This guide seeks to give more information about the following:
- What protein shakes are.
- The different types of protein shake.
- The benefits of protein shake for your workout routine.
- How to use protein shakes efficiently.
- The best protein shake recipes
Protein shakes are an efficient way of increasing your protein intake, which may help you get more out of your workouts.
Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients that make up our diets, the other two being carbohydrates and vitamins. Amino acids make up protein, which is the building block of muscles. It is particularly beneficial to fitness enthusiasts because it has various benefits ranging from muscle growth, faster recovery after intense exercises, and reduced hunger.
Athletes and fitness fanatics need more protein than the average person. That is why many have resorted to using protein shakes. Despite being so popular, many people still need to learn how to use protein shakes efficiently. Besides, many protein shakes are out there, and a person may need guidance on which one to go for. If you want to know more about protein shakes—whether you are a seasoned athlete, a fitness fanatic, or just starting your workout routines—this article is tailored for you. We are going to discuss all you need to know about protein shakes.
What are Protein Shakes?
You probably already have an idea of what a protein shake is. A protein shake is a concoction made by mixing your favorite protein powder with a liquid, typically water or milk. However, many other drinks can blend well with protein powders. Manufacturers have also made it easy for people who do not have time to make shakes by making ready-to-drink shakes. Protein powders lead us to our second question, what are protein powders?
Protein powders are supplements made by extracting protein from animal-based or plant-based products. Animal-based products include meat, fish, and dairy products. Plant-based protein is mainly derived from protein-rich plants, such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Protein shakes can be incorporated easily into your workout routine as a part of your post-workout recovery. Additionally, they can be helpful for people who find it challenging to get enough protein from their diets, especially vegans and vegetarians. Protein shakes are convenient and easy to make.
Recommended Protein Shakes To Fuel Your Workout
Here is a list of some of the best-selling protein shakes that have also gotten positive reviews from users worldwide. We have selected a wide range of products from which you can choose depending on your fitness goals, taste, and flavor preferences. The products also include ready-made shakes, saving you the hassle of looking for recipes to make protein shakes. All these products are tried and tested and are the best on the market.
- Labrada - Lean Body Peanut Butter Chocolate 12 Pack
- Optimum Nutrition - Gold Standard Protein Shake Vanilla 12 Pack
- Optimum Nutrition - Gold Standard Protein Drink Chocolate 12 Pack
- Labrada: Lean Body Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake Chocolate 12 Pack
- Mutant: Iso Surge Chocolate Fudge Brownie 23 Servings
- Labrada: Lean Body Meal Replacement Protein Shake Vanilla 19 Servings
- Labrada: Lean Body Meal Replacement Protein Shake Chocolate 19 Servings
- Labrada: Lean Body Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake Cafe Mocha 12 Pack
- Labrada: Lean Body Hi-Protein Meal Replacement Shake Strawberry 20 Servings
- Labrada: Lean Body Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake Banana 12 Pack
- Labrada: Plant-Based Lean Body Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake Vanilla Caramel 12 Pack
- Labrada: Lean Body Ready-To-Drink Protein Shake Salted Caramel 12 Pack
- Labrada: Lean Body Meal Replacement Protein Shake Vanilla 16 Servings
- Labrada: Lean Body For Her Hi-Protein Meal Replacement Shake Chocolate 20 Servings
- Redcon1: Mre Protein Shake Salted Caramel 12 Pack
- Musclemeds: Carnivor Rtd Chocolate 12 Pack
- Labrada: Lean Body Hi-Protein Meal Replacement Shake Chocolate 20 Servings
- Redcon1: Mre Meal Replacement Peanut Butter Cookie 25 Servings
- Muscletech: 100% Whey Protein Plus Isolate French Vanilla 67 Servings
- Pure Pro Performance Hi-Protein Shake - 12 Cans
The Role of Protein Shakes in The Body
As we have already established, protein being the substance that is essential in protein shakes, but now let’s talk about protein’s role in our bodies.
How Protein Aids in Muscle Growth and Repair
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Our bodies can manufacture all but nine essential amino acids, which can only be obtained from protein-rich foods and dietary supplements. The nine essential amino acids are leucine, lysine, isoleucine, threonine, valine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine, and histidine. They aid in protein synthesis in the muscles, which helps build and repair muscle fibers. Leucine is the essential amino acid that is responsible for triggering muscle protein synthesis.
Increasing protein intake in your diet allows more amino acids to rapidly build your muscles, thus contributing to speedier muscle growth. Studies have shown a significant improvement in muscle mass after protein supplementation. People who engage in resistance exercises, such as bodybuilders and powerlifters, are most likely to get significant changes in muscle mass and improved muscle strength.
