are, how much we’re lifting, and how much stress we’re under, we’re all using the protein we absorb in different ways and proportions. As is often the case, the answer brings up even more questions. But that’s okay, because that’s just something else to explore.

Until next time, Grok on!

TAGS:  dear mark

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117 Comments on "Dear Mark: How Much Protein Can You Absorb and Use from One Meal?"

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zack
zack
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this article… It has been something I’ve been wondering recently.

Primal Toad
4 years 4 months ago
“So, to answer the question – yes, we’re probably absorbing all the protein we eat, but, depending on what we’re doing with our time, how old we are, how large or small we are, how active we are, how much we’re lifting, and how much stress we’re under, we’re all using the protein we absorb in different ways and proportions.” This is all I needed to read. 🙂 And, it’s what I assumed. Protein has many functions and depending on what we are doing, it’s going to be used in different ways in different bodies. Hmm… that word “depend” again.… Read more »
doghug
doghug
4 years 4 months ago

+1

Graham
4 years 4 months ago

So….Eat ALL the protein!

Josh Singer
4 years 4 months ago

pretty much! because in the end, it will be absorbed and used in different ways depending on your level of activity and other factors as mark mentioned

Jess
Jess
3 years 10 months ago

What if we lift 3x a week, and are fairly sedentary outside of the gym and on rest days? Do we just lower our intake on the rest days but are okay the other days? This concerns me because today was my rest day and I forced 206 grams of protein today. Eek!!

tanya
tanya
2 years 9 months ago

Hi Jess

Did you get a response here ? i also want to know if to lessen protein intake on non training days and increase on training days.

thanks a mill

Jackson Blakeman
Jackson Blakeman
2 years 9 months ago

I’m not Jess or Mark, so I’m not sure how interested you are in my opinion, but one thing to remember is that you’re still growing when you’re resting.

Nick
Nick
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this. I tried the 50g of protein at breakfast for a few days. I had to force it down, which didn’t feel right. Also I noticed I got really hungry at 11am. I seem to do much better on about 20g of protein for breakfast. About 3 eggs is perfect. That keeps me going to lunchtime. I think the extra in the 50g must have converted to glucose and raised my insulin, so then I had a sugar crash.

Patrice
4 years 4 months ago

My experience exactly Nick, I got a little excited when at first on the primal diet but after a little self experimentation, a cheesy 3 egg omelette with salad for breakfast does the trick nicely. Especially when complemented with macademia nuts c.11!

Gift Clumsywarrior
4 years 4 months ago

That’s really interesting that you crahs after the big meal of protein. that usually would keep me full forever.. lol

Yea usually I do two bacon strips, two eggs for breakfast and some veggies. then down some coconut milk with honey to keep me full longer.

greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago
I’m a type 1 diabetic and find that eating protein NEVER raises my blood glucose. Obviously if i eat carbs it does straight away but i can easily eat just a meal of protein (100+ grams) with no diffrenece to blood sugar and i dont have to inject insulin to counter act it. If it doees raise it it wouldnt be till much later as the process for conversion to glucose it a lot more long winded than the carb process. Now i’m not sure if my gluconeogenesis works differently but i think as a non diabetic if you do… Read more »
Adam
Adam
4 years 4 months ago
I too am a type 1 diabetic, but I can see when glucogenesis is happening. I lift heavy things 4 times a week, and thus am on a fairly high protein diet, but if I am eating more than 40 or maybe 50 grams of protein in a meal, I’ll see my blood sugar go up a bit. Not a lot, but enough. Obviously with steaks the protein is going to be broken down/absorbed/used a lot slower than with a whey protein drink, but it is still noticeable. Granted, I also check my blood sugar at least 6 times a… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago

That’s interesting. I’m now thinking am i paying enough attention to my readings after eating protein. I’m like you in that i test about 6 tmes day, strategically, before meals, 2 hours after, then another hour after that, as dictated by how my insulin works.
Could you tell me what do you find your readings go up to and by how much when affected by the protein?
Yep Martin Berkhan is a legend, i pretty much listen to Martin and Mark, then make my own mistakes.

mi'khael
mi'khael
4 years 4 months ago

I IF pretty much every day, and eat about 70g of protein upon waking. I feel like I can devour protein, it’s not a problem for me.

