New Study on Protein Timing: Even 100 Grams Per Meal Isn’t Wasted

As you’re reading these words, somewhere out there, an overly meticulous gym bro is shaving fine specks of protein powder off the top of his measuring scoop before taking it from the food scale to his blender. After all, the body can only absorb 25 to 30 grams of protein at a time, right? The big fella in the squat rack banging out sets of three-plate barbell rows may think so, but a recent study has another take on the issue.

The paper, conducted by Trommelen et al. and published on Dec. 19, 2023, in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, makes a strong argument in favor of putting as many scoops of your favorite whey protein powder into your shaker bottle as you want. The study appears to show that there’s no upper limit to the anabolic response generated by consuming as much as 100 grams of protein at a time.

[Related: Different Types of Protein Powder Explained: Which Is Right for You?]

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

What the Study Says

Trommelen & colleagues, the authors of the study titled “The anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in vivo in humans,” take a firm stance regarding the ongoing protein timing debate right from the get-go. They state in their work that “The belief that anabolic response to feeding during post-exercise recovery has an upper limitlacks scientific proof.” (1) To that end, they set about conducting an acute observational study of the effects of ingesting different amounts of dietary protein after a workout.

For context, the bodybuilding and fitness community seems to constantly be at war over the “optimal” amount of protein on a per-meal basis. Some data has thrown out numbers like 25 to 40 grams. (2)

At the same time, other reputable sources argue that the body will eventually utilize however much protein it is provided, whether that is across one meal or six. (3) Here’s what the authors of this recent study did to find out the truth: 

Participants were randomly selected to receive 25 grams, 100 grams, or a placebo of milk-based protein after a strength training workout.

It is argued that most studies supporting a so-called “upper limit” of usable protein ingestion don’t assess over a long enough time period to account for the digestion of larger protein-rich meals

The authors observed a “clear dose-dependent pattern in muscle protein synthesis rates over the entire 12-hour period…,” indicating that acute muscle protein synthesis rises to match how much protein is being consumed in a single sitting.

The authors conclude by stating that, “the magnitude and duration of the anabolic response to protein ingestion is not restricted and has previously been underestimated in humans.”


The authors make some strong claims in favor of the viability of high-protein meals. However, their data is not entirely infallible; there are some limitations to the utility of this study. For one, large anabolic responses don’t necessarily mean that all of that protein is being put to work to repair and grow muscle tissue. Certain studies have argued that elevated muscle protein synthesis and anabolic signaling may not be highly important for actual muscle hypertrophy. (4)

Credit: Anton Vierietin / Shutterstock

[Related: Best Meal Replacement Shakes for Bulking and Weight Loss]

The authors may have opted out of making such a claim because this was not a longitudinal study. Longitudinal, or “over time,” data is more actionable. This study shows that there may not be an upper limit to single-meal protein ingestion. Notably, they also didn’t observe complete protein “saturation” with 100 grams, implying that even higher doses may also be fine.

Main Takeaways

This study by Trommelen & colleagues appears to be another notch in favor of protein frequency/timing not being as big of a deal. It’s still far from an open-and-shut case, especially if you’re the type of person who wants to optimize every aspect of your bodybuilding meal prep or dietary habits. Here are the study’s main takeaways:

There appears to be no identifiable “cap” to the amount of protein your body can utilize if you extend the time frame long enough.

Even 100 grams of protein ingested in one sitting won’t lead to amino acid oxidation or, in plain terms, wasting.

If you don’t have the luxury of eating many small protein-rich meals daily, don’t worry about leaving gains on the table

Other studies still assert that more “moderate” per-meal levels of protein might be better for maximizing muscle protein synthesis, but the jury’s still out.

Your time is probably better spent worrying about hitting a consistent protein-per-day benchmark. How much protein is needed to build muscle is a highly individualized question. If you need a hand to know what’s likely right fo you, try BarBend’s in-house protein calculator:

Protein Intake Calculator






Activity Level

Do you know your body fat percentage?


Total Calories: 1699 Per Day

Daily protein intake recommendation:



Generally recommended


Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.

[Related: How To Bulk — the Ultimate Guide To Gaining Size]

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Trommelen, J., van Lieshout, G. A. A., Nyakayiru, J., Holwerda, A. M., Smeets, J. S. J., Hendriks, F. K., van Kranenburg, J. M. X., Zorenc, A. H., Senden, J. M., Goessens, J. P. B., Gijsen, A. P., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2023). The anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in vivo in humans. Cell reports. Medicine, 4(12), 101324. 

Moore, D. R., Robinson, M. J., Fry, J. L., Tang, J. E., Glover, E. I., Wilkinson, S. B., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(1), 161–168. 

Macnaughton, L. S., Wardle, S. L., Witard, O. C., McGlory, C., Hamilton, D. L., Jeromson, S., Lawrence, C. E., Wallis, G. A., & Tipton, K. D. (2016). The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. Physiological reports, 4(15), e12893. 

Damas, F., Phillips, S., Vechin, F. C., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2015). A review of resistance training-induced changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis and their contribution to hypertrophy. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 45(6), 801–807. 

Featured Image: Milan Ilic Photographer / Shutterstock

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