Protein Shakes

Whether you’ve heard them talked about as the key to muscle gain or the ideal supplement for a diet that needs more protein, protein shakes are one of the most popular and well-known supplements available today. Protein shakes are also popular for weight loss, as high protein diets have been shown to increase feelings of fullness, increase fat burning and help you lose weight faster[1]. So, how do protein shakes work and how do you use protein shakes for weight loss?


What Are Protein Shakes?

Protein shakes or protein powders are nutritional supplements that are specially formulated to provide a convenient and tasty serve of protein in the form of a milkshake like drink. There are many different types of protein shakes or powders, some for weight gain, some for weight loss, and some for weight maintenance/muscle maintenance.

Protein powders may contain a variety of different ingredients and different sources of protein, including whey protein, pea protein, casein protein, soy protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), egg protein, hemp protein, brown rice protein… the list goes on. Different types of protein powders have different strengths, different characteristics and different tastes. Choosing the right one for you means considering all your options and weighing the differences.


How Do Protein Shakes Work

Protein shakes are powders that can be quickly mixed with water or another favorite beverage to make an easy, delicious protein supplement that can be conveniently consumed on the go.  

Protein shakes work by acting as a quick protein boost to fuel muscles while working out, or as a replacement for meals on a weight loss diet plan. Unlike meals, protein shakes are quickly digested, providing the essential amino acids in concentrated form, so you feel full and get muscle building protein delivered to your body quickly.

Protein shakes are convenient, portable, delicious, easy to consume, and help you meet your protein needs, whatever your diet or weight loss goals might be.


Are Protein Shakes Safe?

Are protein shakes and powders actually good for you? And are they safe? For the vast majority of people, protein powders can be both safe and beneficial for losing weight and achieving toned muscles.

Adequate protein is also important in pregnancy, where your protein requirements could be up to 25% higher. Protein shakes are a safe way to meet your protein needs during pregnancy. However, trying to lose weight during pregnancy is not healthy, and it’s best to speak to your doctor if this is a concern you have.

Of course, excess protein intake can be a problem, you may be particularly at risk if you have renal disease or osteoporosis. If you have any kind of chronic health problem it’s recommended you talk to your doctor before trying protein shakes.


What Is The Best Protein Shake?

The best protein shake is the one that has the right amount of protein and calories for your needs, tastes great, and works for your weight loss goals. However, whey protein is the most popular. This is because whey protein contains all the essential amino acids, dissolves well in water, is quickly absorbed and used by muscles and tastes great.

There are many ways to evaluate a protein shake, as we will see below.


How To Choose A Protein Shake?

Choosing the best protein shake for you depends on a number of factors, including - 

  • Your Goals and Needs - Are you trying to lose weight, or gain muscle? Perhaps a bit of both? Do you have certain food allergies, intolerances or preferences? Clarifying your individual goals and needs can help you choose the right protein shake for you. If your goals include losing weight, you’ll want to choose a high-quality shake with around 15-25g of protein per serve and relatively low carbohydrate and fat content. If you are vegan or have allergies to milk, egg or soy, you’ll want to choose a pea protein shake, as pea protein is completely vegan and one of the most hypoallergenic protein types available. 
  • Protein Type - Protein type refers to the origin or source of your protein powder. Protein type or sources can include whey protein, pea protein, casein protein, soy protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), egg protein, hemp protein, brown rice protein, mixed plant protein, and even beef protein powder. Each different protein type offers different strengths and drawbacks, although generally whey protein is considered the gold standard for protein powders, with pea protein being the best vegan/low allergy choice.
  • Taste - Every protein powder has a unique taste and it’s important to find your preference. Whey and casein shakes often have a preferred taste because they are milk derived and taste similar to a milkshake.
  • Macro Content - The protein, fat and carbohydrate (macronutrient or ‘macro’) content of your protein shake will change how it affects your body and helps you achieve your goals. 
  • Vitamins and Minerals - To lose weight, you’ll need to use your protein shake as a meal replacement. Meal replacement shakes should not just fill you up, they should meet your vitamin and mineral requirements for the meal you’re replacing too. Make sure your protein shake contains an assortment of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. 


How to Take A Protein Shake?

Protein shakes are very easy to take, and their portability and convenience makes them the ideal weight loss aid. Most shakes have mixing instructions on the packaging, and simply need to be mixed with water, milk or another beverage, shaken to blend, then consumed. 

For weight loss protein shakes, consume them in place of one or two regular meals each day. To build muscle, consume your protein shake within 30 minutes before or after your workout. 


What Do Protein Shakes Taste Like?

Protein shakes vary in taste depending on quality, flavor, brand, and protein type.

For a great tasting protein shake choose a high-quality brand, make according to the manufacturer’s directions, and choose whey protein where possible. To improve the flavor of your protein shake try mixing with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, or skim milk.


Why Is Whey Protein the Gold Standard?

You may frequently hear whey protein talked about as the gold standard when it comes to protein shakes. Whey protein is popular because it is derived from milk so it tastes great, mixes easily and smoothly, and has one of the highest amounts of muscle building and fat burning branched chain amino acids. When it comes to weight loss and muscle building, whey protein is considered the best choice. However, pea protein is a good alternative if you can’t take whey protein.


About the Author

Cara Dibdin is a Dietician & Exercise Scientist and a writer, originally from Sydney, Australia. Specializing in health, nutrition, behaviour change and meditation, Cara is passionate about finding innovative ways to nourish mind and body.

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