Protein shakes are a very popular way to get protein into your everyday diet and are used by athletes, recreational gym-goers, slimmers and yummy mummies. Protein shakes help your muscles grow and recover after exercise.
If you’re new to protein shakes then choosing the right one can be very tricky. There’s a plethora of different ones out there on the market. However, don’t worry. We’ve put this ultimate guide to protein shakes together to make life easier for you.
In this guide to protein shakes you will learn how protein works, why you need it, how some differ to others, and what's the best protein powder for your goals.
Why do you need protein?
The body uses protein to grow and repair muscles. Many people get protein in their diets from things like eggs, chicken, steak etc., but there is a huge benefit to getting extra protein into your diet and this is where protein shakes can help.
If you consume protein in high enough quantity from food or a protein powder then your body will use this to grow and repair muscles. You may have heard of the term ‘protein synthesis’, this is simply where your body uses protein for building and repairing muscles. Sometimes eating high quality fish, meats and poultry gets expensive so it can be cheaper to have a protein shake to help hit your daily protein quota then it can be to eat a steak for lunch, as an example. Protein shakes such as our grass fed whey protein powder Protein Evolution allows you to consume a high quality fast absorbing protein source without unwanted fats and carbs and without spending a fortune on supermarket bought foods.
What does a protein shake do?
Protein shakes simply help you build and repair muscles. Protein shakes act as quick fire convenient way to get quality protein into your diet. Some people simply struggling eating tons of food all day everyday so by having a protein shake to hand it becomes much easier to hit your protein goals for that day. Professional athletes, bodybuiders and crossfit athletes typically require higher dosages of protein for performance gains. Plus they typically train for much longer then a recreational gym-goer so would require more protein to help them recover faster.
What are the main types of protein shakes
Protein shakes come in two main types: dairy protein shakes and non-dairy protein shakes. For most people whey protein is the protein of choice and by far the most popular. However, if you're lactose intolerant, vegan or don't consume milk for religious or health reasons, you'll want to consider a non-dairy protein powder instead.
The other difference among protein shakes is whether the shake consists of a single ingredient, such as just whey, or a mixture of ingredients in the form of a protein blend. Typically protein blends are inferior products and we do not recommend them. Our whey protein powder is 100% whey, meaning we only use whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. When companies use protein blends they usually add in cheaper protein ingredients such as soy or pea protein. We don’t do this. As well as being 100% whey our protein powder is also sourced from grass fed cows that are hormone free. This means the cows that the whey protein comes from are free to roam and graze on grass daily and not commercially raised on corn and hay, or injected with growth hormones.
For a top quality Whey protein shake we recommend choosing a grass fed whey protein powder such as our 100% WHEY PROTEIN. It really is protein powder evolved.
Other types of protein include:
Recovery Protein - Ideal for straight after training
Casein Protein - Ideal for night time to improve recovery whilst sleeping
Vegan Protein - Ideal for anyone looking for an alternative protein source to whey.
Can you gain weight from protein shakes?
The short answer is yes; protein can make you gain weight. If you're trying to build muscle mass and consuming protein shakes and eating the right portion of food daily then you may experience some weight gain as muscle weighs more than fat due to its density.
But if you’re just having a protein shake for breakfast or a protein shake after training then this is unlikely to facilitate weight gain.
Many women believe that by consuming a protein shake will make them put on tons of muscle mass and look bulky. This will never happen.
Women have much less testosterone than men so they will find it impossible to get bulky from consuming a high protein diet. If anything a high protein diet is typically associated with a lean and cut body, not a bulky or fat body. People who consume a diet mainly of carbs with some fat and protein tend to be overweight or worse, obese.
How much protein do I need daily?
To build muscle you need to consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Protein shakes enable athletes to meet this goal easily on a daily basis. Depending on your personal training programme, you may be required to consume more protein than this.
We like to use Alan Aragon’s protein model, where he recommends 1g of protein per goal weight in lbs.
For example, if your goal is to weigh 180lbs and you currently weigh 160lbs, then you should be consuming 180g of protein each day. This is a very simple model that works.
Protein shakes for weight loss?
Protein shakes can indeed be used for muscle gain and for weight loss. The best protein shakes for weight loss are low fat and carbohydrate shakes. Our 100% WHEY PROTEIN is just that. It is extremely lean and low in carbs and fats as well as cholesterol. Per scoop provides just 125 calories per serving.
Consuming a protein shake for breakfast and one after training each day along with a healthy diet aimed at losing weight will help with weight loss and having better body composition. We recommend mixing your protein powder with water as apposed to milk with reduce calories and fat from your daily diet.
Food or protein shakes?
A sports supplement company that extols the benefits of protein shakes over food should be shut down. We always recommend real food over protein shakes; however, to meet the high protein demands of a muscle building programme then protein shakes do have their place. When you finish the gym it’s pretty hard to have a cooked chicken breast to hand, however it’s much easier to add water to your protein powder and consume instantaneously once finished training. Especially as post exercise is the optimal time to feed the muscles with quality fast absorbing protein.
Therefore, the use of protein shakes has some benefits over real food. This is mainly due to the convenience factor. Also, with many people not having a good enough appetite to consume 180g of protein from food, protein shakes do have a unique advantage here too.