Kenny
Kenny
4 years 4 months ago

I’ll do 40g in whey at 5:AM and be ready for more protien at 9:AM.

The wifey has been doing it too with cottage cheese (whole fat) as the second dose.

Her leptin balance is starting to kick in and her craving for food at dinner is diminishing.

More fun than doing nutrition research on yourself is doing nutrition research on a loved one.

Clark
Clark
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t think you can really call it IF when you do it “pretty much every day.” Doesn’t sound very intermittent to me.

Steve
Steve
4 years 4 months ago
I have been stalling lately and heard in a podcast from Rob Wolf that he recommends having 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or more for leaning out. I’ve been wondering if I am in starvation mode and not getting enough protein. Typically I fast all day and have a 1/2 rib eye from Costco or a Pork chop or two with a ton of veg, later I might make a couple eggs or have an apple with a small amount of nut butter. I never feel like I am starving myself. I’m pretty close to my… Read more »
eric
4 years 4 months ago

it doesnt seem like you are getting enough protein if that is all you are eating. half ribeye or a pork chop will be about 40g and a couple eggs another 14g. I would also vary your eating pattern. I eat between 2-3 times per day, never more, and occasionally just once. but variety keeps your body from going into starvation mode. since starting, I dropped from 15% to 5% body fat, increased energy, and have had no trouble maintaining it for a few months now.

Clippies
Clippies
4 years 4 months ago

Its 1g per pound of LEAN body weight.

lisa scorr
lisa scorr
2 years 3 days ago
ok, the recommendation is .7 or 1.0 or whatever gram amount protein per pound of LEAN BODY WEIGHT. My Newbie question is…How do I compute present lean body weight. Do I need a DEXA scan or is it simple arithmetic.. present overweight minus BMI ideal = current lean mass? Will that work? If you lose the overweight and achieve the ideal BMI weight, it will still be composed of lean muscle weight and some amount of fat…. Should daily protein intake be based on current weight or on the weight you are hoping to achieve….that could be a big difference,… Read more »
Jaime
Jaime
4 years 4 months ago
Great article, Mark. I don’t come here all the time, but I’ve been working with a trainer for the past year to build muscle, and he’s always of the mindset that I need to eat 5-6 small meals a day because of the whole “only 30 g. of protein get absorbed at once” theory. I just can’t do it – I feel sick forcing food in my face so often. I’ve found anywhere from 2-4 equal meals a day works great for me. I’m a female, 5’4″ age 34, weighing 124 lbs. at 21% body fat, so I’m in pretty… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago
Your trainer is using ‘science’ that is totally wrong. You dont need to eat the 5 – 6 meals a day, it old, it’s outdated, it just plain BS and it’s been scientifcally proven as incorrect. Go to here and look around, this man would tell you to dump your PT NOW! Serioulsy get rid of the PT, if he cant be bothered to keep up to date and spout BS at you then spend your hard earned elsewhere. go here and read up w w w leangains.com. Mark links to this website and regularly uses the site as a… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago

w w w.leangains.c o m/2010/10/top-ten-fasting-myths-debunked.h t m l

here’s the link again with spaced included to avoid moderators

Jess
Jess
3 years 10 months ago

So glad I read this! I’m so sick of people telling me to force-feed myself 6 times a day.

geoff
geoff
2 years 9 months ago
5-6 meals a day is fine. I believe it is optimal to promote a healthy metabolism. The goal here is to never be hungry and never be full. None of these meals require stuffing food into your body, 3 of these meals may could a handful of nuts between b-feast and lunch. Or a yogurt, piece of fruit, or granola bar between lunch and dinner. The B-Feast should be relatively small (OJ, Toast with peanut butter, and a fruit or yogurt), lunch a little more substantial, and a modest dinner size(one pork chop instead of 2, whole rice or sweet… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago
katie
4 years 4 months ago

I’ve tracked my intake a few times and practically effortlessly take in about 1 gram per lb of body weight. I’m also working out and trying to gain muscle so I think my body is taking full advantage of what I’m eating. Interesting to read this though.

