How many protein shakes a day should you drink?
Like most things in nutrition, the number of protein shakes that a person should drink will depend on their body composition. This is because protein requirements can vary greatly from person to person.
It is well known that if you are trying to build muscle, you should increase your protein intake. A general rule of thumb is to consume between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein for every pound (lb) of lean body mass.
So a 180 pound man who has 15% body fat should aim to consume 150 – 225 grams of protein per day.
A vast amount of this protein should come from food. This shouldn’t be too difficult since there are lots of foods that are high in protein, including meat, seafood, nuts, beans, eggs, grains and vegetables.
However it is not always possible or convenient to get all of your protein from food. This is where shakes come in handy, because they help you to increase your protein intake.
Let’s say the man in the example above eats the following:
Breakfast – 2 cups of cooked oatmeal (12 g protein)
Snack – 1 cup of cottage cheese (23 g protein)
Lunch – 1 chicken breast , 1 cup of brown rice and 1 cup of steamed vegetables (60 g protein)
Snack – 1 cup of Greek yogurt (17 g protein)
Dinner – 1 fillet tilapia and 1 cup of steamed vegetables (25 g protein)
His total protein intake from food would be 137 grams. He can then calculate the number of shakes he should be drinking, depending on how much extra protein he needs.
There are many different types of protein powder, whey being the most popular. The amount of protein per scoop of whey varies from brand to brand, however it generally contains 20 – 25 g per serving. So in our example, the man should have between 1 and 3 shakes per day, in order to reach his protein intake goals.
In my opinion, the most ideal time to have a protein shake would be after a workout.
Why should you drink protein shakes?
It isn’t a coincidence that protein shakes are so popular with gym goers and those who exercise a lot. They have a number of benefits, which include:
Protein shakes are hands down one of the most convenient ways of getting protein into your body. Cooking food takes time, which can be a deterrent for many people. However with a protein shake, all you need to do is mix the protein powder with some type of liquid and gulp it down. This is perfect after an intense workout session.
Because shakes are in liquid form, the protein from them is absorbed faster by your body. Food on the other hand needs to be chewed and digested before the nutrients in it can be used. It is recommended that you consume protein within an hour of finishing your workout, and this is why shakes are very useful.
Great tasting & affordable
There are lots of brands competing with each other to produce protein powders that people will enjoy drinking. This is great for consumers because it means they are affordable and there are a lot of different flavors to choose from. If you buy protein powders in large amounts, they can be significantly cheaper than many food sources of protein.
What types of protein powder are there?
There are many different types of protein powder available on the market, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Milk proteins (whey and casein)
Whey protein is obtained from milk and is a by-product of the cheese making process. The liquid that separates from the curds is known as whey and it contains protein and milk sugars.
There are different types of whey, namely the concentrate, isolate and whey hydrolysate. Concentrates contain 60 – 80% protein, with the remainder being made up of fats and carbohydrates. Isolates tend to contain 90 – 95% protein.
Whey is rich in branch chained amino acids (BCAA’s), which are required for muscle growth and recovery.
Casein is also obtained from milk. Even though it is absorbed faster by the body, studies have shown that is not as effective at increasing muscle protein synthesis as whey.
Both whey and casein are great sources of protein but may not be ideal for those with lactose intolerance.
Plant proteins (hemp, pea, rice & mixed)
Whereas whey can contain up to 95% protein per serving, plant based powders tend to contain around 40 – 50%.
They also tend to lack certain amino acids (making them incomplete protein sources). This is why 2 or more different plant proteins are sometimes mixed, in order to provide all the 9 essential amino acids required by the body.
Plant based protein powders are great for people who are lactose intolerant or vegan, and there are lots of different brands that produce them.
However, one of the most common downsides is that they don’t taste as great as flavored whey protein. Apart from this, people generally tend to enjoy drinking them.
Shakes are a great way to increase your overall protein intake. You should aim to obtain most of your protein from food and then use shakes as a supplementary source.