How Much Protein Do You REALLY Need in a Single Meal to Build Muscle?

Broscience has told us the optimal amount of protein in a meal to build muscle is 20-25 grams. After that, it adds to fat gain instead of muscle gain. 

But is that true?

The problem with the broscience hypothesis is much of the research was based on protein shakes that are quick digesting or looking at protein consumption alone rather than recording the real life effects of a balanced meal of whole foods that digest more slowly.

What is the answer?

A recent literature review reported more specific recommendations to personalize intake and meal distribution.

To maximize muscle building (anabolism) the target intake is 0.4 g/kg/meal across a minimum of four meals in order to reach a minimum of 1.6 g/kg/day.

Or, using the upper daily intake of 2.2 g/kg/day reported in the literature spread out over the same four meals would necessitate a maximum of 0.55 g/kg/meal.

For example, in a 180 pound male with a goal of 2.2g/kg/day their daily protein goal would be 180 grams.  Divided in 4 meals is 45 grams per meal.

Broscience would break that down even further to 6-8 meals to hit 20-25 grams a meal.

What the research tells us is that instead of having to plan so many small meals or pound back protein shakes, you can eat fewer more balanced meals with whole unprocessed foods and get the same effect.


  1. If you’re having greater than 25 grams in a meal, choose whole food sources and add some vegetables and healthy fats to slow down digestion.
  2. Protein shakes are quickly metabolized.  Have these after workouts when they are more likely to be used up to build muscle.
  3. Divide your protein intake between four or more balanced meals. 
  4. Too much protein in one sitting? Consider 3 meals and 2 protein rich snacks.