Max Ungar
4 years 4 months ago

Katie, how long have you been trying to gain muscle? Im interested to see if the 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight works for gaining muscle?

Max Ungar
4 years 4 months ago

So, in this case, a smaller person should be eating less protein? What if they are trying to gain muscle mass? or what if a larger person is trying to lose muscle mass? should they eat less protein, because it could be converted into glucose?

This is also the first time I have heard that excess protein can be converted to glucose. If this is true, then does that mean that when we eat protein, and dont exercise, or eat any carbs we are still eating excess glucose?

Jake
Jake
4 years 4 months ago

show me someone trying to loss muscle mass and ill show you a liar

Max Ungar
4 years 4 months ago

see: body builders

Kenny
Kenny
4 years 4 months ago

I know a few. Jake speaks the truth. Anyone thinking different is buying into some MSM myths.

Graham
4 years 4 months ago

Excess anything can be converted to just about anything. Our bodies are kinda awesome like that, but I think the point at which you overdose on protein and begin to do damage probably coincides with getting “the meat sweats” for the fifth meal in a row.

dawn
dawn
4 years 4 months ago

“meat sweats” 🙂

jake3_14
jake3_14
4 years 4 months ago
[quote]If this is true, then does that mean that when we eat protein, and dont exercise, or eat any carbs we are still eating excess glucose?[/quote] As Mark himself might say, “It depends.” Gluconeogenesis happens “on demand,” so the conversion happens only if the body needs more glucose than it has at any time, for example, building glycoproteins (body structures) creating mucin (to lubricate the intestines, your eyes, your lungs, etc.). If there’s no need for extra glucose, and your amino acid reserves are full, excess goes out with other body wastes. Our bodies evolved to be flexible and sophisticated… Read more »
Groktimus Primal
4 years 4 months ago

I eat one meal per day and I ain’t wastin’ away 🙂

Harry Mossman
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks Mark. I have been trying to figure out what’s going on with my liver. Doc says my “enzymes are too high,” although I do not have fatty liver. I have been IFing to give it a rest. Now I know how it handles protein. Cool!

Hilary
Hilary
4 years 4 months ago

ohh, which enzymes?? My bilirubin was high for a very long time, so for about a year, i did a high fat (lots of coconut products), low carb/very low carb diet and I also took some supportive liver supplements/herbal remedies. The following year I had my blood work done and everything was back to normal. I suggest looking into liver health supplements by Solaray, but also do your research! Dandelion and Milk Thistle are two great herbs to check out

Marisol
Marisol
4 years 4 months ago

Does it really matter when you consume protein after you work out? (Heavy lifting)

eric
4 years 4 months ago

Consuming protein after a workout will minimize DOMS delayed onset muscle soreness, and aid in recovery. Protein after a workout is much more important than carbs. I aim for about 20g whey, and max 5-10 carbs.

jake3_14
jake3_14
4 years 4 months ago

Rather than whole protein, I took Martin Berkhan’s advice and took some Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)pre- and post-workout. I can now work out hard and more frequently without DOMS. BCAA is the only supplement I’ve ever used that has such an obvious effect.

Marissa
4 years 4 months ago

very interesting post. as a small female, i’ve often wondered about protein absorption. i also found your thoughts on chronic stress & protein true, as i think we are at such a disadvantage (overall) when we are stressed.

Caleigh
4 years 4 months ago

Proteiny…the next new word. Predecessor: Bootylicious

Cherice
Cherice
4 years 4 months ago

Haha. Yes!

primal aly
primal aly
4 years 4 months ago

I am celebrating three months primal today! Bacon for everyone!! LOL 😀

primal aly
primal aly
4 years 4 months ago

Caleigh, not sure why your pretty pic is showing on my post… 🙂

John
John
4 years 4 months ago
“We’re not pooping amino acids” – brings up a related question I’ve not seen addressed: Does our body *always* use *all* the useful carbs, fats, and protein we take in? Or is part of the puzzle of weight loss and energy balance that our bodies poop excess (unneeded) carbs, fats, or protein? Is that why some people stay skinny, not because their metabolisms increase, but because their bodies are simply better at discarding excess? Put another way, in all the gazillions of weight loss studies out there, has anyone measured the ‘residual’ energy content in the ‘poop’ of the participants?… Read more »
BillP
BillP
4 years 4 months ago

