Whats’ the deal with protein shakes?

Protein powders have been around for over 60 years now and people have been taking various forms of “recovery shakes” for even longer.

Arthur Saxon the famous strongman from the early 1900s who still holds a world record of 168kgs for the bent press had a ‘health drink’. It consisted of dark lager mixed with a whole egg and plenty of sugar. Possibly not the best workout shake, but it seemed to work for him.

Arthur Saxon

So what is the low down on protein shakes, do you even need them? Most advertising would lead you to believe without it you’ll be left in everyone’s dust. The Truth is though, protein is protein.

The most important thing for anyone who wants to look better is simple. Have less body-fat and more muscle in the right places.

To build muscle requires protein from one’s diet. Protein also helps you lose fat by keeping you fuller for longer. If you don’t consume enough protein, your body will break down its own protein down (your muscle) and use it as energy and for recovery.

Basically, eat protein if you are trying to building muscle or lose fat. In-fact especially when you trying to lose fat as a higher protein diet keeps you fuller.

The optimum amount of protein required for building muscle is about 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 200lbs you need around 160 grams of protein a day. Some people recommend even higher amounts, but the research doesn’t support anything above 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Increasing protein intake without doing anything else also leads to a reduction in total calorie consumption and weight loss.

As long as this protein requirement is met, you’ll build muscle or maintain it while losing fat. Depending on your training and if you are in a calorie surplus or calorie deficit.

The key is meeting this requirement. Whether you use protein shakes or eat lots of high protein foods like meat, fish, eggs or dairy it doesn’t really matter. The end result will be the same.

Your body doesn’t utilise the protein from a protein powder any different to that of a chicken breast. Eventually, the body will break down all the protein you consume into amino acids (the building blocks of protein).

As long as you eat a complete protein source. This is one that has all the amino essential amino acids needed by the body, you’ll end up with the same result. All animal and dairy proteins are complete, most plant sources are not.

What does this mean for protein shakes? It simply means you should see protein shakes more like a chicken breast. Simply a source of protein, the only real difference between protein shakes and more traditional foods is convenience. E.g. it’s a lot easier to gulp down a protein shake when you’re busy than cook something.

If preparing and eating enough high protein foods is something you struggle with. Using protein shakes as a way to meet your daily requirement can be a fantastic option.

Protein shakes can also be very versatile and used to boost the protein content of foods like yoghurts and smoothies.

That’s all protein shakes are, nothing more, nothing less. That said if you think using a protein shake to help you hit your daily intake, I suggest going for a whey-based formula as it mixes really well into smoothies and yoghurts and unlike most vegetable protein powders is a complete protein.

If you are vegan I’d get a mixture of rice, pea and hemp as although all these foods are missing some of the essential amino acids our body needs added together, they form a complete protein source.

So do you take protein shakes and if so have they made a difference?