Let's start with the most important message...
Protein is very important for muscle mass growth and maintenance.
Without protein we would struggle to manage day to day activities, have a lower metabolic rate, and can become quite weak and fragile.
The timing and quantity of protein is very important and fortunately for us our body only needs small amounts regularly throughout the day to reach our daily requirements.
So where do protein shakes fit in?
The benefits of protein shakes are:
They are very quickly and easily digestible by the body – so in terms of starting the muscle repair process, this is an excellent point.
For those who have no appetite after training, they are more likely to consume a fluid drink rather than food.
If you are travelling long distances to work or home after your workout, protein shakes are an easy go to product... if you cannot physically eat or will not have access to food for a long period of time.
They promote rehydration after a training session.
The downsides of protein shakes:
They are extra calories which could easily be replaced by a meal if you are on a strict calorie budget. I know I would prefer to eat food rather than drink it. Food will also keep you fuller for a longer period of time then fluid because your body takes time to break it down – usually because it has more fibre.
They can be expensive! Save your money and spend it on lean meats, eggs, dairy sources which will provide you with more vitamins and minerals than what a protein powder would.
They may have added ingredients that are not beneficial for the body so be careful of which ones you do buy. This is especially important for athletes competing in competitions which have strict drug testing policies. Some may have banned substances in their products.
Take a look at a real life example
Let’s pretend a client has just completed a 1 hour training session at the gym and on their way home they decide to have a protein shake. However, once they get home dinner is already prepared ready or it will not take long for it to be prepared (say 30-45mins).
Is it worth having two lots of protein based foods/products so closely together???
No it is not!!
Muscle metabolism takes 3 hours to process. So you body will see the second dose of protein and store it as fat. The best option in this case would be to skip the protein shake, save yourself the calories, and make sure you have dinner within 60 minutes from training.
If this is not something you would be able to do, have the protein shake but decrease the meat portion size of your evening meal to around half ~50-70g of chicken/red meat.
Remember your body only utilises so much protein at one time
So consuming more than you need will be wasted, some components will be excreted by your kidneys and others will be stored as fat. Instead of filling up on your meat portion, bulk up your vegetables and salad, or starchy carbs if you have been training to help keep feelings of satiety through to your next meal or the following day.