Very good question! With all the recent talk about the intestinal biome, I have wondered also about the ingested food that is used by the biome to fuel its own growth and energy requirements. A little known factoid (that may have been mentioned here before): somewhere around 60 percent of your fecal matter by weight is dead bacteria. Has to be using some of the food…

mark
mark
4 years 4 months ago

you crap mostly bacteria and fiber.

jake3_14
jake3_14
4 years 4 months ago

I know that for me, corn on the cob leaves my body un-utilized.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
4 years 4 months ago

The Japanese are “recycling” protein via burgers. hehe

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
4 years 4 months ago

I’ve heard they’re feeding it to prisoners to keep costs low.

David Cole
David Cole
4 years 4 months ago
Thanks Mark. Questions: Why would you need anything other than protein from a macronutrient stand point? My thinking is that if excess protein creates glucose then aren’t we getting sugar (carbs) indirectly through protein? Going one step further, if the excess glucose is causing an insulin response and pushing excess glucose into our fat stores aren’t we also ultimately getting, in effect, useable fat in the form of bodyfat? Obvious a protein only diet is not effective unless your goal is to die so what is wrong with my thinking? It seems to be understood that people can starve eating… Read more »
Steve P
Steve P
4 years 4 months ago

Your cell membranes and many key tissues are composed primarily of fats/lipids. If the only fat in your body is converted glucose going into adipose tissue, I don’t see how your body could maintain itself, especially since in converting from protein to other nutrients you lose a lot of energy.

Clare
Clare
4 years 4 months ago
Protein only diets are entirely possible, but this is dependent partly on genetics. The Inuit don’t eat vegetables because nothing grows in the Arctic Circle for much of the year, and yet they have thrived (right up until the point when they started eating western food like sugar and flour and it all went to hell). Similarly, it has been shown in some remote communities that diets consisting mainly to entirely of fatty fish like salmon provide all the required nutrients for those populations. That doesn’t mean every Tom Dick or Harry can go to an all protein diet and… Read more »
markkuto
markkuto
4 years 4 months ago
My understanding is that the diets of the far northern meat-eaters (Inuit included) have the majority of their calories from animal fats – seal and caribou are very high in fat. Farley Mowatt, in the book ‘The People of the Deer’, describes how inland Inuit actually didn’t bother with harvesting the abundant, large fish in their lakes because they knew they had to eat animal foods with enough fat in them to survive. They also tried to hunt the caribou heavily in the fall (when stored fat reserves were highest) to maximize the fattiness of the animals they hunted. ‘Rabbit… Read more »
Jaradel
Jaradel
4 years 4 months ago

Clare – Nothing to add except that your avatar is made of WIN.

Cassidy
4 years 4 months ago

Ya markkuto you are right they always cherished the fat the most, when the caribou were lean they would worry because they knew “sickness would follow”. They always ate the fattiest parts of the animal first and the lean meat was actually given to the dogs. We can’t live entirely off protein, since we have “essential” fatty acids not to mention all the other great nutrients fat contains. We also need protein for our “essential” amino acids still looking for those essential carbohydrates though…

Paul
Paul
4 years 4 months ago

The liver cannot metabolize more than about 200-300g of protein (convert to glucose) per day. That will give your at most 1200 Cal. The remainder of your calories must come from fat or carbohydrates. A pure protein diet leads to a condition called “rabbit starvation” where people who eat plentiful protein with no fat (rabbits) starve despite the intake of ample calories.

Lindsey
Lindsey
1 year 9 months ago

We require (hence “essential”) dietary intake of fatty acids (think omega 3) because our body can’t manufacture them. You absolutely need to eat fat from animal and plant sources. You also need to intake cholesterol, without it we wouldn’t be here. Every cell in our body uses cholesterol. Imho fat should be your largest macro source in terms of percentage of calories.

