When it comes to weight loss and building muscle, protein shakes are a staple in the fitness world. In fact, at a gym, it’s not uncommon to hear a blender working hard in the background to mix the liquid meals. While drinking a protein shake won’t make your muscles burn less during exercise, they can play an important role in recovery, weight loss and strength-building. Protein is a critical nutrient and while it’s important to get it from whole foods, supplementing with protein shakes can aid in the growth, repair and rebuilding of muscles and tissues.
Replace one meal per day with a protein shake. Relying on a protein shake as a meal replacement can help aid weight loss, according to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky. The high protein content of a shake can keep you satiated while cutting calories.
Use protein shakes to build lean muscle. During exercise, muscle fibers are broken down to create changes in the body and metabolism. Protein is a building block of muscle and tissue, so it helps to repair those broken muscle fibers to increase muscle mass and encourage fat loss over time.
Drink a protein shake immediately after an intense workout. Liquid is more quickly and easily absorbed through the digestive system, so muscle repair can begin immediately. Protein shakes can also help reduce muscle soreness. Solid food isn’t as effective within the first hour after a workout because the body will be catabolic — meaning it will break down muscle tissue as a source of energy, while it waits for the food to digest and be absorbed.
Purchase protein shakes and powders that are low in sugar. Some protein powders and shakes tend to be high in added sugar. Manufacturers add sugar to make their products taste better. Sugar after a workout isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it can maintain glucose levels and replenish glycogen to help the body recover for the next workout. But if you’re trying to lose weight, be cognizant of how much and what kind of sugar is added. Look for protein powders that don’t have sugar listed as one of the first ingredients, and stay away from artificial sweeteners or buy unsweetened protein powders and add your own natural sweeteners.
Tips & Warnings
- Always speak to a doctor or dietitian before changing or supplementing your diet.