How Many Calories Does Your Body Absorb in One Sitting? (Explained)


We know calories are important for weight loss. While you are tracking them, you may wonder, how many calories does the body absorb in one sitting? Are the calories I am consuming all going to be absorbed?

The short answer is there is no definite way to tell the exact amount of calories the body can absorb in a single meal, but it can be up to 1,000. Everyone’s digestive system, metabolism, and the rate at which they absorb calories is completely different.

Read on to learn more about calories and how they get absorbed.

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How Many Calories Does Your Body Absorb in One Sitting?

The average person can absorb anywhere from 200-1000 calories in a single meal. However, this number can differ based on many factors such as:

  • Speed of eating
  • How active you are
  • Your age
  • Your metabolism
  • Your Gut microbiome
  • The type of food you’re eating (what macros they contain)
  • How well you chew your food
  • Insulin resistance

As you can see, there are many variables that affect how many calories your body can absorb in one sitting.

The more food you consume, the slower you will absorb calories. Since everyone eats different amounts of food and at a different speed, it is hard to give an exact answer of calories absorbed in one meal.

With that said, the average person has the ability to absorb about 50-60% of the calories they consume in a meal.

For example, if you’re including a lot of high fiber foods in your diet, your body will absorb fewer of those calories.

If you include high amounts of protein in your diet, your body will absorb more of those calories as protein is more vital for body function and building/preserving muscle.

For example, research shows that muscle protein synthesis is maximized in young adults who consume 20–25 grams in their diet.

Any amount above this range is thought to be oxidized and used elsewhere in the body.

Our body will not utilize calories from protein, carbohydrates, and fats in the same exact way.

Absorption of nutrients

The way our body absorbs protein, carbohydrates, and fats is very different.

  • Protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids. Once we eat protein, it is broken down into individual amino acids which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

From here, they’re used to build new proteins or be used as fuel.

It was once thought that the body could only absorb around 15 grams of protein at a time, but recent research has shown that this number is much higher.

As we discussed, it is thought the body has the ability to absorb 25 grams of protein in one meal.

  • Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made up of glucose molecules. Once we eat carbohydrates, they’re broken down into individual glucose molecules which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Insulin is then secreted to help shuttle these glucose molecules into our cells where they can be used for energy.

The amount of glucose that can be transported into cells per minute is called the ‘glucose transport capacity’.

The body has the ability to absorb more carbohydrates in one sitting than protein, upwards to 90 grams.

  • Fats

Fats are made up of triglycerides. Once we eat fats, they’re broken down into individual fatty acids and glycerol which are then absorbed into the lymphatic system.

From here, they’re transported to different parts of the body where they can be used for fuel or stored.

As for fat, it is thought the body can absorb around 110 grams per meal, but should not exceed 60 grams.

For someone who has gallbladder issues, they might not absorb fats in the same way, and many fat may be passed through stool.


How Many Calories Do You Absorb in One Hour?

The amount of calories able to be absorbed in an hour by the body would likely be the same as a single meal, which is upward to 1,000 calories in one sitting.

However, it is important to remember that this number will vary based on our individual digestive system as well as the type of food we’re consuming.

Nobody’s amount of calories they are able to absorb in a single hour will be the exact same as the person they are eating their meal with.

How Many Calories Does Your Body Absorb in a Day?

The amount of calories your body can absorb in a day would be based on how many times you eat throughout the day and also your gender, but can be upwards of 3,000 calories.

If you only eat two meals per day, you’re likely to absorb more calories than someone who eats six meals per day.

This is because our bodies have a limit on how many calories it can absorb at one time as well as over the course of the day.

Our bodies are also able to better absorb calories when we’re active, so if you have an active job or lifestyle, you’re likely to absorb more calories than someone who is sedentary.

Gender also plays a role in how many calories we can absorb in a day as men generally have more muscle mass than women and therefore require more calories to maintain their weight.

The amount of calories your body absorbs in one day can also be affected by factors such as stress, illness, and pregnancy.

Additional Factors That Can Impact Absorption of Calories

Malabsorption of the food we eat can occur if someone does not have enough digestive enzymes to digest the food as they should.

There are certain conditions that can effect the absorption of calories.

GI related conditions such as:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Post-Gastric surgery
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis

It is important to know that individuals that may have these conditions will not absorb calories in the same way as a person free of these conditions.

If you have any of these conditions or are concerned you do, you should speak with your doctor.

Medications and Absorption of Calories

Certain medications can also hinder the absorption of calories. These include:

  • Laxatives
  • Diuretics
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Some chemotherapy drugs

Again, if you are on any medication and have concerns, please speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian to see how it may effect the absorption of calories and nutrients.

What Happens If You Eat Too Many Calories In One Sitting?

If you eat too many calories in one sitting, it will take longer for those calories to be digested and absorbed.

Of course, you may feel overly full and bloated and may even experience indigestion.

Also, when we overeat over and over again, we will eventually gain body fat as we are consuming more calories than our body is burning.

This is why routinely binging or overeating can result in a downward spiral which can lead to obesity.

It is important to be mindful of how many calories you’re consuming in one sitting as well as throughout the day in order to maintain a healthy weight.

If you are trying to lose weight, you must maintain a caloric deficit and burn more calories than you are consuming.

If you’re not sure how many calories you are actually burning, you can get an idea by using a watch that will show an average amount of calories burned as well as steps taken.

These are a great tool to help give you an estimate of the amount of calories you burn through actual movement as well as being aware of how many steps you take per day.

While there isn’t necessarily a danger in eating too many calories in one sitting, it is something to be aware of if you’re trying to watch your weight.

In Summary

To sum it up, the amount of calories your body can absorb in one sitting or over the course of a day will depend on various factors such as your individual digestive system, the type of food you’re consuming, and how much you eat.

Additionally, certain medications and medical conditions can also impact the absorption of calories.

If you are trying to lose weight, it is important to be mindful of how many calories you’re consuming so that you can maintain a caloric deficit.

However, if you do overeat in one sitting, don’t worry, your body will eventually digest and absorb those extra calories and you can get back on track again.