Daytona
4 years 4 months ago
Gluconeogenesis can be a nasty little trick if you are diabetic. I (and many diabetic friends) have found that protein over a certain amount causes spikes in blood sugar. Some proteins like whey isolate, can spike pretty quickly because it is often eaten in a protein bar or shake without much fat. If it is coming from a steak, then the spike may take 4-5 hours. After testing a bit later than my normal 1 and 2 hour marks, I found that anything over 30g caused undesirable blood sugar spikes. I think I lasted 2 days on the whole 50g/morning… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago

I’m type 1 and dont personally dont find this a problem. Out of interest, as a non-diabetic reading does your blood sugar spike to?

Joshua Naterman
Joshua Naterman
3 years 11 months ago

Are you on an insulin pump, or do you use self-dosed insulin?

Joshua Naterman
Joshua Naterman
3 years 11 months ago
GNG is not the primary culprit there. Glucagon is most likely what caused your experiences… allow me to explain. The liver has a maximum rate of 27.7 g of glucose per hour coming from GNG according to clinical data. That’s at full tilt, in starvation mode, when the body has to do whatever it can to stay alive. It takes 1.6g of whole protein to make 1g of glucose. Regression shows us that this means it takes 44.3g of protein to make 27.7g of glucose. Maximal intestinal absorption of whey protein, and super lean proteins like pork tenderloin, is 10.7… Read more »
Paul Martin
Paul Martin
3 years 11 months ago
As a T1D who’s been trying a ketogenic diet – THANK YOU. I’ve been experiencing spikes after most meals. Generally, I take whatever protein I’ve consumed and then bolused for 60% of that number over the course of three hours. My control has been incredible, but I’m not losing any weight, and I think it’s because of the insulin that I’m giving myself over and above my basal. I’m think I’m going to start limiting myself to 30g of protein and a piece of fruit per meal. And while I know you indicated that the “right carbs at the right… Read more »
matthew dooley
matthew dooley
4 years 4 months ago

This is an awesome article. You get so much BS propaganda from Vegans and the like its not even funny. Meat is digested and absorbed. All those fruits and veggies arent. We dont poop meat chunks.

getfitkatie
4 years 4 months ago

Funny. I never thought about it that way, but it is true.

CMHFFEMT
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for a great article I was wondering about this very topic. I had heard that the body could only handle so much protein at a time but it didn’t seem correct from an evolutionary sense. This cleared some thigns up.

Jeffrey of Troy
4 years 4 months ago
Your body needs protein for many things other than skeletal muscle: enzymes (both digestive and metabolic), hormones, neurotransmitters, and to form the soft tissues of your whole body (except brain, which is mostly fat). Normally, your skeletal muscles need very little pro to maintain. However, this changes significantly – roughly double – after a workout (I mean a real w/o, not the elliptical machine). Post w/o, your pro need goes way up, for 4 – 24 hours (depending on many factors: age, sex, intensity of w/o, etc.), until the skeletal muscles have recovered. Once they have recovered, pro need drops… Read more »
Ashley
Ashley
4 years 4 months ago
When I started eating a Primal/Paleo diet I couldn’t get enough of meat and eggs. I could devour an entire pork loin or pot roast like it was nothing. My husband liked to show me off at restaurants and party’s because I could eat so much. Now that I’ve been eating Primal for over two years, I’ve discovered that I feel full now after one chicken breast or a small steak. I’m thinking that my body was just completely starved for protein after first going off of the SAD diet. So, maybe that’s another variable?? Someone who under ate protein… Read more »
WildGrok
WildGrok
4 years 4 months ago

Same case here: fully primal for 2 years also, noticed that I cannot eat the same amount of proteins I ate two years ago.

Lisa
Lisa
4 years 4 months ago

This is exactly what is happening to me at the moment.. I am just starting out with this Paleo way.. and I can’t eat enough meat/eggs… my prior diet was not a lot of meat, a lot of veggies and a lot of carbs. I don’t think my body knows what to do – although I am beginning to notice small changes in myself. If only I could get control of this appetite!

