Protein shakes are nothing new to the world of weight loss or bodybuilding. Many people have used this method of supplementing the body with extra protein either to stave off hunger or to help build muscle with varying results. These shakes are a combination of ingredients such as fruit mixed with any number of powdered protein supplements currently on the market. Protein powder shakes usually contain whey, soy or eggs at the base. The theory behind protein shakes is that if you are trying to lose weight, the shake can help to fill you up and decrease your appetite and cravings. Alternatively, if you are trying to build muscle, the protein gives your tired and torn muscles extra fuel to heal and rebuild.

As with any supplement on the market, the theories look good on paper. The labeling of diet supplements and body building products advertise all sorts of promises, but are they true? Savvy marketing and lax regulations results in the uncertainty of some nutritional facts, and so consumers should read labels and claims with a skeptical eye and a good dose of suspicion.

If used properly, there is a possibility that protein shakes do actually work. The problem arises when people don’t understand how these shakes should be used or when it is the right time to use them. Instead of asking if protein shakes work, ask if you really need to use a shake for the results you'd like to achieve. If the answer is no, the protein shakes aren't necessary and it may be best to leave them on store shelves rather than waste your money and frustrate yourself with the lack of results.

Weight Loss
Many protein shakes on the market today claim that they can help you to lose weight. It’s difficult to resist the temptation of a “miracle cure” that might be as easy as mixing a powder and drinking it three or four times a day. Protein shakes play both sides of the fence, offering both a way to lose weight or gain weight. What you have to remember is there is no evidence to support these claims.

A common misconception is that protein shakes can replace meals. For the most part, it is better to get your protein from as many whole foods as possible – you can’t survive on protein shakes alone, and they weren’t designed for that. Meal replacement shakes are something completely different, designed to have all the nutritional elements your body needs. If you are looking for a meal replacement rather than a supplement, talk to your doctor. There are many products for “fasting” on the market that your doctor can prescribe.

On the surface, protein shakes aren’t harmful. They do contain elements that can be good for your body, especially if you are active and burning calories. To lose weight effectively and get the results you want, you need to take in fewer calories than you are burning. Doing nothing all day but sitting on the couch and drinking protein shakes will only help you get heavier, not thinner. Many of these supplements are high in calories and if the extra calories aren't burned off, the bottom line is that you will not lose weight.


On average, a person needs 45 to 60 grams of protein a day. If you are already eating a well-rounded diet, there is no need to consume extra protein; you should be getting all you need in your regular diet. What your body doesn’t use will be stored as fat.

Protein shakes may help to curb your appetite, although no proof of this has been documented. The best thing you could do is to look at your overall caloric intake. Count the calories in a protein shake. If you’re mixing the supplement with something like fruit for a smoothie, you may be adding quite a bit of calories to your diet and not be aware of it. Just because something has healthy ingredients doesn’t mean that it’s low in calories. Fruit has a lot of sugar in it, and sugar means calories. Fruits are also carbohydrates and if your body isn’t going to use the carbohydrates, again, those calories will be stored and saved as fat, thus increasing your weight.

Bodybuilding is a science. It’s more than just pumping weights and hoping for the best. To maximize the growth of muscle tissue, you have to know when to drink a protein shake for it to have the most affect. By knowing when to take in extra protein, you can reduce muscle breakdown and keep your nitrogen levels where they should be, instead of dipping down into the negatives.

As with using protein shakes for weight loss, you have to make sure to start with a well rounded and balanced diet. You have to consume the right amount of protein, fats and carbs to begin with and be aware of how much of each of these you are consuming.


If you go to the gym in the morning, you should eat breakfast before you go. The whole foods you eat will be digested slowly and allow the amino acids to release over a longer period. Here is where timing comes in: Drink your protein shake between 5 to 30 minutes after your whole food meal.

The shake is preferably one that is whey-based. Whey is considered a fast acting protein and will give your muscles the extra boost they’ll need for your session at the gym.  Your amino acids will increase in your bloodstream. That spike is an important factor to get the protein absorbed properly by your body.  Without that increase, the speed of synthesis is far too slow for that extra protein to be effective.

After your workout, you can have another protein shake once every three hours to hold the nitrogen levels in your body in an anabolic state for three hours at a time. Why are nitrogen levels important? Nitrogen feeds off amino acids, the body can’t store amino acids and once the acids are depleted, the body will start to use muscle tissue as a source. By constantly feeding the furnace with protein shakes once every three hours, you keep this process burning.

Protein shakes are a tool in the arsenal of weight loss and bodybuilding. If you know how to use the shakes and other supplements correctly, you will stand a better chance of achieving the results you want. Keep in mind that supplements are just that – supplements. Protein shakes should not replace meals. Start with a solid foundation of a good diet before adding a protein shake. Many people are discouraged when they don’t see the immediate results they want, but that’s when they should step back and re-evaluate your method. When you use the right tool for the right job in the correct manner, you end up with a work of art.

Don’t fool yourself into believing the hype and convincing yourself that one supplement or protein shake will solve all of your problems. Nothing is ever that easy, and the same goes for a weight loss or bodybuilding program. It’s only when you have all the elements working together that you achieve success. As with any new diet or exercise program, be sure to consult with your doctor first.

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