During intensive workouts, the muscle fibers are usually damaged. A study published at the National Library of Medicine has shown that protein supplementation can accelerate muscle recovery after intense activities. Athletes and fitness fanatics need more protein than the average person—to repair worn-out muscles. Protein shakes are a convenient way of ensuring your body recovers faster by boosting the quantity of protein. Although a study has claimed to refute the benefits of protein, there were flaws in the research, which make it unreliable.
Types of Protein in Protein Shakes
We have already seen that protein shakes are made by mixing liquids with protein powder. The type of protein powder used in protein shakes determines the category the protein shake falls into.
Forms of Protein Powders
Protein powders are found in three primary forms:
- Protein concentrate- Protein concentrate is a product created by extracting protein from foods with the help of heat, acids, and enzymes. The percentage of protein in these usually is 60 to 80%, while the other 20–40% is made up of fats and carbohydrates.
- Protein isolates- Protein isolate powders are made after fat and carbohydrates are filtered out during a subsequent procedure, which makes the protein more concentrated to about 90 to 95%.
- Protein hydrolysates- In a further process, amino acid bonds are broken using acids to create hydrolysates, which are known to absorb faster than other forms.
Different Types of Protein Powders
Knowing the types of protein powders is essential in determining your best choice. Your choice would depend on factors such as your fitness goals, medical conditions like allergies, or personal preference, for example, vegans who do not eat animal-based products. Some of the types of protein powders include the following:
Whey protein is derived from milk when making cheese. Protein powders made from whey protein are not suitable for vegans. Additionally, because it also has lactose, it may be problematic for people who are lactose intolerant. Nonetheless, whey protein is high in protein content and rich in essential amino acids such as leucine, a branched-chain amino acid crucial in supporting muscle growth and recovery.
Benefits of whey protein
- Increases muscle mass and faster recovery time because Whey protein is rich in essential amino acids like leucine. Studies have shown a 31% increase in muscle strength than other proteins like soy.
- Whey protein also helps in controlling weight by reducing appetite.
- Studies have also shown that whey protein can reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases.
Just like whey protein, casein protein also comes from milk. As such, lactose-intolerant people and vegans should avoid it. The difference is that casein takes more time for digestion and absorption. Casein is considered to be less effective than whey because of such properties. Slow digestion and absorption mean the protein would take more time to saturate the muscles.
Benefits of casein protein
- Casein is an excellent choice for people who want to suppress their appetite because it takes more time to digest, keeping you full for longer.
- The slow absorption rate is also an advantage for people who want to maintain the levels of amino acids in their bloodstream.
- Casein is also rich in amino acids essential in muscle building and recovery.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian and worried about your protein intake, worry no more because pea protein is here for you. Pea protein is also popular for people with allergies and intolerance to dairy products.
Pea protein comes from dried yellow peas and is also rich in fiber. It is one of the few plant-based foods rich in protein and has all nine essential amino acids. Although the absorption rate of pea protein is slower than whey, it is faster than casein.
Benefits of pea protein
- It is rich in essential amino acids and promotes muscle growth and recovery.
- It has high fiber content that may improve digestion and prevent gastrointestinal issues.
- A study has also revealed that pea protein can reduce blood pressure levels.
Hemp protein is yet another plant-based protein powder that has recently gained traction. The downside of this type of protein is that it has only tiny traces of lysine and leucine, which makes it less effective than other protein powders made from whey, casein, and pea protein.
Protein Shakes and Supplements for Muscle Gain
You can also take protein shakes and other supplements that promote muscle gain. Taking two or more supplements at a go is called stacking. Stacking can achieve better results if done in the right way. Before stacking any supplements, you should consult a qualified healthcare professional to know whether there would be any adverse effects. Here are some supplements that can be stacked with protein shakes to accelerate muscle growth.
Creatine is naturally found in our body and is synthesized in our muscles. It is also found in our foods, especially red meat and seafood. Creatine, stored as phosphocreatine in our muscles, assists in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) used to fuel your body. Creatine supplements increase phosphocreatine levels in our muscles, producing more ATP and resulting in more energy. Creatine can give you more energy to carry on with your workout.
Creatine is also helpful in muscle hypertrophy which assists in increasing the size of muscle cells. Therefore, the results are significantly improved when taken together with protein shakes.
