I often get asked about protein supplements, mostly regarding whether they should be drinking protein shakes, and if so, what kind and when is the best time to have them?
First of all I have to say, you don’t HAVE to supplement your diet with protein powder. Protein shakes are just to be used as a supplement to a healthy diet that consists mostly of of real, whole foods. Chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy, and fish should be your main sources of protein.
With that being said, I am a big fan of protein shakes. I usually have 2 (and even sometimes three) shakes a day. Here are just a few reasons why I think it can be beneficial to include protein shakes into your diet:
*Help meet your daily Protein Requirements
Whether your goal is to build muscle or lose fat, protein is key. I try to get my clients to make all of their meals revolve around a protein source. The thing is, some people just have a hard time eating the amount of meat it requires to reach their daily protein goal, and that’s where protein shakes come in.
I usually suggest having 2-3 real food meals that include 20-30 grams of protein, and then having 1-2 protein shakes between meals. For me personally, I really enjoy and look forward to having a scoop of protein in my oats in the morning, or as a pudding at night, when meat or eggs just doesn’t appeal to me. However, that is in addition to the two to three “real food” meals I have that consist of chicken, turkey, beef, and eggs/egg whites.
When you need a quick meal or snack on the go, protein powder is a great option. All you need is a shaker cup and water, and you’re good to go. I often bring a shaker cup with a scoop of protein powder in it with me when I’m travelling, then I just add water and shake when I need a quick snack. They’re also a great choice for breakfast when you’re in a rush-just blend up a shake and grab a fruit or some nuts, and you have a fast, healthy breakfast.
*Satisfy your sweet tooth
There are some really yummy things you can create with protein powder for when a sweet craving hits. You can bake with it and use it in place of flour to make things like muffins, brownies, and pancakes. You can also make things like mug cakes and protein pudding(my fave!), as well as yummy fruit smoothies and peanut butter milkshakes. 😉
Check out my article here for some of my favorite protein shake recipes:
So, that leaves us with the question of what to look for in a protein powder. Whey protein, either concentrate or isolate, is usually the best option for post people, with the exception of those who are lactose intolerant. In that case, there are protein powders made from other sources, such as egg whites, beef, and rice. Unless you are looking for something as a meal replacement or to aid in gaining weight, most people would benefit from choosing a protein powder that is low in carbs and fat(under 5 grams).
The next question is, when is the best time to drink a protein shake? Really, anytime! As I said above, they are a great choice as a snack between meals(definitely better than grabbing a candy bar or chips!), after a workout to help in replenishing the muscles, or as a bedtime snack. Just remember, if your goal is fat loss, keeping your protein high but staying in a calorie deficit is really the most important thing. As long as you are within your calorie goal for the day, simply have a protein shake whenever it is most convenient for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you ADD in a couple of protein shakes a day in addition to what you’re currently eating, you will be increasing calories, which could result in weight gain. If that is not what you’re going for, just make sure to make some adjustments somewhere else in your diet to account for the extra calories coming from the protein powder. On the flip side, if your goal is to gain weight(muscle mass), adding in a couple of protein shakes a day in addition to what you’re currently eating is an easy, convenient way to add in some calories.