As you probably already know – protein – the ‘building blocks’ of all of our cells is crucial for all bodily functions. It regulates processes such as tissue growth and regeneration as well as managing and producing hormones. You may also know that it’s very important to have a high protein diet especially if you are an athlete or you have a hard training routine. After a workout our muscle fibers are ‘torn’ and have to be regenerated and repaired as soon as possible. Protein has such anti-catabolic properties and helps our cells (including muscle) grow and recover. It has also been established that 30 minutes before and after workout are the optimal times to consume protein (or extra protein) in order to reduce catabolism and maximize muscle growth. But how much is too much? Can an unlimited amount of protein be consumed at any given time?
Basically, when we ingest protein, the stomach breaks it down to amino acids by means of stomach acid and enzymes. Amino acids are then transported into the small intestine and further into the bloodstream. They are then distributed into all the various cells in your body. But the small intestine can only shoot a limited number of amino acids into our bloodstreams per hour. This is why only a limited amount of protein can be absorbed at any given time. According to estimates whey protein can be absorbed at a rate of 8 to 10 grams/hr casein at ~6.1 g/hr, soy at ~3.9 g/hr, and cooked egg at ~2.9 g/hr. Also, according to another study, our muscles won’t use more than 30 grams of protein consumed at one meal. Unfortunately this matter can’t be simplified as it all depends on numerous factors. Some of those include:
-Type of protein eaten- whether its Whey Protein Gold Standard or a steak?
-What are you eating it with? On its own or with fat and carbs?
-The fiber content of the whole meal – more fiber equals slower absorption
-When you last ate – are you full or hungry?
These factors can affect the protein absorption. For example a steak will take longer to be broken down and move through your digestive system and therefore you will benefit more from a steak than chugging 3 whey shakes at a time. Also, as much as the protein will be used in your body, it may not be used for muscle building in excess of the said 30-40 grams.
This information is crucial, not only in order to maximize muscle growth and anti-catabolism but also to avoid over – consuming protein and storing the excess as fat. Keep in mind that it is still important to stick to the recommended daily intake. Spreading it out through the day and increasing your pre- and post -workout intake will maximize your muscle and strength gains. Try to have a balanced diet and alternate between supplements and whole foods rather than drinking shake after shake. Many sources agree that you should be getting most of your protein from food and limit your supplementation to 2 shakes a day, such as Rule One Protein, to maintain balance and health.