Protein Shakes – All your questions answered!

by Christine on April 30th, 2010

filed under Diet, Food, Nutrition, Exercise, General Information

Protein shakes are a dietary supplement. Many of the foods we eat every day contain protein: beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, and nuts are the items highest in protein. However, many fitness experts claim that these protein levels are not enough if you are undergoing intense workouts, whether cardio or weight training.  This is a highly controversial topic though. While many experts claim that protein supplements are a crucial part of a fitness program, other experts claim that no scientific studies prove that protein supplements aid in weight loss or muscle building.

Protein is essential for a healthy body. Protein builds muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissues throughout the body. It can be found in every cell and most fluids in our bodies. In fact, protein makes up about 16% of our body weight, and there are over 10,000 different types of proteins in our bodies!  We have relatively little capacity to store protein. If we stop eating protein for a sustained period of time, our bodies begin to break down muscle for its protein needs.

What types of protein shakes are there?

Whey protein is a mixture of globular protein isolated from whey (a by-product of cheese production). Whey protein is made from cow’s milk.  Whey protein works to provide the body with amino acids that are used for building muscle tissue.  Whey protein also works as an antioxidant and helps to support the immune system.  Whey protein powder shakes are easily found in most nutritional food stores and is arguably the most popular form of protein shake.  People who have milk allergies should avoid using whey protein.

Egg protein is an excellent source of protein. Before whey protein shakes came on the market, athletes were known to drink egg whites or cook dozes of eggs at a time. (Think of the scene in “Beauty and the Beast” where Gaston sings “When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs/Every morning to help me get large./And now that I’m grown I eat five dozen eggs/So I’m roughly the size of a barge.”)  Eggs are also an excellent source of vitamins and nutrition, such as vitamins A, E, and K and a little B12.  Egg powder protein shakes are not very easy to find on the market; most people make their own protein shakes using fresh eggs. (See the recipe section below).  However, there are some supplements available if you do an internet search, which may be of particular interest for those people that do not like the taste of eggs and perhaps are allergic to whey protein.

Soy protein is the third type of protein shake available on the market currently. Soy protein typically is low in fat, cholesterol, and lactose.  Soy protein is a particularly good choice for those people who are lactose intolerant.  Soy protein can also be used for cooking instead of flour, which is a helpful tip for anyone who enjoys baking!  Soy protein contains saponins, phytosterols, and isoflavones. Saponins support healthy immune support, and phytosterols help maintain cholesterol levels in the healthy range. Soy protein shake powder is easily found in most natural food stores.

What benefits are there to protein shakes?

There have been preliminary studies that have indicated that protein shakes may possess anti-cancer properties and reduce the risk of other disease, although further scientific study is needed to verify these claims.

Other studies have shown that extra protein in the diet may help to prevent osteoporosis. (Sufficient intakes of calcium and vitamin D, combined with strength training, will also keep our bones strong. Protein is not the only factor in bone strength.)

Depending on the type of protein shake that you buy, some claim that protein can help to reduce cholesterol levels.  Soy protein can promote a healthy heart.

Will they help me lose weight?

Protein shakes are not a magic pill that will miraculously help you lose weight. Replacing some meals with a protein shake may help reduce your daily calories and may help curb your appetite. This may in turn help you lose weight. However, the shakes on their own will not magically help you lose weight. You still need to exercise and eat properly in order to achieve weight loss.

Some studies have shown that consuming protein helps to increase your metabolism every time you eat it by 20-25%!  (McArdle et al, 1986) Protein also helps to time the release of carbohydrates so that you get sustained energy throughout the day.

People participating in cardio activities should consume 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  That means that a 150 pound person should consume approximately 90 grams of protein.

Will they help me gain muscle?

Protein shakes, especially whey protein, are lauded by the weight-building community as a way to build muscle quickly. The overall claim is that when you weight train with the goal of muscle building (small reps, heavy weight), you tear your muscles.  Protein helps to repair and grow your muscles as they begin to heal.  Bodybuilding website claim that whey protein increases the levels of amino acids in the blood, which is then used by the muscles to increase mass. Muscle-building atheletes claim that if you are weight training, you should consume your protein shake within 30 minutes following your workout in order to encourage muscles repair and growth.

This is an area of a great deal of controversy. For example, WedMD states that “adding protein doesn’t add muscle mass, though as many people believe.”   Further scientific study is needed to examine the effect that a high-protein diet has on muscle growth and development.

People participating in weight training activities should consume 1.7 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. That means that a 150 pound person should consume 121 grams of protein per day.

How much should I consume?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs 46 to 56 grams of protein per day, depending on the individual’s weight and overall health.  An average diet should already provide this amount of protein. If you are lacking in protein, you may want to consider a protein shake as a supplement.

The standard method by nutritionists for calculating how much protein you need is to multiply your body weight in kilographs by 0.8, or weight in pounds by 0.37.  This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum.  A 150 pound person should eat 55 grams of protein per day, a 200 pound person should consume 74 grams per day, and a 250 pound person should consume 92 grams per day.

If you are participating in substantial amounts of cardio or weight training exercise, see the sections listed above to see the recommended protein levels for your workout routine.

Are there any side effects?

People with milk allergies should avoid using whey protein, as those products are created using cow’s milk.

One source says that when you over-consuming protein, the extra protein is made into fat into the body. Rather than building more muscle, the extra protein is just adding to your waistline.

However, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the only known danger of consuming too much protein is an increased risk for kidney disease.  However, one report claims that extremely high doses of protein may cause the liver to overload.

Regardless of what is fact and what is myth, one thing seems clear: don’t overdo it.

How do I pick out the right protein shake for me?

If you want to try a protein shake as a dietary supplement, then you need to consider the amount of protein, carbs, fat, and calories in terms of your overall dietary goals. says that if you are trying to lose fat, you will want to buy a low-carb, low-calorie protein shake.  If you are trying to gain muscle, look for a high protein, high-calorie powder that is relatively low in sugar and fat.  If you just want a quick meal replacement, look for powder with medium carbs and medium calories.

Protein Shake Recipes

Mocha Shake

  • 6 oz water
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz coffee
  • 2 schools chocolate protein powder

German Chocolate Shake

  • 12 oz water
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cream of coconut
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein pwder

Pina Colada Passion

  • 12 oz water
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 3 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1/3 cup pineapple chunks
  • 2 tsp. coconut extract

Orange Creamsicle

  • 1 to 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
  • 6-8 oz water
  • 4-6 ice cubes
  • 1-2 peeled oranges

Egg White Surprise

  • 1 cup liquid egg whites
  • ½ cup of orange juice
  • ½ cup of pineapple juice
  • Optional: ¼ cup mandarin orange slices
  • Optional: ¼ cup pineapple chunks.

Egg White Shake

  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • ½ cup pineapple chunks
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • Add 1 packet stevia powder
  • 1-2 drops coconut extract
  • 1-2 drops vanilla extract
Related Posts with Thumbnails