Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is 30 Grams of Protein the Limit

When it comes to building muscle, size and strength there are always opinions, myths and habits that get passed around and applied to everyone's strength and weight training. If you have tried to build muscle and get stronger in the gym there is no question that you has tried some protein supplement or at the bare minimum sought out some sort of protein to help your muscles grow. I am going to guess that you have heard that you are wasting your time if you ingest any more than 30 grams of the great muscle build protein at on one time.

Well I have Will Brink has put together this article to answer the question: Can The Body Digest More Than 30 Grams of Protein at One Time?


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Many people think you eat some protein, it mixes with some acid or something, gets broken down into amino acids, gets taken up into the body, and everyone is happy.

I wish it were that simple. As with all foods, the breakdown of protein starts in the mouth with the simple chewing of food and the exposer to certain enzymes. In the stomach, food mixes with enzymes and other factors such as lipase, pepsin, intrinsic factor, and of course HCL (stomach acid).

It moves onto the small intestine and then the large intestine.The small intestine is considered the major anatomical site of food digestion and nutrient absorption and is made up of section such as the duodenum, jejunum, and the ileum. Pancreatic enzymes (chymotrypsin, trypsin, etc.), bile salts, gastrin, cholecystokinin, pepidases, as well as many others factors are released here.

The large intestine is composed of the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, and the sigmoid colon, which all play a part in absorbing the nutrients we eat. Sound complicated? It is. Believe me, I am leaving out a great deal of information so you wont fall asleep reading my little column! Suffice it to say, digestion is a very complicated thing and there are many places along the chain of digestion that can both enhance and degrade a persons ability to absorb the foods we eat.

There is no reason to think that among this complicated process that there are not wide individual differences in a persons ability to digest and absorb protein. For some person who is inactive, elderly, and for what ever reason lives with compromised digestion, 30 grams of protein at one sitting might very well be too much for them to handle.

By the same token, assuming a 220lbs healthy athlete is unable to exceed 30 grams of protein in one sitting is neither proven by medical science or even logical in my view.

So what if the 30 gram rule turns out to be true? If we examine some of the more recent studies on the protein requirements of athletes done by researchers from both the United Sates and Canada, we come to some recommended protein intakes that far exceed the RDAs, some times by as much as 225%!

These researchers came to the conclusion that protein intakes for athletes should range from approximately 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body-weight for endurance athletes and up to 1.8g of protein per kg for strength training athletes. For a 200 pound bodybuilder-a strength training athlete-that would be approximately 164 grams of protein per day (most bodybuilders I know eat considerably more protein per day, but that's for another fight and another article...).

Assuming that 30 grams of protein is the most anyone can digest, absorb, and utilize, this person would have to split his intake into about five meals (164 divided by 30 = 5.47). So, given the advice by many people that 30 grams is all anyone can digest at a single sitting, it appears a person can achieve the goal of 30 grams of protein per meal even with the higher intakes recommended in the modern research (assuming they are willing or able to eat five meals per day).

However, if you happen to eat more than that per meal as a healthy athlete I don't think you have anything to worry about. I won't tell anyone. Me, I would suggest you stick to the one gram per pound of bodyweight rule, which often exceeds the research mentioned above.

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