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How Much Protein Do People Need Per Meal?

By Stephanie Lee

Protein is a nutrient that is found in a variety of food products, including milk, poultry and legumes. The amount of protein that should be consumed at one meal depends upon your gender, total caloric intake, absorption rate and your level of physical activity. Consult with your health-care adviser before making dietary changes.

Recommended Dietary Allowance

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recommended dietary allowance for protein for women over the age of 14 is 46 grams of protein. Teenage boys, on the other hand, should have a daily intake of 52 grams of protein, while adult men require 56 grams of protein. The CDC also states, however, that as much as 35 percent of the total calories for the day may derive from protein sources. A 2,000 calorie diet, for instance, would equate to 175 grams of protein each day, or approximately 60 grams of protein at each meal. While the recommended dietary allowance for protein serves as a general guideline, the amount of protein you should ingest at each meal depends on your total caloric intake as well as your level of physical activity.

Athletes

Athletes require a greater intake of protein, as strenuous physical activity may break down muscle fiber. The amino acids in protein sources support protein synthesis, tissue repair and stimulate muscular growth. Bodybuilders, for instance, require between 1 gram and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, according to Tom Venuto, CSCS, author of "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle." Furthermore, Venuto explains that bodybuilders generally eat between five and six meals each day, and that ingesting as much as 40 grams of protein at each meal is acceptable.

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Absorption Rate

The absorption rate of protein also determines the maximum amount of protein that should be consumed at each meal. The University of California-Los Angeles explains that the body is able to absorb and utilize a maximum of 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight. A 150 lb. person, for instance, would be able to digest up to 136 grams of protein each day, or approximately 45 grams of protein at each meal. Ingesting more protein than the body is able to absorb, according to Venuto, would not speed up the muscle building process; however, certain protein sources support physical activity better than others. Helen Kollias, Ph.D., states that whey protein is one of the fastest absorbing sources of protein as it absorbs at a rate of 8 grams to 10 grams each hour. Poultry, on the other hand, absorbs at a much slower rate.

Considerations

CDC explains that protein supplements are unnecessary, as most American adults ingest the recommended dietary allowance of protein each day; however, physical activity and eating habits must also be taken into consideration. Vegetarians, for instance, may lack protein in the diet if they are lactose intolerant or have soy allergies, as both dairy and soy products are food sources rich in protein. To meet the minimum recommended dietary allowance of protein, supplements may be necessary. Furthermore, protein may be ingested throughout the day rather than solely at meal times. Protein rich snacks might include yogurt, string cheese or almond butter with fresh fruit.

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