Jason
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Don’t worry about the appetite. It will moderate itself after your body finishes making up the deficiencies. Make sure you eat enough fat, get good protein and veggies. If your experience is like mine, your appetite will moderate itself.

sqt
sqt
4 years 4 months ago

I’m noticing this too. I’ve been Paleo for about a year and my appetite has diminished quite a bit. I go hours between meals without even trying because I’m just not hungry. I always have meat with dinner but the portions keep getting smaller. I love that my body seems to be self-regulating after years of struggling to lost weight.

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

This is a very specific question, but as a 210lb 24 year old male, who works in a stockroom moving 7-8 hours a day at work, plays basketball once a week and lifts 2-3 times a week, is 1 gram sufficient?

Eric
4 years 4 months ago

You could get away with a little more. I am 144 lbs and very active, and I prob do 150-200 g protein per day no problem. Maintain 5% bodyfat.

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

I just saw this sorry if I’m late, but doesn’t that get expensive? Also I’m struggling to find more protein sources that don’t ramp up my caloric intake.

Jeff
Jeff
4 years 4 months ago

Roughly 7 grams of protein per ounce of meat in general as a quick shortcut? So a half pound burger would have 56g of protein. No problem!

Bookwyrmb
Bookwyrmb
4 years 4 months ago

Eight ounces of lean ground beef would give you about 40 grams of protein. All the weight of your burger is not protein.

Trisha Pena
Trisha Pena
4 years 4 months ago
I eat only protein and fat and have had the same diet for four years. I usually eat about a pound of meat at a time, only once or maybe twice a day, soaked in coconut oil. It’s easy for me to eat that much even though I am a short female. I stayed the same weight for 2+ years but now I am ten pounds over my goal. I believe it has to do with estrogen dominance, as I hadn’t been able to afford grass-fed, organic meat until very recently but I am hoping that as I transition from… Read more »
Susan Alexander
4 years 4 months ago
Great post, Mark. I’ve been wondering about this topic. For the, the most illuminating words are these: “As we have seen with some people going full Primal, larger intakes of protein can offset lowered carb intake by generating significant rises in glucose through gluconeogenesis.” I’m quite sure that explains why I didn’t lose weight in my last round of (very low carb) efforts. I suspected that was it, so it’s good to read it here. My revised efforts (what I’m doing now) appear to be more promising (more veggies and less protein). As I’ve written before: just dropping carbs to… Read more »
Alex
Alex
4 years 4 months ago
If you eat nothing but meat and eggs for a month or so you will know generally how many eggs and how much meat to eat at your meal frequency to be full, then after that month simply add in as many carbs as you need based on exercise on a sliding 50g scale, keeps it simple. I eat lunch and dinner with a half pound of meat and 2 – 6 eggs per meal and about 5 oz of sweet potato (50g carbs a day total) and only carb load for extreme athletic events. 50g of carbs a day… Read more »
yuma
yuma
4 years 4 months ago

According to Mark we should eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass each day.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/protein-amounts-in-food/

I weight 200 lb. so I need to consume at least 200 grams of protein per day.

But if my body can only absorb 7 grams per hour, the most I can absorb in a day – 24 hours – is 168 grams (24*7).

Am I doomed to lose my lean mass?

Bee
Bee
4 years 4 months ago
Similar to the topic of the digestive system not separating out meals — if I’m going to eat a cookie as my cheat for today, am I better of (from an insulin spike perspective), just shoving the whole thing in my mouth and eating it or cutting it into 4 (or whatever) pieces and eating that smaller bit every couple of hours, or doesn’t it matter (basically is the single spike 4x the 4 spikes making it the same for your body or is the larger number of spikes (from a smaller amount of sugar each time) just worse no… Read more »
pixel
pixel
4 years 4 months ago

so if a large porterhouse can take 10 hours to digest, would dinner be the best time for it so you could have all night to make the most of it?

or, on a more practical side, would it be beneficial to eat a larger amount of slower digesting protein at night? and, if so, what sources do you recommend?

Michael
4 years 4 months ago

I tend to eat a lot of protein nowadays because I find it helps me eat less overall.
Still, after a few days of only eating protein my body begins to hate any and every protein, all I want then is carbs! My body is trying to tell me something. All in moderation.

