Protein Shakes: A Complete Guide For Bodybuilding And Fitness

Protein shakes help your muscles grow and recover after exercise. If you’re new to protein shakes then choosing the right one can be very tricky.

There’s a plethora of different ones out there on the market. But don’t worry. This ultimate guide to protein shakes would make life easier for you.

An Introduction to Protein Shakes

Bodybuilders, athletes and dieters are always eager when it comes to Protein because it serves as an easy way to build muscle and lose weight.

Protein shakes are just one of those protein constituents.

Protein shakes are available as pre-mixed, ready-to-drink products or as protein powders to be mixed with water, milk or other fluids, and they provide a quick, convenient meal substitute or a supplement to the diet.

Before deciding to use protein shakes, you should consider the pros and cons of these products.

A protein shake can be a 100% (hundred percent) protein concentrate or a carbohydrate supplement that has little protein and fat. These are available as ready made drinks or as protein powders.

Are Protein shakes different from Supplements?

Truth is, they can be in some cases, and this makes classification confusing. But a protein shake that is made of whole, natural ingredients is likely to exhibit significant differences in terms of nutrition or otherwise.

And this is quite different when compared to a supplement shake that is primarily artificial and fortified.

So, if it’s made with whole and natural ingredients, it offers similar benefits as whole foods and is more accurately termed a “shake” rather than a “supplement.”

For example, a simple blend of skim milk, protein powder, banana, peanut butter and some low-fat yoghurt can be considered a protein shake.

But if you take a commercially packaged product, made from a variety of ingredients, then you’re taking a supplement.

How much do You Need?

So, you’ve just gone through a strenuous workout routine and you need to replenish those muscles.

The first thing that comes to mind is to down some proteins into your system. You should know how much protein you’re getting from your diet as there is likelihood you might not need protein shakes.

The recommended minimum daily allowance for an adult is 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight if you are just some person who is neither a bodybuilder or an athlete- just someone who lives a life outside the gym.

But if you’re regularly exercising and are trying to gain muscle mass, you should increase that amount to around 2-2.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight.

Main Types of Protein Shakes

Protein shakes come in two main types:

  • Dairy protein shakes
  • Non-dairy protein shakes.

For most people whey protein is the protein of choice and by far the most popular.

However, if you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or don’t consume milk for religious or health reasons, you’ll want to consider a non-dairy protein powder instead.

The other difference among protein shakes is whether the shake consists of a single ingredient, such as just whey, or a mixture of ingredients in the form of a protein blend.

Benefits of Protein Shakes

Whether you are an athlete, a bodybuilder or someone simply looking to supplement his diet or even enhance strength during exercise regimen. Below are some of the benefits of taking protein shakes.

  • Benefits to athletes

Whey protein is the fastest absorbing type of protein above egg whites, soy, and casein plus many more. Whey protein helps with muscle repair, weight loss, recovery and growth.

The benefits of whey protein are mainly convenience and cost.

It is typically cheaper to have a protein shake then it is to get your protein from a piece of steak or a chicken breast. And it is much more convenient and less time consuming.

  • Benefits to bodybuilders

So why is it that so many bodybuilders take protein shakes? Well, protein is used for the production of muscles.

Protein Shakes has grown very popular among body builders and this goes without gainsaying that the benefits are enormous.

Protein is used for the production of muscles. Without an adequate amount of protein our muscles wouldn’t heal up as quickly and could therefore lead to over training your muscle which could lead toinjury .

Proteins are also used to manufacture hormones, enzymes, cellular messengers, nucleic acids, and immune-system components.

Without adequate protein, your body can’t put together the structures that make up every cell, tissue, and organ, nor can it generate the biochemical substances needed for cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, growth, and healing.

Following an intense workout, it can be best to take a protein shake. This would require less time to digest and break down the proteins into amino acids and finally send it to the muscles, where the enormous benefits are felt.

  • Weight loss Benefits

Protein shakes can indeed be used for muscle gain and for weight loss. The best protein shakes for weight loss are low fat and carbohydrate shakes.

Consuming a protein shake for breakfast and one after training each day along with a healthy diet aimed at losing weight will help with weight loss and having better body composition.

Mixing your protein powder with water as opposed to milk with reduce calories and fat from your daily diet.

Few things to consider when buying protein shakes
When buying a protein shake, look for one that’s as close to pure protein as possible.

Always read the label and avoid shakes that have a lot of unnecessary ingredients, including artificial sweeteners, E-numbers, Trans fats, MSG and high-fructose corn syrup.

Pros of Protein Shakes

While exercising and bodybuilding are important, what you take before, during and after your workout are equally as important.

Protein shakes, being famous for the numerous health benefits it brings to the fore, has some advantages as listed below.

