Protein shakes seem to be the staple gym accessory. Towel? Check! Change of clothes? Check! Strange powder that makes my farts stink? Check!

Before we rush down to our local supplements store or get suckered in by some fancy marketing, it may be worth taking a look at my answers to a few of the questions below.

Do you need a protein shake?

The short answer to my question is no. You do not need any supplements or added dietary products (unless advised from your doctor of course). A supplement is exactly what it says on the tin, a supplement to the diet, not a necessity.

Although a protein shake may not be essential for most, it could potentially be helpful and make your life a little easier. Please keep reading before you buy a 20kg sack of protein powder…

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a by product of the cheese making process. It is naturally high in protein, dried and sold to gym goers around the country. Whey protein contains no magical powers and has the same effect on the body as any other complete protein source (meat, eggs, Greek yogurt etc.) If you think drinking a shake is going to dramatically change your results, think about whether you would expect adding a chicken breast to your day to have the same results.

What are the benefits to drinking a protein shake?

Whilst I believe in a food first approach, there are some situations where a protein shake could be helpful.

  1. Boost up your daily protein intake – Eating enough protein within the day is one of the key principles to dieting. It is going to help you build or retain as much muscle as possible, keep hunger at bay and it increases metabolic rate after eating (thermic effect of food). For 90% of the clients I have worked with, this usually involves increasing the amount of protein they are eating. I like to aim for protein to make up around 30% of your daily calorie intake, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Grabbing a quick shake to boost this amount up can be easier than cooking meat or preparing meals, especially with a busy lifestyle.
  2. Meal replacement – When we are dieting, reducing our calorie intake is going to be key. Instead of having a big meal worth 500-600 calories, we could swap this out for a high protein shake with only 200-300 calories. This is a good breakfast option for those that are not very hungry in the morning or are in a bit of hurry.
  3. Hunger Management – Protein has been shown to keep you fuller for longer compared with carbs and fats. Eating a higher protein diet will hopefully prevent you from unnecessary snacking and unnecessary calories.

If you struggle with neither of these things, then adding a shake isn’t for you.

When not to drink a protein shake?

When results are slow in the gym and it get’s frustrating, we begin to look for alternative methods and search out for the next shiny object. A protein shake is not that next shiny object. Don’t view it as a saviour to all of your problems and it is not going to provide you with instant success. It is purely a drink that contains between 20 and 40 grams of protein, very similar to a chicken breast.

The other reason to not buy a protein shake, is if you are buying it because the model in the photo has a good physique. These models are paid by companies to promote their products, their bodies are not a by product of the supplements. You do not have the genetics, training history or diet of the person in the photo. Buying a bag of dried protein, isn’t going to get you there.

Which one to buy?

There are thousands of supplement companies willing to take your money and it can be a minefield on which one to choose. When choosing a protein shake, I would recommend one that is low in carbs and fats, as you do not need to added unnecessary calories. I would aim for a shake with at least 20 grams + per serving. I would also avoid any shakes that contain the word ‘diet’, as these products are an overpriced marketing gimmick.

Find a company that you can relate to and find morally in line with your values and doesn’t cost the earth.

I hope you have found this article helpful and I would appreciate it if you shared it with your friends, family, pets and even strangers in the street. If you want to understand how protein can fit into your diet and boost your results, book in for a 1 to 1 PT session or online coaching here.