Understanding Protein Absorption for Muscle Growth

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


When trying to build muscle, consuming enough protein is an integral component.

Protein serves an essential function in muscle growth and recovery from exercise as it aids muscle protein synthesis (building).

Furthermore, protein also plays an essential role in blood sugar regulation, immune function and hormone production within your body

Some suggest this cap is between 20 and 30 grams of protein to avoid the expensive nutrient to be used for other bodily functions.

Military Muscle contains nutrients that can help you maximize muscle protein synthesis for muscle growth.

Key Points:

  • It is recommended to spread protein intake throughout the day and aim for a maximum protein intake of 0.55 grams per kilogram across four meals to maximize muscle-building potential.
  • The body can only absorb about 20-25 grams of protein in one sitting, with excess being excreted and not used for muscle-building purposes.

Protein Explained

A high-protein diet is one of the most popular ways to lose weight. The idea behind this is that eating more protein helps you feel fuller. In fact, studies have shown that it can help reduce your appetite and prevent overeating later in the day, preventing cravings for sugary snacks.

Protein is a macronutrient (an essential nutrient that helps your body function) and it is found in most foods, including meats, eggs, beans, nuts and fish. It contains amino acids, which are building blocks that can be arranged to make a variety of different proteins.

How Protein Works in Your Body

When you eat protein, it gets broken down and reassembled into the different types of proteins your body needs, according to Dr. Peter Tewksbury, a medical nutritionist at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.

These proteins can be used to make a wide variety of things in the body, such as antibodies that help your immune system fight viruses and bacteria, DNA synthesis or transporting molecules around the body.

In addition, protein can be a source of energy for your body. It can help to build and repair muscle and improve your body’s energy levels.

Weight Loss and Exercise

Protein is a key component of a weight-loss diet because it can increase lean muscle mass, while also improving blood sugar and helping to control your hunger. Increasing your protein intake can also boost fat loss during intentional calorie restriction, as a 12-month study in 130 overweight people showed.

How much protein can I eat in a single meal?

Protein is a macronutrient that helps your body create the bones, organs, and muscles you need to survive. It also plays a role in your immune system and the chemical reactions that take place throughout your body.

However, you should avoid going crazy and consuming huge amounts of protein in one sitting. Your body has a limit to how much it can use for muscle-building purposes, and consuming too much at one time will result in your body using the protein for other reasons, such as energy.

The problem herein lays with the cost. If you compare the price of protein products conpared to those that are carbohydrates then you'll see a huge disparity between the two which carbohydrates being significantly cheaper.

For years we’ve been told that the maximum amount of protein you can eat in a single meal is around 0.4 grams per kilogram of your body weight. Therefore, to keep it simple, a person weighing 100kgs would benefit from 40g of protein per single meal. While this is still a good target, it’s worth rethinking what that suggests about your daily intake of protein.

Researchers have analyzed this idea, and found that the recommended dose of protein is actually closer to 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight across four meals. This aligns with a minimum daily intake of 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight, and is the recommended target for most people who want to build lean muscle mass.

The reason that we’ve been told these guidelines for so long is that research has shown a negative effect of consuming too much protein at any given time. This is based on the fact that your body doesn’t absorb all the protein you eat, and instead will break it down into smaller molecules that can be used by other parts of the body.

This is why it’s important to spread your daily protein intake out over multiple meals, and especially after a workout. By eating a variety of different proteins throughout the day, your body is better able to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow and repair muscles.

When you eat protein, it goes through the digestive tract, where it’s broken down into small pieces called amino acids. The amino acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and are used for various functions in your body.

The quickest way to get a full range of amino acids is by eating a wide variety of foods, such as meats, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, and vegetables. These can all be incorporated into a balanced diet, and can provide you with all the amino acids you need to build muscle.

How much protein can I eat after a workout?

Getting enough protein is essential for muscle-building and recovery. During exercise, muscles experience micro-tears that break down muscle fibers and decrease the body’s stored energy sources such as glucogen and fat. To prevent those breakdowns from continuing, consume protein immediately after a workout to replenish the amino acids in your muscle cells and stimulate muscle protein synthesis, or growth.