You can add creatine powder to your protein shake to witness better results. Choose creatine supplements that are unflavored not to ruin the taste of your protein shakes.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
Branched-chain amino acids are good supplements to take together with your protein shakes because they have similar properties. BCCAs trigger protein synthesis in the muscles, which generates more muscle cells. However, attaining maximum muscle size needs the help of other essential amino acids. Protein powders in a protein shake, such as whey protein, have essential amino acids, which is why BCAAs work best when you take them with your protein shake.
BCAAs also assist in muscle recovery by reducing soreness after workouts. Another benefit of BCAAs is that they reduce fatigue. The fatigue reduction is both physical and mental. A study on taekwondo athletes has shown that reduced fatigue improves athletic performance.
Glutamine is an amino acid found in our body and is the most plentiful in that regard. Glutamine is also essential in the synthesis of protein necessary for muscle growth. It is a famous supplement that athletes and fitness enthusiasts use to help muscle recovery and gain.
Additionally, glutamine has other benefits, including boosting the immune system, easing the side effects of cancer treatment, and improving gut health. The benefits listed are enough reasons to consider stacking your protein shakes with glutamine, but only after consulting your doctor.
Delicious Muscle Gain Protein Shake Recipes
1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake
Mix in a blender: 1 ½ cups of milk (if you are vegan, you can use soy milk or almond milk, 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder, 1 tablespoon peanut butter powder, ½ a cup of old-fashioned oats, and 4 ice cubes. Enjoy!
Nutritional Facts (Per serving)
- 293 calories
- 6 grams of fat
- 25 grams of carbs
- 35 grams of protein
2. Strawberry banana protein smoothie
Mix in a blender: 1 banana, 1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries, 10 whole almonds, 1 cup of water, ½ cup of ice cubes, and 3 tablespoons of chocolate-flavored protein powder.
Nutritional Facts (Per serving)
- 349 Calories
- 8 grams of Fat
- 53 grams of Carbs
- 21 grams of Protein
3. Vanilla Protein Shake with Oats
Ingredients: 1 frozen banana, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk or oat milk, 3 Tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats, one scoop (25 grams) vanilla protein powder, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Put all the ingredients in a blender to mix. Pour into a glass and drink with a straw.
Nutritional Facts (Per serving)
- 290 Calories
- 43 grams of Carbs
- 4 grams of Fat
- 24 grams of Protein
Advantages and Disadvantages of Protein Shakes Over Whole Food Sources
How do protein shakes compare to whole-food protein sources? Which one is the better option? We will look into some advantages of protein shakes over whole food sources. We shall also consider the downside of opting for protein shakes as your protein source; then, you can decide which way to go.
Advantages of Protein Shakes over Whole Foods
One of the advantages is how easy it is to make protein shakes. If you are a minimalist, adding protein powder to water or milk is enough, and you are good to go. Conversely, because most whole foods cannot be eaten raw, preparing and cooking them takes time. Protein shakes can also be easily carried, and you can eat them anywhere, unlike whole foods, where only some places have a kitchen to cook.
2. Consistency of Protein Content
Protein powders come with supplement facts indicated on the label. You know exactly how much protein you will consume in a day. Knowing protein content is vital, especially for athletes who may need to learn if they have taken enough protein from whole foods. Lesser protein intake may affect an athlete's performance.
Protein shakes can also be easily carried, and you can eat them anywhere, unlike whole foods, where only some places have a kitchen to cook.
Whole foods are also bulky and may be heavy to carry. No one wants to be burdened by having to carry them everywhere.
Disadvantages of Protein Shakes
1. Absence of other Important Nutrients
Protein powders are manufactured to contain high protein content at the expense of other essential nutrients. Carbohydrates, vitamins, and fats are in negligible quantities. On the other hand, whole foods naturally have all these other macronutrients. Whole foods also have high fiber contents, which helps the digestive system.
2. Health Issues
Consumption of protein shakes on dosages higher than the recommended can cause health concerns such as bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Artificial ingredients, preservatives, and added sugars can predispose people to diseases like diabetes and increase the risks of terminal diseases like cancer.
Protein shakes are costly, and few people can afford them. The protein powders alone cost a considerable amount of money, not to forget the other ingredients used in making protein shakes.
Although protein shakes can have adverse effects when not used carefully, the potential benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages. You should always ensure you read the instructions carefully. Consult a healthcare professional first if you have underlying medical conditions or if you are taking other medications.
Misconceptions about Protein Shake Consumption
Protein Shakes are Only For Bodybuilders
A common misconception about protein shakes and protein powders, in general, is that it is meant for bodybuilders. This is a false assumption because anyone can benefit from protein shakes after a workout. We have already discussed how protein shakes are helpful post-workout. They aid in muscle recovery after strenuous exercises. It is not exclusively meant for bulking up and gaining lean muscle.