Dan
4 years 4 months ago

Mark, you said “…your pH will shift (more acidic) and calcium will be called upon to balance pH out again…”

This sounds like acidosis. I’m under the impression that this has been thoroughly debunked already. So far the only “evidence” I’ve seen regarding the existence of acidosis has been epidemiological in nature.

Can you explain?

John Oxnard
4 years 4 months ago

If you are looking to build muscle you must first break down your muscle fibers via lifting weights and then rebuild them by consuming foods high in protein in every meal. Building muscle requires you to constantly break down and rebuild muscle fibers. One analogy I like to use is playing with building blocks. In order to make a bigger structure you would have to first knock down the existing structure. Then you could build an even bigger structure.

Josh Singer
4 years 4 months ago

Didn’t think stress had to do with amounts of protein absorbed at any given time. Great info!

Bookwyrmb
Bookwyrmb
4 years 4 months ago
I have read two very different versions of how to calculate our protein requirements. One is 0.36 gm/lb of LEAN or IDEAL body weight and the other that keeps popping up is 0.36 gm/lb of body weight. The difference can be huge. I am on a weight reduction diet. My goal (what I hope is my reasonable for an estimated “ideal” is 150 for my 5’7″ frame.) I am also 70 years old, but my present weight is 260. The difference is 54 grams for my lean body weight or 94 for my present body weight. That is a lot… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago
0.36 is, i beielive, the government advice, which is very much under what we should eat. As usual with governments advice it’s BS. It’s recommended for an active person looking to maintain or build muscle (you’ll need to maintain and probably build from the sounds of it) to aim for 1 gram protein per LEAN lb of body weight. But you should be aiming closer for 150 grams of protein, the body weight you are aiming to be, less if you aim for 15% body fat. Maybe in the range of 130 grams. So 130 grams = approx 520 calories.… Read more »
greg white
greg white
4 years 4 months ago

edit ”
Lots of people who go primal think calories dont matter and possibly for a short while they dont as you cut out carbs but if you find the weight loss stops then you need to examine calroies* and portion sizes more”

Bookwyrmb
Bookwyrmb
4 years 4 months ago
Thank you for your response, Greg. The government RDA is 0.8gm/kg of lean body weight, which, I believe, translates to 0.36gm/lb. Most of everything I have read in the Primal community sees this as a reasonable recommendation for the average person who is not growing, pregnant, nursing, body building, elderly or recuperating from surgery or a wasting illness. Also, I got the impression that this article was about not going overboard on protein so as to more readily control insulin spikes and therefore weight stasis or gain. Carbs and portion sizes are not the only things we have to watch!Excess… Read more »
T J
4 years 4 months ago

Intersting article. Although the article didnt really say it (or I missed it), based on the other factors, it would seem like a large dose of protein from a shake would be more likely to get converted into “other things” than would a Porterhouse due to the faster absorption of the shake. ???

HFIT
4 years 4 months ago

Great article, I have found the information very informative!

oceanside orthodontist
4 years 4 months ago

Reading through this post transported me back to my biology class in high school.lols. But seriously, this was pretty great. I’ve never really paid attention to various factors (ie, stress levels, mobility) when I eat my way through the day.

Dan
4 years 4 months ago

Mark,

You said…”your pH will shift (more acidic) and calcium will be called upon to balance pH out again”

This sounds like acidosis? Hasn’t this been debunked as veg*an pseudo science?

Dan
4 years 4 months ago

Aha! I found what I was looking for…Apparently protein only leaches calcium from the bones if it is plant protein. Not animal protein.

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2011/02/does-protein-leach-calcium-from-bones.html

Dan
4 years 4 months ago

Eating high protein does not leach calcium from the bones:

In this intervention trial, they found that high protein diets actually improve bone health: http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/89/3/1169

And in this one, they found that the increase in urinary calcium is not due to acid-base balance removing calcium from the bones, but that urinary increases in calcium are actually due to increased calcium absorption in the gut! They also noted that calcium turnover in the bones was less, but barely significant: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/133/3/855S

I’m gonna go ahead and continue my super high protein diet.

