Hopefully someone can help me with this.

When you load multiple users with get_users() (let's say 100+) WP triggers the user meta query for every single user. This triggers 101 queries (main user query + meta query for each user).

The thing is, I only need 1 meta value from the database (capabilities for the current blog) and I see that the WP_User class doesn't use any of the other data for role and capability management.

I already have the SQL ready, no problemo. But does anyone know how to populate the WP_User class while bypassing the default meta query?

(Off course this will need to be compatible with any stuff that happens afterwards by other plugins)

See wp-includes/class-wp-user.php

Default callstack for WP_User (when passing a $wpdb->get_results() user object):

    - get_user_meta()
        - update_meta_cach()
            - query :-(

For completeness, my current SQL:

SELECT {$wpdb->users}.*, {$wpdb->usermeta}.meta_value FROM {$wpdb->users} 
LEFT JOIN {$wpdb->usermeta} ON {$wpdb->users}.ID = {$wpdb->usermeta}.user_id
WHERE {$wpdb->usermeta}.meta_key = '{$wpdb->get_blog_prefix()}capabilities'
ORDER BY {$wpdb->users}.display_name

Any help greatly appreciated!

  • Just so I get what you're on about...so if I have 30 users and on every one of them I have a meta_query argument + a certain meta_value, does that mean WordPress performs 30 queries? Or 60? I didn't get it with the 100+ and 101, but I'm really curious because THAT much fewer database queries is gooood..! Because I thought it was just one query saved to a variable and then it's just "local iteration" Nov 18, 2016 at 0:24
  • Very late reply (didn't return here since I've figured it out). But yes, after testing back then I found that if you query multiple users WP adds a separate query for each user to get the metadata. Might be that this is fixed since then, I'll have to test. Nov 7, 2017 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


For anyone interested.

Got it solved using the get_user_metadata filter to short circuit the metaquery and cache loading.


  • Run query
  • Store result data in the class property
  • Add get_user_metadata filter
  • Start foreach loop on results
  • Trigger new WP_User( $result_value ) for each result
  • Within the filter function, validate meta key on $wpdb->get_blog_prefix() . 'capabilities'.
  • Return the unserialized value from the capabilities meta data
  • After the loop, remove the get_user_metadata filter again
  • Done!

Full query (slightly modified)

SELECT {$wpdb->users}.*, {$wpdb->usermeta}.meta_value as roles FROM {$wpdb->users} 
LEFT JOIN {$wpdb->usermeta} ON {$wpdb->users}.ID = {$wpdb->usermeta}.user_id
WHERE {$wpdb->usermeta}.meta_key = '{$wpdb->get_blog_prefix()}capabilities'
ORDER BY {$wpdb->users}.display_name

This will return all the values from the users table + an extra column named roles with the meta_value for TABLEPREFIX_capabilities

There, one single query to load a bulk of users and their capabilities/roles.

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