The Dangers of Overconsumption
Although protein shakes can cause adverse effects when consumed disproportionately, the supposed dangers have vastly been blown out of proportion. People have long believed that protein shakes can cause kidney and liver failure.
However, recent studies have proved that protein powders do not harm healthy kidneys or the liver. If you have a kidney condition, you should always check your protein consumption because your kidney may find eliminating excess protein challenging. But most importantly, always consult with your doctor.
The only side effects of consuming too many protein shakes are bloating and digestive issues, which should clear up within a few hours.
Things to Consider Before Buying Protein Shakes Online in the US
Look for shakes with minimal additives and sweeteners, and avoid products with artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. The ingredient list also indicates the protein source, which helps you choose products that suit your dietary needs, for instance, vegan-friendly sources.
It is essential to check the label or the product description for allergen warnings if you have any allergies or sensitivities. Common allergens in protein shakes include milk, soy, eggs, and nuts.
Flavor and Texture
Considering flavor and texture is important because it can affect your overall satisfaction with the product. If you don't like the taste and texture, you may not take it regularly, which may affect your fitness goals.
Confirm the nutritional information, including the calorie and protein content, to ensure it meets your dietary needs. You should look for protein shakes with low fat and carb content if you want to lose weight.
Certification and Labeling
Consider products certified by reputable third-party organizations. Look for certifications such as USDA Organic for organic products, NSF Certified for sport, or GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) to ensure the product is safe and meets high-quality standards.
Price and Value
Protein powder prices vary widely, so consider which option fits your budget and how much you are willing to spend on them. Compare prices across different brands to ensure you are getting the best deal.
Research the Brand and Read Reviews
A brand's reputation says a lot about the quality of its products. Research the brand to see how people perceive them and only buy products from reputable companies. You can also get plenty of information about the quality of products through customer reviews. Look for products that have received positive customer reviews.
Checking the return policy ensures that if you receive a product you are unsatisfied with, you can return it for a refund or exchange. You might also receive an incorrect or expired product, and the return policy is necessary to ensure you can exchange it or receive a refund.
Shipping and Delivery
Check the shipping and delivery options, including the cost and estimated delivery time, to ensure the product will arrive on time and in good condition.
Safety and Precautions
Interaction with Medication
It is essential to consider potential interactions between protein shakes and any medications you may be taking. Certain ingredients in protein shakes can interact with medications, affecting their absorption and effectiveness or causing adverse reactions. For example, consuming protein shakes containing caffeine may interact with certain medications used to treat heart conditions, causing harmful side effects. Therefore, speaking with a healthcare provider or pharmacist before consuming protein shakes if you are taking any medications is crucial.
Overconsumption and Its Effects
Consuming too much protein can be harmful to your health. Protein shakes can provide an easy and convenient way to increase protein intake, but overconsumption of protein can cause adverse effects such as kidney damage, dehydration, and digestive issues. It is important to follow the recommended serving size of protein shakes and to ensure that your overall protein intake from all sources does not exceed your daily needs.
Quality Control and Expiration Dates
The quality and safety of protein shakes can vary depending on the brand, manufacturing process, and storage conditions. Choosing protein shakes from reputable brands that use high-quality ingredients and follow good manufacturing practices is essential. Additionally, checking the expiration date of protein shakes and discarding any products past their expiration date is crucial. Consuming expired protein shakes can cause food poisoning and other health risks.
Protein Shakes for Women
The use of protein powders and protein shakes has often been associated with bodybuilders and other people intending to bulk, like powerlifters and weightlifters. As such, many people think that it is only meant for men. Some women wish to bulk up; therefore, they can also benefit from protein shakes. Protein shakes have other benefits that could also help women. Protein shakes can help you lose weight and improve athletic performance. Nowadays, there are protein shakes that are specifically targeted at women. Women stand to benefit from protein shakes if used appropriately.
Benefits of Protein Shakes for Women
Muscle Growth and Recovery
Muscle growth and recovery properties of protein shakes can help women, especially athletes, be on top of their game. Many women are actively involved in sports activities in all categories, like basketball, tennis, and soccer. All these sports require intensive training, and such women find it very helpful to use protein shakes. As such, athletes need enough time to recover from the strenuous exercises that cause their muscles to be sore. Although the body can synthesize enough protein to repair the torn muscles, it may take longer. The athlete may not be fit enough to perform at her optimum levels if her muscles are still sore.