  • Weight Maintenance

In a medical journal article published in a 2010 issue of “Diabetes/Metabolism Research & Review”, researchers presented evidence that showed obese subjects who drank high-protein meal replacements as part of a low-calorie diet lost more weight in a year than subjects who followed the diet without the replacements.

Shakes typically contain fewer calories than full meals, and according to University of Texas Medical Branch researchers in a May 2008 issue of “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, protein is the most satiating nutrient, meaning it can keep you fuller for longer periods of time compared to carbs or fats.

  • Convenience

Protein Shake is faster, easier and very convenient when compare to a whole balanced meal. It’s also healthier to drink one instead of skip a meal or have another quick, but less nutritious, alternative, such as a fatty burger at a fast food joint or a bag of chips from the vending machine.

  • Nutrient intake

One of the main benefits of making and consuming protein shakes is that you can add a multitude of other nutrients to the protein powder.

In one drink, you can enjoy the benefits of protein, frozen berries, flaxseed oil, aloe-Vera gel, coconut oil, natural peanut butter, plus any other foods or supplements you may want.

However, you should try experimenting with the shakes in order not to find it unpalatable.

Cons of Protein shakes

While there are the good sides of protein shakes consumption, there are just a few disadvantages. Below are some of them.

  • Limitations

Protein shakes are limited in what they can do for you and your body. Even with shakes, you won’t lose weight if you don’t reduce your net calorie intake, and you won’t tone and develop your muscles if you don’t regularly exercise and strength train.

The best way to use shakes is to include them as part of a comprehensive, physician-approved plan that will help you reach and maintain your fitness and health goals for the long term.

  • Incomplete Nutrition

Protein shakes are designed to be heavy on protein, but that means they often fail at providing significant amounts of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

According to Mayo Clinic physicians, whole foods always have the benefit over supplement products such as shakes, because they contain naturally occurring fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and other protective substances that can’t be reproduced.

  • Sustainability Issues

You may develop nutrient deficiencies if you replace too many meals with protein shakes or you could regain the weight you had lost after you return to your previous eating habits. Bottom line, the benefits become viable if consistency is allowed.

  • Taste

Most Protein shake supplements in the market actually have some unpleasant taste. To avoid buying such, you should read reviews online about some of them to enable you effectively make a decision.

Are there Side Effects from taking Protein Shakes?

You are probably wondering if the excess consumption of Protein shakes poses any threat to your health.

The simple answer to this is it depends on how you take them. While there are some protein supplements that have been tested to carry heavy metals such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and arsenic, there are others that have a great ingredient list in their products.

This was observed based on an investigation carried out by consumer reports on various protein drinks and powders. The worry however, is that when heavy metals get into the body, they often have a lifelong effect.

So, what should you do?

Fortunately, not all of them are unsafe. There are still good ones out there. How do you know? Make sure you carefully study the ingredients to know which one is safer. If you are not sure, consult a dietician or a medical practitioner.

The best way to mix your protein shakes

The best way to mix your protein shake is by using aprotein shaker with a screw top lid. Simply add the right serving size with the correct amount of water, or milk, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.

Your shake should be free of lumps and have a nice smooth consistency. If you like thicker shakes use less water or milk.

Mixing protein shakes with milk

Milk generally makes the protein shake taste much more like an actual thick and creamy milkshake, however it comes with many more calories if you do.

If you’re trying to bulk up then calories and protein is what you need therefore it is better to use milk with your protein shake.

If you’re looking to manage calories better or lose weight, you should avoid the use of milk. This will reduce sugar, fats and calories and keep your shake lean

Pre- and post-workout shakes

Protein shakes intended to be drunk before and after workouts are slightly different from a straight-up protein shake in that they offer your body a protein boost.

But they often contain added ingredients such as caffeine and starch to either enhance your performance during a workout or help your body recover after a workout.

A pre-workout shake should be drunk 30 minutes before you begin exercising so it can be more effective. If you take it hours before, then you might not achieve the desired result

Taking protein shakes before bed

It’s advisable to have a shake about an hour before you hit the sack – taking it a bit earlier will also work. It feeds your muscles while you’re asleep, a time when growth hormones are elevated

Cycling Creatine with Protein shakes

That depends on your goal. The two can be taken together to good effect, but remember that creatine draws water into your muscle cells so will make you gain weight.

That means you could get leaner and heavier at the same time, leading to disheartening readings when you stand on the scales.

An alternative to protein shakes

Shakes tend to be a bit pricey, and if you’d prefer a cheaper alternative, a large glass of milk and banana are good options.

These have a good blend of whey and casein protein, and have been proven to help with muscle growth

Daily intake of protein shakes

To build muscle you need to consume1g of protein per pound of body weight. Protein shakes enable athletes to meet this goal easily on a daily basis.

