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Body Assimilates Only 20 grams of Protein?
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John Peterson John Peterson is online now
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Join Date: Feb 2008
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09-18-2019, 04:35 PM
Hello Everyone,

I have been asked,

"Mr. Peterson, in Men's Fitness magazine I just read an article that says that the body can't absorb more than 20-30 grams of protein at a time. But I have also read other articles on Paleo and Keto nutrition that insist that your body utilizes all the protein you take in. Who is right?"

I've researched this one myself for decades. Believe me, this assertion about 20 to 30 grams of protein is nothing new. Even Vince Gironda stated that while at the same time recommending a 12-ounce steak In one study that I read two years ago it stated that researchers found that a meal containing 30 grams of protein boosted muscle-building activity by about 50%. That's the amount of protein you'd get in 4 ounces of lean sirloin steak(31-grams to be exact). Supposedly it also turned out, that increasing the amount of protein in the meal didn't create a bigger boost in muscle synthesis. It went on to say that subjects who ate 90 grams of protein at a meal (12 0unces of sirloin) got exactly the same benefit as subjects who ate 30 grams.

This logic is flawed in my opinion. Why? Because of the precise amount of protein at which the muscle-building effects peak will vary from man to man. Someone with a very large or muscular body like Big Jim Forystek at 6'1" and 275 pounds of muscle or someone who is engaged in high-intensity workouts might be able to use considerably more protein than someone who is smaller or not as athletic. And certainly, no one needs protein more than distance runners that deprive themselves of protein in preference for carbs. It causes them to lose muscle mass and look deathly ill when carried too far.

Personal opinion here, I think those who claim that all of the protein you eat is utilized are also correct in one sense - because building muscle is only one of the many things that our bodies use protein for. Consider: Every protein is made up of special molecules called amino acids. When you digest protein, your body breaks it down into the individual amino acids and then uses them to build enzymes, hormones, immune factors, transport and storage molecules, and all kinds of other useful things, including bigger Biceps, Quads & Pecs.

Protein is an essential nutrient because you can't get amino acids from fats or carbohydrates. No amino acids, no enzymes. No enzymes, no life.

Considering the above statement, it's not surprising that the body prioritizes its use of amino acids. Survival is priority #1; Bigger biceps, quads, pecs and six-pack abs all come in second. But when the body has all the amino acids it needs, protein can also be used as an alternative source of energy or calories. In other words, In other words, if you have some left over after building your muscles, you can burn the extra for heat! And this is the sense in which all of the protein you take in does get utilized. Protein beyond what your body needs to replenish its amino acid pool (or can put to use for muscle building) is metabolized into glucose and used for energy. And whenever you have more food energy than you need, the surplus is stored as fat. Nothing is wasted.

So here's the bottom line: As long as you're not taking in more calories than you're burning each day, there's no harm in using protein as a source of energy provided it's a clean protein that burns efficiently.

Also, consider that if you consume 2,500 calories on a daily basis and 20% of your caloric intake in the form of protein that would equate to about 125 grams when one considers that a there are 4 calories in a gram of protein. It's not really that much when you consider that if you were a 200-pound man consuming .66 gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight you would be consuming 133 grams of protein each day and I have often read a recommendation of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Here's the final point. I do not buy into the 20 to 30-gram myth. Even though I am 90% Lacto -Ovo-Vegetarian there are times I go out for a steak and eating a 16 ounce Grass Raised Bison RibEye is not all that difficult to do.

---John Peterson

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