Protein is a macronutrient made up of little building blocks called Amino Acids. Amino Acids are kinda like legos and those legos form the structure of our muscles, joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, hair, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, & both LDL and HDL cholesterol. Basically, we are protein and it's important that we eat plenty of it to optimize our performance as endurance athletes.
Every day we exist and especially when we exercise, we put a strain on our muscles, and they break down naturally and then rebuild themselves through a process called protein synthesis.
You may or may not have heard but there's actually a limit to how much protein your muscles can utilize in one sitting. You might actually be wasting protein if you're not eating it in the right doses.
This article covers how to maximize how much protein you eat so that your muscles can utilize every single gram & you can perform your best.
How Much Protein Can You Absorb?
A study in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explains that muscle protein synthesis is maximized at a protein dose of approximately 20 to 25 grams.
In other words, your muscles are only going to use 20-25 grams of protein in one sitting which refers to a window of time between 1.5-2 hours.
The body can absorb about 10 grams of fast-digesting proteins, like whey, each hour according to the study.
What Happens When You Consume More Than That?
Simply put, your muscles won't use it. If you eat 30+ grams of protein in a single sitting, your muscles will have enough of the building materials they need and so the excess protein will either be used up by other parts of the body as energy or it will get flushed away when you go to the bathroom.
How to Maximize Protein Absorption
The key to maximizing your protein absorption is to space out your protein consumption. Rather than stuffing yourself with all your daily protein during one meal, eat a healthy portion at each meal and ALWAYS use a post-workout protein drink to ensure your muscles have what they need to rebuild.
How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?
To survive, you need about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
So if you weigh 100 lbs, you need to eat at least 36 grams of protein.
But we're about stepping on the podium and being the best endurance athletes we can be, so surviving doesn't cut it.
According to a 2018 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a healthy active lifestyle individual can consume and effectively absorb up to 0.25 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight across four meals.
So to break that down, if you weigh 100 lbs and you eat 3 meals and 1 snack, you would want to shoot for around 25 grams of protein each time for a total of 100 grams of protein daily.
Note: You can space that protein intake out more, but to maximally absorb the protein you wouldn't want to eat more than that in one sitting.
On a daily basis, this equates to an intake of 1 gram per pound of body weight per day, which is on the upper end of what’s generally recommended.
There are exceptions and differences...
In general, men require more protein than women & elderly people have greater protein requirements as well but shooting for 0.7 to 1 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight should be plenty for most.
Not All Proteins Are Created Equal
Some proteins digest faster which means they can be absorbed by your muscles more quickly. This is an important distinction especially after you exercise when it's crucial to get the protein and amino acids to your muscle asap.
The fastest digesting proteins are the ones that have been separated from their whole food source and turned into protein powder. That's why many people consume a protein powder, like whey, after a workout.
A Word on Amino Acids
As mentioned earlier, amino acids are the building block of protein. They are what actually provide the necessary building materials for repairing and building muscle tissue. The reason we eat protein is to get the essential amino acids we need to build and repair muscle.
In modern-day endurance nutrition, we are actually able to isolate the amino acids and separate them from the protein. Basically, this means you can consume amino acids and give your muscles the building materials they need to recover without actually consuming protein.
In our post-workout recovery protein drink Rehab, there are 8 grams of whey protein isolate per serving, however, we've added 2000 mg of BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) giving it an amino acid profile closer to a drink that would have 16-17 grams of protein. Most athletes use 1.5 - 2 servings of Rehab after a workout to get just the right amount of amino acids and protein so their muscles can recover faster and they can get back out and do it all over again!