Do you need a protein shake? It’s a question that a lot of people don’t really know the answer to.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What is a Protein Shake?
Protein shakes exist in many forms. The most common one is known as whey protein, which is made from cow milk. Over the last couple of years, more and more protein shakes are showing up, some of them being based on plants.
This article will be focusing solely on whey protein, because it’s the most popular protein shake.
What is Whey?
Whey is a product that is formed when cow milk is filtered. In actuality, whey is a byproduct of the cheese industry.
When cow milk is filtered, the residue needs to be dried in order to get protein powder. This powder consists of fat, carbs and protein (30-90%).
The percentage of protein depends on the modifications that are being done to the protein powder. There are three variations of whey protein: concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate.
Concentrate is the cheapest of all three protein powders. It contains the most fat, as well as carbs. The percentage of protein is somewhere between 29% and 89%.
Isolate is modified once. Because of this, it doesn’t contain nearly as much fat and carbs as concentrate.
Hydrolysate is modified once, same as isolate. It contains near to no lactose, which is useful when you are lactose intolerant.
Milk consists of two kinds of proteins: whey and casein. During cheese production, whey gets filtered from cow milk, which is then processed to the point at which you can consume it as a protein shake.
But then there are casein proteins, which remain as a byproduct of the cheese industry.
Casein proteins release their amino-acids a bit slower than whey proteins. This means that the time in which protein is available to your body is longer than with whey protein.
Why Would You Need Protein?
Proteins are an absolute necessity for your muscles, organs, central nervous system and blood. Furthermore, proteins are needed after working out.
During workouts, your muscles get damaged because of the stress they experience. Eating enough proteins will make sure that these muscles can recover after a workout. It causes your muscles to strengthen.
This is called muscle protein synthesis. The rate at which your body builds muscle, depends on your workout and protein intake.
Protein Rich Foods
Healthy animal products, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and skimmed milk contain a lot of protein. Whey protein can supplement your protein intake.
There are also a lot of plant based foods that contain relatively much protein. The thing is though, that these foods don’t contain every necessary amino-acid.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
This picture shows how much protein is needed on average. As you can see, athletes need a lot more protein than non-athletes.
Is Consuming Too Much Protein Unhealthy?
My father always told me: “too much is never healthy”. The same goes for protein. More isn’t necessarily better. I would recommend healthy adults to consume about one gram per pound of body weight.
Which Whey Protein is the Best?
To beginners, I would recommend a mixture of several kinds of whey protein. I personally use a whey protein that is a blend of whey concentrate and whey isolate.
Intermediate and advanced lifters often prefer a whey isolate or hydrolysate, since they contain the least amount of sugar while still delivering about 90% protein.
If you experience negative effects from your whey protein, such as flatulence, diarrhea or pimples, it might be best to try a different whey protein, such as an isolate or hydrolysate.
Another option would be to try a plant based protein shake.
Pros vs. Cons
First of all: it’s cheap! One shake contains somewhere between 23 and 29 grams of pure protein. This is way cheaper than a steak, which is often found to be 4-5 times more expensive. I must admit that I like my steak, though.
Whey proteins contain very high quality proteins, meaning that every amino-acid is made available to your body. This promotes muscle recovery and growth.
Recent studies have shown that athletes should consume between 20 and 40 grams of protein every 2-3 hours, as well as 10-12 grams of essential amino-acids and 2-3 grams of leucine. This causes muscle protein synthesis to peak, which in turn promotes muscle growth and recovery.
Another pro would be that it’s easy to use. All you need to do is to put a scoop in your shaker, followed by adding some water or milk. If you’re short on time, a protein shake is a fantastic solution.
Another study has shown that using protein shakes increases strength and muscle mass. This is the case for young and old people, people that have never trained a day in their life before, advanced lifters, and so on.
A recent meta-analysis pointed out that this effect is only notable when the respondents eat less than 0.72 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
However, if you are getting enough protein from regular nutrition, consuming whey protein will not cause your body to build more muscle mass.
I have already discussed the downside of whey protein, which are flatulence, diarrhea and pimples. Other than that, you could be allergic to one or more components.
Whey protein is a fantastic product. It’s easy, cheap, and effective. However, it should be noted that whey protein shakes should never replace your regular meal plan, as it is a supplementary food.
Whether protein shakes promote muscle growth, depends on your normal meal plan, as well as your workout routine. If you’re already getting a lot of protein from your normal food, a whey protein might not be necessary.
The same can be said about working out. If you don’t do any of that, you won’t need as much protein.
Do you have questions or comments? Please, leave your thoughts below!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is whey?
Whey is a product that is formed when cow milk is filtered. This happens during the production of cheese.
How much protein does whey contain?
Whey concentrate contains between 29-89%. Both isolate and hydrolysate contain around 89% of protein. This great difference has to do with the fact that concentrate contains a lot more carbohydrates.
Are there downsides to whey protein shakes?
There can be minor downsides as long as you’re not allergic to one or more of the components, them being flatulence, diarrhea and pimples.
Is consuming too much protein unhealthy?
Consuming way too much protein for a prolonged time may cause your blood to become more acidic, due to them being broken down into amino acids. To compensate, calcium and magnesium are extracted from your bones, causing osteoporosis.