I have gotten a lot of questions about protein shakes, when you should use them, how much protein is enough protein, and what type/brands to buy. This is a very expansive topic as there is a considerable amount of research out there on the effects protein has on diet, muscle hypertrophy, and fitness in general. Here are my five quick thoughts regarding protein, and in particular, protein shakes:
1. I feel the best use of a protein shake is as a means for getting your protein amount in the range of 1g of protein per pound of body weight, assuming you are also getting exercise 5-6 times per week. If you do the quick math, this is a significany amount of protein for most people. Personally, it is about 25% of my diet whereas someone eating a lower amount of calories might be closer to 40-50%. Regardless, it’s a lot of protein and a shake is a great way to fill the gaps in your diet.
2. Timing – you want to have some source of protein immediately after your workout. Shakes are good because they give you that protein source as well as BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) which have positive effects on muscle growth. If you can, also have some type of simple carb after your workout as well. This will give you energy to re-fuel from. You can also have them throughout the day to fill diet gaps (see above) as well as before bed (micellar casein is especially good for this as it is a slow digesting protein).
3. Look for a protein that is high in protein and low in fat/carbs. Depending on the brand and fillers, you fill find variances on this. Also, try not to spend more than $60/5lbs of protein powder. Costco and Musclefeast.com are great sources for reasonable but quality protein.
4. Consider using whey powder to supplement a drink you already like. Protein powders work well with water but milk sources, fruit (blended together), and Shakeology are great additions to protein powder.
5. Lastly, I almost don’t consider protein powders (whey isolate, hydrolyzed whey, micellar casein, etc.) as supplements. To me they are another food source on my way to hitting my macro-nutrient goals. A protein shake won’t have the same effect that beta-alanine or creatine will have and is really just am excellent source of pure protein.
I will be writing more posts on protein in the future, but hopefully this helps address some of the basics!