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Do I need protein shakes? – To put it simply – if you need to ask, no.
I’m sure you’ve seen people at the gym, at work or on those horrendous reality TV shows downing a jug of protein after swinging some heavy bicep curls.
The truth is, unless you are working out 5+ hours a week, you probably don’t need a protein shake after your session.
In fact, you are better off grabbing some fresh (or frozen) fruit such as bananas and berries, some milk and yogurt, and blend it up to make a healthy, nutritious smoothie.
This is what I tend to do, although, I do workout over 5 hours a week, so I tend to add a scoop of whey protein to my smoothie, but only after a workout otherwise it’s just additional calories and sugars/sweeteners.
What are protein supplements?
Good question, and that is something you should be doing, asking plenty of questions, a bit like that annoying toddler that always asks ‘Why, why, why?’
For some reason, as we get older, we ask less questions and follow what ‘everyone else does’. But we should really ask lots more questions, especially when it comes to what we are doing to and putting into our bodies.
So let’s cover the initial question: “Do I need protein shakes?”
Protein Supplements – Protein– Supplement
Sometimes it helps to break it down into separate words.
Protein: If you didn’t already know, Protein is naturally found in many foods you probably already eat in your regular meals, like Meat, Fish, Eggs, Almonds, Peanuts and Dairy.
Supplement: A supplement, of anything, is to add or enhance what is already there.
The point I am making is Protein Shakes, or Supplements are only really required if you either don’t eat any or enough protein in your regular diet, or you are a body-builder or athlete that requires extra protein to support your intense training programme.
How much protein do I need?
The recommended amount of protein you should take is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (0.8g x 1kg).
So if you weigh 70kg you would need about 56g of protein.
If you work out more frequently, 5-6 days a week, the amount can increase to 1.2-1.7g per kg.
Remember though, this is protein, not protein supplement, so you may be getting enough already, or you might just want to take the difference over what you are eating in your meals.
Should I buy a known brand or is a supermarket alternative okay?
Like most health products, a big brand usually equals big price, but it doesn’t always mean best quality. Shop around, get advice from friends and try before you buy if possible. Here are some more tips;
- Keep it Pure and simple– There are so many different type of protein available, but to keep it simple, go for 100% Whey Protein.
- No added extras– Make sure you get low carbohydrates, low sugar, low calories, low fat… Always check the labels and check what you are buying.
- What’s your flavour?– Try some flavours and find one you like: Chocolate, Banana, Strawberry, Cookie Dough… even unflavoured, the list is almost endless.
- Try before you buy– Well, in a way. