If you’ve ever dabbled in the health world, you’ve heard about protein shakes. They’re intended to help speed your recovery time after a workout, build muscle, and even lose weight. With so many health promises, you might find yourself loading those big jugs of protein powder into your cart at the grocery or health foods store. Have you ever stopped to wonder if those giant jugs of protein powder are actually healthy for you?
What are protein shakes?
Protein shakes are made from powered protein. This protein usually comes from eggs or milk, but it can also come from plants such as soybeans or rice. Ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, artificial flavoring, thickeners, and added sugar. In most cases, you’ll get 10-20 grams of protein in a scoop. You can make protein power into a shake with just a bit of water or milk, or you can add it to your favorite smoothie.
Do you need a protein shake?
Not everyone needs the extra protein that a protein shake can add to your diet. But protein shakes can help if you are not getting enough protein in your diet. You might benefit from drinking protein shakes if:
- You are starting a new workout regime or increasing the time or difficulty of your workout. You’ll need that extra protein to build muscle.
- You are still growing. Teenagers more likely need protein than the average adult.
- You are recovering from an injury.
- You eat a vegan or vegan or vegetarian diet. A plant-based protein powder can help you pack more protein into your diet.
Potential side effects of protein shakes
From building muscle to losing weight, protein shakes can potentially benefit your body. But what about side effects? You might experience the following if you drink protein shakes.
- Gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps. This happens most often with whey protein powders. This can be related to a lactose intolerance. Switching to non-dairy protein powder can alleviate symptoms.
- Hives rash, swelling, and a runny/stuffy nose. Although rare, a cow’s milk allergy can cause a severe reaction. If you are allergic to cows’ milk, opt for non-dairy protein powder.
- Missing nutrients. When you substitute supplements for real foods, you will be missing out on the extra vitamins and nutrients you could get from whole foods. For example, if you substitute your morning scrambled eggs with a protein shake, you could be missing out on the additional health benefits eggs bring to the table.
- Protein powders can be high in added sugar and calories. Always check product labels so you know what you are eating.
- As a dietary supplement, protein powder manufacturers are left to regulate their products themselves. One research study found protein powders that contained heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants. Because of this, it’s essential to use protein powders from reputable companies you trust.
How much protein do I need?
Your protein needs are going to change throughout your life. Similarly, your protein needs will look different than your neighbor or friend’s protein needs. Protein needs vary depending on your activity and if your trying to build muscle. The following are guidelines for daily protein intake. It is always best to check in with your doctor or nutritionist if you have questions about how much protein you need per day. Recommended dietary intake for protein per day:
- Women need 46 grams protein daily (about .8 grams/kg)
- Men need 56 grams protein daily (about .8 grams/kg)
You get protein from foods such as eggs, yogurt, meat, and even some plants. If you choose to supplement with protein powder, it’s essential to remember that you don’t need that much protein powder to make up your daily needs.