What are Protein Shakes?
Let’s start by explaining that protein shakes are simply protein extracted from the whey. There are also other types of shakes in which the protein can come from the egg, from soy … they are simply variations. In any case, it is something natural, as is the protein of everyday foods such as meat, fish, milk, eggs … so let’s make it clear that there is nothing artificial, it is natural protein.
Why do we use protein shakes?
Here are some reasons to use protein shakes:
- For your comfort: Many people prefer to take a shaker (drum or boat-shaped) with our shake rather than to take meat or eggs in a Tupperware or tiffin.
- For its high concentration in protein: The protein that we use for the shakes usually carries 80% of protein per 100gr (sometimes, even more, it depends on the type and quality) therefore, just take 30gr of product (it is sold as a powder) we already have about 20gr of protein, while if for example, we want to ingest 20gr of protein from chicken breasts … we should take more than 100gr.
- To help meet your daily protein needs: Normally it is recommended to eat between 0.8 and 3gr or more of protein per kilo of weight. Sometimes it is complicated to get to comply with this rule and we need to help with the shakes. As I explained before, the protein concentration is very high so with only 30gr of product, we will have 20gr or more of protein.
- Because of its high biological value and concentration of amino acids: The higher the biological value (VB) of the protein, the more of it our body will absorb. The protein found in the shakes is the one that contains a higher VB (more than 100%) therefore our body will absorb more of it. On the other hand, food does not happen the same. If a food has 20gr of protein, depending on its VB, we will assimilate more or less but we will never be able to assimilate 100%. For example, The protein of the meat has a VB of approximately 80%. On the other hand, the biological value of rice is only 60%.
- For its taste: Apart from the above reasons, many people take protein shakes for pleasure. Currently, the flavours of the different types of smoothies (protein shakes) are very successful and there is a great variety.
- For its use in “fitness” recipes: Protein shakes are used in numerous fitness recipes. From soft drinks, energy drinks, cakes, biscuits, etc.
If you want to know more benefits of protein shakes read this post.
How much Protein Shakes Should I take per day?
It depends on the rest of your diet. We know that we should eat between 0.8 and 2 grams or more of protein per day, so first, we have to see how many grams of total protein we need and then manage our diet. Once this is done and according to the grams that we lack to get to compliment with the daily protein, we will add as many proteins shakes as necessary or needed. For example: Suppose that a person of 80kg is going to take 2gr of protein per kilogram of weight (160gr) because he sees fit. We have made the diet and we only reached 140g. Well, each scoop of 30gr brings 20gr of protein so by adding 1 scoop to our diet we will be meeting our daily protein needs.
When to take whey protein and some myths?
As we explained before, the protein shake is simple protein so you can take it whenever you want as you eat any other food. There are certain times when taking a shake may be more optimal for protein synthesis:
- Fasting: After being for so many hours without having any type of food the body has a greater demand for nutrients so the assimilation will be higher.
- In the post-training: After training an anabolic window is formed or in simple language, we can tell body needs more energy or protein after the workout, so protein synthesis is increased so that we can better assimilate or absorb the protein for better results.
- Before bedtime: Because we are going to be for many hours without eating any kind of food it is good to take a slow protein assimilation shake to nourish the muscle.
These are the 3 time that supposedly was most optimal. Well, let’s explain it from another point of view and explain some things:
- Fasting: It is not necessary to take any shake because, in opposition of what was thought before, the muscle will not be lost by not eating protein or some other type of food for several hours.
- In the post-workout: It is true that the anabolic window is created. But opposite to what was thought before, the anabolic window does not last 30-40min but can be up to 24h. That is, you do not have to carry your protein shake and take it immediately after training. Take it easy when you get home because as I say, the anabolic window can last up to 24 hours,
- Before going to bed: It is true that the body will be without food for several hours but as I said before, you will not lose muscle for being several hours without eating. Losing muscle is much more complicated than you think, you can be days without eating and even then you will not have lost muscle.
Does the protein shake better with water or milk?
There is a false belief that the sooner you assimilate or absorb the protein, the more muscle mass you will create or the faster you will recover. For this reason, people take their post-workout shake with water and nothing else to finish the training. We have already denied the theme of the anabolic window so now we are going to deny the issue of absorption speed:
Not because the assimilation of the protein is faster we will be able to build more muscle mass. The important thing is that we can assimilate the greatest amount of protein, that is, greater protein synthesis and less degradation of these (positive nitrogen balance). This is not related to the speed of absorption. The speed of absorption is only important for athletes who do multiple sessions in a single day and need to recover as soon as possible but it is not our case.
There are studies that show that combining whey protein with WHOLE milk will improve protein synthesis. The milk contains casein, which has a slower absorption and the serum is faster. With this, we achieve that casein improves nitrogen retention which leads to the prevention of protein degradation, and whey has a higher protein synthesis. Will the absorption be slower? Yes, since whole milk contains fats and casein that slow down this absorption but we have already said that the speed of absorption is not important. The important thing is that by combining whole milk with whey we will improve protein synthesis, we will have less muscle degradation and we must not forget the extra protein contribution thanks to milk (it contains 3gr of high biological value proteins per 100gr).
Types of protein shakes
- Whey Protein Concentrate: The whey protein goes through a process of filtration or ultrafiltration through which the protein is separated from fat and lactose. Its protein concentration is between 60-80%. It is the most commercial because its quality-price is the most affordable for most people.
- Whey Protein Isolate: It is of higher quality than Whey Protein Concentrate due to a longer filtering time or by the ion exchange chromatography process. This makes its protein concentration is 85-95% and has a higher biological value. It is a good choice for lactose intolerant people.
- Whey Protein Hydrolyzed: The whey protein goes through a process of hydrolysis. This makes the nutrient chains shorter and therefore improves the absorption of the protein. They are usually the most expensive and are a good option for people with digestive intolerances.
My recommendation is that if you do not have digestive intolerances and you are not going to compete in bodybuilding, you should opt for a whey protein concentrate. The difference between one and the other is negligible in amateur people who do not prepare to compete in bodybuilding and instead the price between one and another if it is much more appreciable.
In summary: Protein shakes are not artificial, it is simply protein extracted from whey. They alone are not going to make you strong or gain muscle mass but are a supplement to the diet to meet your daily protein requirements.