Nonetheless, protein shakes are not an exclusive preserve for athletes. Protein shakes are also made for you if you are a woman interested in fitness. You can choose from many options; some are even targeted at women.
Before you choose your protein shake for muscle growth and recovery, there are some things you need to consider, like dietary restrictions, including allergies. If you are a vegan, choose products from plant-based sources.
Helps in Weight Loss
Losing weight is beneficial to your overall health. Several studies have shown that overweight people are at a higher risk of having cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks.
Protein shakes are a convenient way of assisting you on your weight loss journey. Protein is known to be beneficial in weight loss by keeping you full for longer. Protein takes more time to digest and stays in your stomach for some time, helping reduce hunger so that you do not take in more carbs and fats that would ultimately lead to weight increase. Protein shakes also increase the rate of metabolism, which is essential in burning more fat, leading to weight loss.
Casein protein and whey protein are the best options for weight loss. They take more time than other protein sources. However, casein and whey may be harmful to people with milk allergies or who are lactose intolerant. Vegans are also among this group of people who cannot take whey and casein. Luckily, plenty of plant-based protein sources like peas, hemp, and brown rice are just as effective as animal-based protein.
Impact of Protein Shakes on Menstrual Cycle
Menstrual health is crucial for every woman. A lot of misleading information claims protein shakes have catastrophic effects on your menstrual health. All those claims are based on inconclusive evidence.
Research has shown that irregular menstrual cycles can result from protein deficiency. Protein shakes boost the quantity of protein and ensure you do not have to worry too much about your period's cycle.
During a menstruation cycle, hormone levels frequently fluctuate, and blood sugar levels also increase. The rise in blood sugar levels explains why there are more cravings and an increase in appetite. Protein shakes help maintain blood sugar levels, you will feel less hungry, and the desire for carbs and sugar will subside.
How to Optimize Protein Shake Consumption For Muscle Gain
At this point, you already know the benefits of protein shakes. Our subsequent discussion is on making the most of your protein shake. You need to know when and what to take alongside your protein shake.
Recommended Dosage and Timing
The timing and dosage of your protein may depend on various factors, such as your fitness goals and the type of protein you are taking. Most manufacturers include the recommended dosage on the product. Always ensure you read the recommended dosage on the protein powder label.
The recommended timing largely depends on your fitness goals. If you intend to lose weight, take protein shakes between meals. It will decrease the size of your appetite, thereby eating fewer calories. It will keep you full for a long time and ultimately lead to shedding some weight. If your fitness goal is to build muscle, take your protein shake within the first two hours after workouts to help build and repair your muscles.
Recommendations for Consuming Protein Shakes for Weight Loss and Muscle Building
Protein shakes are easy to make, and many recipes can help you make the best protein shake, depending on your taste and preferences. Some manufacturers make ready-to-drink protein shakes for added convenience. Here are some things to consider to get the most out of your protein shake.
High-Quality Protein Sources
There are a lot of products that are rich in protein content, both animal-based and plant-based sources. Milk is the best and most popular option for people who take protein shakes. For vegans, soy milk is an excellent substitute for milk from cows.
Healthy Fats and Carbs
Fats and carbs are energy-giving foods essential for anyone undertaking workouts and exercise. It fuels you with energy to keep going with your activities, and you can last longer in the exercises without becoming easily fatigued. However, if your goal is losing weight, you should monitor your fat and carbs intake to avoid reversing all the gains made during workouts. Examples of foods rich in fat and carbs include cheese, nuts, full-fat yogurt, and avocados.
Creatine and BCAAs
We have already discussed how creatine and BCAAs can be beneficial when stacked with protein shakes. Creatine provides more energy for our muscles, and BCAAs facilitate muscle growth and recovery.
Tips on Storing Protein Shakes
- Refrigerate your protein shake if you have already prepared it.
- If it is still in powdered form, keep it in a cool, dry place.
- Keep protein shakes far from children’s reach.
Protein shakes are crucial dietary supplements for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or anyone else. Protein shakes are essential for muscle building, recovery, and weight loss. There are many protein shakes, and you should always research before taking any of them. Overall, protein shakes are important dietary supplements for anyone interested in improving their health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I have too much protein in a shake?
Can I drink protein shakes if I am lactose intolerant?
How do I know if a protein shake is of high quality?
What are the benefits of consuming protein shakes?
How can protein shakes help with weight loss or muscle gain?
What is the difference between whey protein and plant-based protein shakes?
How can I make a homemade protein shake with whole food ingredients?