The protein-rich foods you need after a workout are high-quality proteins that can be found in eggs, meat, fish, dairy and milk products. They can also be found in supplements like whey or plant-based protein powders, concentrates and isolates.

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, research suggests that eating protein within two hours of a workout increases muscle protein synthesis. However, other experts say that consuming protein sooner -- 30 to 60 minutes post-workout -- can be even more effective at stimulating muscle growth and recovery.

For best results, pair a serving of protein with carbohydrates, which can help restore glycogen stores and consume approximately 1.5 times of fluid than what you lost through perspiration and urine. This can be as simple as a smoothie with a banana, a handful of spinach and a scoop of your go-to protein powder.

You can use a calculator to find out how many calories of protein you need based on your weight and daily activity level. You can then determine how many grams of protein and other macronutrients that your body requires for each day.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can still benefit from protein, but you’ll need to get your protein from foods that contain all of the amino acids your body needs. Some of the most nourishing plant-based options for post-workout protein include soy, quinoa and hemp seeds.

A balanced diet is the key to staying healthy and reaching your fitness goals, regardless of your exercise regimen. You should always consider what nutrients are missing from your diet and make sure you get a variety of them to fuel your workouts and recover properly from them.

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How much protein can I eat before a workout?

Protein is essential for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissues after exercise. That's because when you work out, your muscles undergo microscopic tears that must be repaired to keep you strong and healthy.

Whether you're a competitive gym-goer or someone who's sedentary, your daily intake of protein should be between 0.8 and 2.2 grams per kilogram (kg) of body weight. The upper end of that range is for endurance athletes like runners and cyclists, while the lower end is for people who do strength training or weight lifting to put on muscle mass and increase strength.

The general recommendation is to eat a protein-rich meal at least a couple of hours before you workout, and some research suggests that pre-workout meals with higher protein can be beneficial. For example, eating a small meal of 20 grams of whey protein a couple of hours before a workout can raise your plasma (blood) amino acid levels to greater than normal.

But the timing of the meal itself is also important, and how quickly the protein is absorbed depends on its type. Fast-digesting proteins, such as whey protein, are usually fully digested and absorbed within 2 to 3 hours. However, slower-digesting protein, such as steak with buttered potatoes and vegetables, might take up to 6 to 8 hours before it's fully digested and this can cause gastro-distress.

Therefore, ther key take-away point here is the timing of protein consumption, always ensure what source of protein you eat will be fully digested before any physical activity to avoid and uncomfortableness. 

How much protein can I eat before bed?

Studies have shown that eating protein before bed can help increase muscle growth and strength, and may also promote weight loss. However, it is important to understand that the amount of protein you can eat before bed depends on numerous factors, including the type of protein.

The body requires protein to build and repair muscles, so it is important to consume a variety of sources of protein throughout the day. This can be done with foods such as lean meats, dairy products and nuts.

Another great source of protein can be found in plant-based foods such as soy products, legumes and beans. These are rich in amino acids and can be combined with other plant-based foods to make a complete meal.

You can also add a protein-rich shake to your evening meal or have a small serving of protein at night if you are feeling hungry. These can be blended with low-fat milk, fruit, kale or avocado and can provide a healthy and filling snack before you go to sleep.

Some research has shown that consuming 30 to 40 grams of protein before bed can increase your muscle mass and strength. This may be due to the fact that protein can improve muscle protein synthesis, which is the process by which your body builds new muscle cells.


For years, people have been told that the body can only absorb about 20-25 grams of protein in one sitting. This is based on studies that show how the body responds to different doses of protein.

What this means is that if you consume more than 25 grams of protein in a single sitting, the excess will be excreted and not used for muscle-building purposes. The protein that does enter your muscles will be broken down and used for other vital processes.

The only way to get more protein into your diet is to add more protein-rich foods to your meals and snacks. These include lean meats, eggs, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

A recent study has concluded that for an active young adult to maximize protein intake, they should aim for a maximum protein intake of 0.55 grams per kilogram across four meals. This aligns with the upper CI daily protein intake of 2.2 grams per kilogram per day, and it should be enough to maximize anabolism in most people.


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