Attilio
Attilio
4 years 4 months ago

LOL digestion requires takes a long time?
Yeah if you eat not natural food for humans like meat, fish, eggs, etc..
Try eating the only natural food for us (fruits and some greens) and you’ll digest in minutes!

A'lice Portas
A'lice Portas
4 years 2 months ago
I resently started working out. I don’t know how much protein I should have. I work out either jogging, a body pump class, weight lifting and zumba classes. I do have eggs in the morning (6:00am) with tomatoes with my smoothie and Whey protein powder after my morning work out. Sometimes I switch this routine to the afternoon. About 10:30 I do eat fruit. In the afternoon, about 1pm I eat piece of meat with veg. and about 5 I have another smoothie with protein powder. Do you think this is enough to build muscles. I am 69 very very… Read more »
venetian plaster
4 years 2 months ago

so on my tub of maximuscle it says 41g of protein, im now reading your body can only absorb 20g in one hit? so surely false advertising??

nic
nic
4 years 2 months ago
You said “If you can handle exercising without having to carb-load, you’re probably fat-adapted. If you can work out effectively in a fasted state, you’re definitely fat-adapted” Ok, no problem exercising in fasted state or skipping meals. Yet, I don’t seem to burn fat. No weight loss (been paleo for 7 months). Also I note that even when trying to get into ketosis, that I can barely make the Keto strips change color at all. Am I just amazingly efficient at deriving energy from fat that I burn so little? Or does my body steal protein for gluconeogenesis even though… Read more »
RM
RM
4 years 2 months ago

Check your thyroid. Maybe it is too low and that’s why you can’t lose. If it’s not that, definately your cortisol. Both cause sleep issues.

Mandy
Mandy
4 years 1 month ago
All of the complex metabolic pathways f the body are so interesting, and many we still don’t know exactly how they work. This is why it’s great to eat a diet rich in veggies- we don’t need to know how the many different phytochemicals work in order to gain the benefit from them. Something that was blatantly absent from this article was any mention of nitrogen balance. It is a test used in labs to determine how much protein is absorbed. The body ‘deanimates’ proteins by ripping of the nitrogen, sending it out via urea. So there is no ‘pooping… Read more »
Gerogette
Gerogette
4 years 1 month ago

Hi Mark, have you read any of Donald Layman’s research? Jimmy Moore had an interview with him, URL below:

http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/atlcx-episode-24-all-things-protein-protein-101-dr-donald-layman/15359

His research seems to disagree with your explanation.

Joshua Naterman
Joshua Naterman
3 years 11 months ago

That’s because this article, while well written, does not accurately describe what happens in the body.

To be fair, no short article ever could. It would require at least 15-20 pages to give an overview and explain the nuances as well as how to apply them, and I give that number because I have typed that out before and I wasn’t completely satisfied with it.

That’s without references or special concerns.

angela
angela
3 years 7 months ago
dear mark ok i am a 43 year old 288 pounds.fixing to have the gastric sleeve.i know doctors know a lot,but i would still like to research the protein i intake.after my sleeve i am wondering what my protein intake will be.doctor says 60 to 90 grams a day.i cant exercise right now as its hard to walk and bend,for now.after i lose 40 pounds then i will be able to walk more.i will only be able to eat about 4 ounces of food at a time.starting with liquids,then puree,then soft foods,then its a try and see.but our requirements are… Read more »
Dan
Dan
3 years 7 months ago

Erm, but protein digestion only takes place in the small intestine with a transit time of 1-2 hours. Will the small intestine really hold on to the porter house steak you mentioned for 10 hours???

mario
mario
2 years 9 months ago

I would like to know after a 40 or so gr. meal of protein how long does aminos stay in the blood. Thanks Mario

Peter Smernos
Peter Smernos
2 years 8 months ago

End result might be another issue

100 gms of steak to get 30 gm protein, fibre, and waste products) will take 4-5 hrs to digest (60cal) and leave you only 60 cal for exercise.

30 gms protein powder will give you 120 calories.

This is only a rough guide and Mark may like to follow up with more accurate numbers. Thanks

Peter

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