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How much protein do you need per meal?

by Jeffrey McCarrell on May 17, 2019

Our friends at examine.com had a great article regarding how much protein do you need per mail. You can read the full article here

Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the process of building new skeletal muscle tissue. When MPS chronically exceeds muscle protein breakdown (MPB), resulting in a positive net protein balance, we can expect muscle growth over the long term.[98][99] Every time you eat represents a time to facilitate muscle growth through stimulating MPS.

Protein feeding studies using varying doses of whey protein suggest that young adults require an average of 0.24 g/kg of protein per meal to maximize MPS,[44] with an RDA-like safe intake level to cover most young adults proposed at 0.4 g/kg.[100] For older adults, these values are 0.4 and 0.6 g/kg, respectively.[44]

Because these values are derived from studies using whey protein in isolation, which is especially bioavailable, rich in essential amino acids (EAAs), and rapidly digested, it is possible that higher intakes of protein are required when eating lower quality or slower digesting sources of protein (as would occur when eating a meal).

Additionally, while these values suggest a threshold for maximally stimulating MPS, there does not appear to be an upper limit for protein intake when it comes to promoting whole body protein balance.[101] For example, consuming 70 g (0.8 g/kg) of protein from lean beef in a meal increases whole-body protein synthesis and reduces whole body protein breakdown, resulting in greater net protein balance, than does 40 g (0.5 g/kg) of protein despite not further increasing MPS.[102]

In other words, eating more protein may not necessarily translate to greater muscle-protein turnover and growth, but since muscle tissue accounts for only 25-30% of whole-body protein turnover,[103] the additional protein is not "wasted" (a common myth).

From a pragmatic perspective, it seems reasonable for adults, especially those looking to maximize muscle growth, to aim for 0.4-0.6 g/kg of protein per meal. This fits the conclusion from a recent review article on the maximal amount of protein that can be used from a single meal.[104] The authors suggest that to maximize lean body mass, active adults should consume 1.6-2.2 g/kg per day, spread across four meals (0.40-0.55 g/kg per meal).

For maximal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, aim for a pre-meal dose of quality protein (such as can be found in meat, eggs, and dairy) of 0.4-0.6 g/kg. Higher doses will not be wasted and are probably necessary when eating mixed meals that contain a variety of protein sources.


[44] a b c Moore DR, et al. Protein ingestion to stimulate myofibrillar protein synthesis requires greater relative protein intakes in healthy older versus younger men . J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. (2015)

[98] Brook MS, et al. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy adaptations predominate in the early stages of resistance exercise training, matching deuterium oxide-derived measures of muscle protein synthesis and mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 signalling. FASEB J. (2015)

[99] Damas F, et al. Resistance training-induced changes in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis are related to hypertrophy only after attenuation of muscle damage. J Physiol. (2016)

[100] Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Nutritional interventions to augment resistance training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Front Physiol. (2015)

[101] Deutz NE, Wolfe RR. Is there a maximal anabolic response to protein intake with a meal? . Clin Nutr. (2013)

[102] Kim IY, et al. The anabolic response to a meal containing different amounts of protein is not limited by the maximal stimulation of protein synthesis in healthy young adults . Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2016)

[103] Nair KS, Halliday D, Griggs RC. Leucine incorporation into mixed skeletal muscle protein in humans . Am J Physiol. (1988)