There are many myths surrounding protein shakes. We asked nutrition experts what benefits they actually have and what to look out for when consuming them.
Protein shakes have always been a big topic. Many sports enthusiasts integrate them into their diet in the hope of supporting muscle building and taking insufficient proteins, which are known to be essential for the human organism. They are often mistaken for so-called meal replacement shakes or drunk to shed a few pounds. But do they really help you lose weight? We asked nutrition experts these and many other questions.
Protein shakes are often associated with diets. However, they do not help you lose weight. "These shakes were not created to burn body fat, but they are usually a good choice for right after a workout. At this point, the proteins they contain can be better utilized," explains Mireia Cabrera, dietitian, and nutritionist at Teknon Medical Center in Barcelona. The expert emphasizes the importance of differentiating between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes. The nutritionists at Reto 48 explain that protein shakes support the build-up of muscle mass as long as strength training is carried out regularly and the protein requirement is not achieved through the shakes alone but through a balanced diet. According to Charles Orrico, nutritionist at Fit Club Madrid, the ratio of body fat to muscle mass also improves when the shakes are consumed as a supplement to a healthy, weight-loss diet.
Mireia Cabrera says that while protein shakes are a convenient and quick option for adding protein to your body after exercising, she emphasizes that they aren't a must as a balanced diet will do just fine.
Protein shakes are not a substitute for a meal because, as Cabrera explains, "they do not have enough nutrients and are therefore not of the same quality". Only in exceptional cases and in conjunction with a piece of fruit could they replace a meal, as Reto 48 explains: "We always recommend them as a supplement to a varied diet to increase protein intake, but if you have little time in a day, a Shake combined with some fruit can sometimes be a good solution but keep in mind that they usually only contain protein. "
Although they can be consumed at other times of the day, the experts we spoke to advise drinking them right after your workout. "No later than 30 minutes after training, because when the muscles are more receptive and the shake thus has a better effect," says the team at Reto 48. Charles Orrico has another tip: "If I don't have time to have breakfast, I'll make it myself with it a smoothie with nuts and some fruit. It keeps me full for hours. "
Protein shakes can be prepared with water, milk, or plant-based drinks. Orrico recommends that you prepare the powder with water if you want the nutrients to be absorbed quickly. This makes sense especially after training, but the saturation does not last long. The best way to stay full longer is to combine the shake with healthy fats and/or fiber.
You can mix your own protein shakes with milk or plant-based drinks, fruits, oat flakes, protein yogurts, and many other ingredients. However, it is not that easy to get the optimal amount of protein, as Cabrera says. It is also important to know that these natural variants always contain other nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats, while, as Reto 48 says, the powdered ions usually provide pure protein.