5 Benefits of Protein Shakes
There’s a reason why you see so many people — and not just gym rats — with shaker cups filled with protein powder: The benefits of protein shakes can help pretty much anybody reach their goals, whether that’s to build muscle, lose weight, or ensure you’re getting enough of protein to support overall health.
“Although I always suggest whole foods first, protein shakes may allow you to target specific types of protein [such as plant-based proteins] and may offer a convenient option when pressed for time,” says cookbook author, registered dietitian, and certified athletic trainer Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.
But that’s not all. Here are five benefits of drinking protein shakes.
1. Protein Shakes Are Convenient
Make no mistake, whole foods should be the cornerstone of any healthy diet, but whole foods aren’t always the easiest option, especially if you’re traveling or on-the-go between the gym, the office, and home. In those situations, it’s harder to carry a cooked chicken breast in your bag and keep it refrigerated, and often harder to find a restaurant that serves healthy, high-protein meals.
On the other hand, you can almost always find access to water to pour into a shaker cup and mix with protein powder, and many ready-to-drink protein shakes are shelf-stable or keep unrefrigerated for a few hours.
2. Protein Shakes Support Muscle Growth
In a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition in 2018, researchers concluded that daily caloric and protein intake matter most when it comes to muscle protein synthesis (a.k.a. muscle growth). So in addition to having the right workout regimen, building muscle also requires adequate protein consumption. And as we learned in point #1, a protein shake is a convenient way to help you do that!
And if you should drink your protein shake before or after your workout, it depends on the kind of protein shake. A shake made with whey protein (like LADDER Whey Protein), is absorbed by your body more quickly, so it can help speed muscle recovery after a workout.*
But a shake made with pea protein (like LADDER Plant-Based Nutrition Shake) takes longer to digest. That makes it better to drink at anytime during the day — but ideally not close to pre-workout.*
3. Many Protein Shakes Pack in the Protein
Every protein shake varies, but most deliver about 20 to 30 grams of protein in about 100 to 200 calories. That’s a lot of protein for not a lot of calories!
Studies suggest that you need 20 to 30 grams of protein in a sitting to maximize muscle protein synthesis. (Each person’s protein needs varies based on their weight and how much they exercise — here’s how to figure out how much protein you need.)
Plus, a formulated shake makes it easy to calculate how much protein you’re getting, because it says it on the label! Just pour a serving into your shaker cup, add water, shake the heck out of it, and enjoy.
4. Protein Shakes Can Support Weight Management
Protein in general may help make it easier to manage your weight. Protein can help keep you feeling fuller longer, White explains. “Making it a part of most meals and snacks may help curb hunger and cravings, which can help with weight management.”
In one study, when adults increased their protein intake from 15 to 30 percent of their total daily calories, they ate about 441 fewer calories each day and lost an average of 11 pounds in 12 weeks.
In another study, 50 adults followed a reduced-fat diet (30% of calories) that was either high in protein (25% of calories) or that provided moderate protein (12% of calories). After a year, both groups had lost about the same amount of weight, however, the high-protein dieters lost 10 percent more visceral fat (the deeper fat) and more of this group also lost more than 22 pounds.And weight loss may be one of the benefits of protein shakes in particular. In a study published in the FASEB Journal in 2017, people reported that drinking protein shake helped decrease hunger and the desire to eat.
5. Protein Shakes Give Vegans Another Protein Option
Contrary to what some think, many (if not most) vegans and vegetarians don’t struggle to consume adequate protein. But variety is nice! Because sometimes you don’t want to eat two cups of black beans in one sitting.
Protein shakes made with plant-based protein sources like pea, soy, and/or hemp give vegans and vegetarians (or anyone trying to eat more plant-based) another way to get some protein into their diet.
Any way you shake it, protein shakes may fit into your plan to reach your fitness and health goals.
- Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/
- Meal-based enhancement of protein quality and quantity during weight loss in obese older adults with mobility limitations: rationale and design for the MEASUR-UP trial www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4438314/
- Ingested Protein Dose Response of Muscle and Albumin Protein Synthesis After Resistance Exercise in Young Men pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19056590/
- A Moderate Serving of High-Quality Protein Maximally Stimulates Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis in Young and Elderly Subjects pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19699838/
- Protein, weight management, and satiety academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/87/5/1558S/4650426
- A High-Protein Diet Induces Sustained Reductions in Appetite, Ad Libitum Caloric Intake, and Body Weight Despite Compensatory Changes in Diurnal Plasma Leptin and Ghrelin Concentrations pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16002798/
- Effect of Normal-Fat Diets, Either Medium or High in Protein, on Body Weight in Overweight Subjects: A Randomised 1-year Trial pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15303109/
- Effects of consuming different protein preloads on appetite, satiety, and subsequent food intake www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.31.1_supplement.652.18