We’d recommend getting 80% of your daily protein from real food and 20% from protein shakes. So if you’re on a daily protein allowance of 180g, that’s just 1 to 2 protein shakes a day.
What are the benefits of whey protein shakes?
Many athletes and recreational gym-goers see protein shakes as an integral part of their diet. Whey protein shakes are typically the most popular on the global market. Nowadays with the rise of protein blends by budget brands there’s a real mix of cheap whey protein shakes Vs quality whey protein shakes. ICON Nutrition cater for the latter version, that’s why we only use 100% whey and NOT blends, and we use whey protein from hormone free grass fed cows. This is better for you, the cow and the planet. And there’s not much difference in price, if any.
Whey protein is the fastest absorbing type of protein above egg whites, soy, and casein plus many more. Whey protein helps with muscle repair, weight loss, recovery and growth.
The benefits of whey protein are mainly convenience and cost. It is typically cheaper to have a protein shake then it is to get your protein from a piece of steak or a chicken breast. And it is much more convenient and less time consuming.
Can I take protein shakes every day?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking protein shakes daily and this applies to both professional athletes, recreational gym-goers and yummy mummies.
If your goal is to build lean muscle and improve your strength then daily protein shakes will help. Many people who buy our protein powder also use it for cooking and baking with. Many use our chocolate protein powder and add it to their porridge in a morning, or use our cinnamon vanilla swirl protein powder as part of their pancake mix. You don’t have to chug down your protein shakes daily. Get creative and find other ways in which you can use your whey protein powder.
If you’re following a diet such as the Dukan Diet then protein shakes can also help with weight loss. The Dukan Diet became popular in 2013 when Kate Middleton credited it for her impressive Royal Wedding figure. In fact, recent research shows that protein can be a really effective fat loss aid, more about this here.
So whether your goals are to keep lean, build muscle, live a healthy lifestyle, or lose weight, protein shakes have a place in all those realms.
Can I use milk with my protein shakes?
Milk generally makes the protein shake taste much more like an actual thick and creamy milkshake, however it comes with many more calories if you do. If you’re trying to bulk up then calories and protein is what you need therefore it is better to use milk with your protein shake.
If you’re looking to manage calories better or lose weight we would recommend avoiding the use of milk. This will reduce sugar, fats and calories and keep your shake lean.
The best way to mix my protein shake?
The best way to mix your protein shake is by using a protein shaker with a screw top lid. Simply add the right serving size with the correct amount of water, or milk, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Your shake should be free of lumps and have a nice smooth consistency. If you like thicker shakes use less water or milk.
Can I drink my protein shake during my workout?
Yes you can. Drinking your protein shake during your workout will help keep energy levels high, allowing you to workout for longer.
Typically most users that take protein shakes tend to drink them 2 hours before working out or immediately after. Try take yours during and see if you see an improvement in energy levels.
If we had to choose one time around working when to take your protein shake we would say immediately post workout is best. After you workout your body is like a sponge ready to soak up all of that protein and put it to work on repairing torn muscle fibers.
When should I drink my protein shakes?
Protein shakes are commonly consumed straight after a workout like we mentioned above. This is because protein immediately helps the muscles to heal and grow following exercise. We also recommend 2 hours before training too. This can help fuel your workout better, allowing you to train that little bit harder for longer.
Other beneficial times to drink protein shakes are first thing in a morning to kick start the metabolism and last thing at night before bed to fuel recovery whilst you sleep.
What is the best way to build muscle using protein shakes?
Whey protein shakes are the most popular for building muscle due to its high protein content compared to other proteins such as soy or milk protein.
Building muscle using protein shakes is pretty simple. You should look to get between 30-40g of protein with each meal to keep your muscles adequately fueled so they can repair and grow. This is essential for muscle building. Either get your protein from food, protein shakes or both. We recommend both.
Muscle building generally requires you to workout following a strength program or lean gains program and eating an adequate amount of protein, typically 1g per pound of bodyweight, or by following our other goal-focused method written above from Alan Aragon.
Once you have a good program to follow and you are filled with the knowledge about protein and when to take it, you should be all set to go forth and build some muscle.
Do different flavoured protein shakes have different effects?
Each one of our flavoured protein shakes does have a slightly different make-up. So one might be a few calories higher than the other one, as an example. They all still do exactly the same as each other and won’t have no bearing on your muscle building or weight loss goals.
We have a variety of delicious flavours to cater for everyone’s tastes. Some like our Molten Chocolate flavour, whereas others prefer our Strawberry Milkshake flavour.
How much protein powder should I use in my protein shakes?
We typically recommend using 1 heaped scoop which provides just 125kcals and a massive 25g of protein. This is an ideal size for most individuals to consume at anytime of the day.
If you’ve had a heavy session and want to get a bit more protein down you then opt for 2 heaped scoops to get a 50g protein hit to those fatigued muscles.
We recommend aiming to consume between 1-5 protein servings daily to ensure you achieve your daily protein goal. This can be increased if needed.
Please keep in mind that larger athletes such as those weighing 215lbs as an example, will need to consume around 215g of protein, or more, each day. So this can mean having more than 1-5 protein shakes per day.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to protein shakes. Why not give our premium quality grass fed whey protein powder a try. You won’t be disappointed with the results or the taste.