Depending on your personal training programme, you may be required to consume more protein than this.

For example, if your goal is to weigh 180lbs and you currently weigh 160lbs, then you should be consuming 180g of protein each day. This is a very simple model that works.

When should I drink protein shakes?

Protein shakes are commonly consumed straight after a workout like we mentioned above.

This is because protein immediately helps the muscles to heal and grow following exercise. We also recommend 2 hours before training too.

This can help fuel your workout better, allowing you to train that little bit harder for longer.

Other beneficial times to drink protein shakes are first thing in a morning to kick start the metabolism and last thing at night before bed to fuel recovery whilst you sleep.

Protein shakes as Meal Replacement

Different protein shake products are intended to help you achieve completely different objectives, so it’s important you pay attention to the label before consuming them.

A meal replacement shake does exactly that: it replaces an entire meal by offering a balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Perfect for athletes on the go, or for those who have not had time to prepare a meal

The difference between a meal-replacement shake and a protein shake

Different shakes have different purposes, and again this is why it’s important to carefully check the label before buying one.

A meal-replacement shake is intended to replace an entire meal, so it gives your body a good balance of not only protein but carbohydrates and good fats too. It’s the perfect on-the-go type of meal.

A protein shake on the other hand will give your body only some extra protein – your ideal protein intake for the day

Gaining weight with Protein Shakes

The short answer is yes; protein can make you gain weight. If you’re trying to build muscle mass and consuming protein shakes, as well as eating the right portion of food daily then you may experience some weight gain as muscle weighs more than fat due to its density.

But if you’re just having a protein shake for breakfast or a protein shake after training then this is unlikely to facilitate weight gain.

Many women believe that by consuming a protein shake will make them put on tons of muscle mass and look bulky. This will never happen.

Women have much less testosterone than men so they will find it impossible to get bulky from consuming a high protein diet.

If anything a high protein diet is typically associated with a lean and cut body, not a bulky or fat body. People who consume a diet mainly of carbs with some fat and protein tend to be overweight or worse, obese.

The best way to use Protein Shakes to Build Muscle

Whey protein shakes are the most popular for building muscle due to its high protein content compared to other proteins such as soy or milk protein.

Building muscle using protein shakes is pretty simple. You should look to get between 30-40g of protein with each meal to keep your muscles adequately fueled so they can repair and grow.

This is essential for muscle building. Either gets your protein from food, protein shakes or both. We recommend both.

Muscle building generally requires you to workout following a strength program or lean gains program and eating an adequate amount of protein.

Now you have a good program to follow and you are filled with the knowledge about protein and when to take it, you should be all set to go forth and build some muscle.

Best Protein Shakes for Teens

Protein shakes are a rage amongst hardcore sports enthusiasts as well as growing teens. But should you let your teen have protein shakes or is it better to give them a miss?

A balanced diet should provide your teen with the adequate dose of protein.

For those who exercise more or indulge in strenuous physical activities, the protein requirement can be a little high. A protein shake can be an additional dietary supplement for such fitness fans.

Are Protein Shakes For Teens Safe?

In most cases, your teen will get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein from his/her daily meals.

Unless your teen is extremely active and takes part in a lot of physical activities, giving him/her a protein shake is not necessary

Things to keep in mind while giving a protein shake to your teen
You may still feel that a protein shake will work wonders for your teen’s health.

In such a situation, make sure you remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly regulate protein supplements.

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, prohibited substances may be present in protein shakes. It may also contain harmful ingredients that are missing on the label.

How to choose protein shake for teenager

Before you allow your teen to have a protein shake, it is important you have a word with his doctor.

You can also discuss it with your teen’s coach to understand if your teen needs a protein supplement. Here are a few tips that can help choose a protein shake for teens:

  • The first thing you need to understand is whether or not your teen needs that protein shake. In many cases, your teen may just want one as a result of peer pressure.
  • A protein shake is not a substitute for a healthy diet. It is just a health supplement that your teen needs to consume in addition to having a balanced meal.
  • Ask your doctor about the dosage of protein your sporty teen may need.
  • An overdose of protein can lead to protein toxicity. It can cause unwanted weight gain and various other health complications. It can also result in dehydration, decalcification and kidney problems.


Eating natural foods that are rich in protein are very healthy for you. If you’re able to stick to it, that would be great!

But if you are a bodybuilder or someone who is looking to workout and get into shape, then you might want to consider an alternative. This is where protein shakes comes in. It saves you the time and energy you would use in preparing a good meal.

Protein shakes are great for a post-workout regimen, and can also be taken in between meals when in need of protein.

While there are many supplements in the market, you should study the ingredients and be sure it contains 100% Whey protein. Where in doubt about a certain ingredient you intend buying, seek counsel from your healthcare provider or doctor.

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