Want to get bigger muscles? Be prepared to put in the work. Protein shakes can help you get the nutrition you need to gain and maintain lean muscle, but they’re no substitute for regular strength-training sessions. Before you make shakes a fixture of your diet, get approval from your doctor.
Preserve Lean Mass
Not everyone who wants to gain muscle is a bodybuilder. If you have some fat to lose before you can focus on toning and tightening, drinking protein shakes may help. According to research published in 2008 in the journal “Nutrition & Metabolism,” obese subjects who drank a whey protein supplement twice a day for 12 weeks lost more body fat and less lean muscle mass than study subjects who cut calories without the shakes. Those results are significant because the two groups dropped similar amounts of total weight – implying that the extra protein the supplement group received enabled them to retain more muscle.
Keep Muscles Working
Athletes put greater demands on their muscles than sedentary people do, so it makes sense that their nutrition needs are more complex. Rice University recommends adult athletes attempting to build muscle mass take in 0.6 to 0.9 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, while sedentary people need just 0.4 gram per pound. For a 150-pound person, that can mean 135 grams of protein per day, which may be difficult to get in a normal diet, especially for a vegan or vegetarian. In a shake, just one scoop of protein powder can provide 23 grams of the nutrient.
Support Strength Training
All muscle cells in the human body contain protein. Those cells are broken down and replaced with any type of physical wear and tear, ranging from daily activity to serious athletics. Researchers at the department of kinesiology at McMaster University published an article in 2011 in the “Journal of Sports Sciences” stating that athletes who focus on strength and resistance training likely need more protein than endurance athletes because they need to generate more muscle protein during activity. For strength athletes in particular, then, it can make sense to supplement a diet with protein shakes.
Drinking protein shakes is not the only way to get more nutrients in your diet. Rice University recommends meeting your daily protein requirements with whole, natural foods whenever possible, noting that they are healthier and more affordable than shakes. One cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, for example, has the same amount of protein and about the same number of calories as a scoop of protein shake powder. You may not even need to adjust your diet to build muscle – according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, most Americans already consume twice as much protein as they need. Focus on strength exercises to develop muscles, and if you feel your nutrition is lacking, consult a registered dietitian for recommendations.
References & Resources
- Nutrition & Metabolism: A Whey Protein Supplement Increases Fat Loss and Spares Lean Muscle in Obese Subjects
- Rice University: Protein Requirements for Athletes
- Livestrong.com MyPlate: Body Fortress Whey Protein Powder Nutritional Facts
- Journal of Sports Sciences: Dietary Protein for Athletes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone – Basics – Protein
- Livestrong.com MyPlate: Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt Nutritional Facts
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: The Protein Myth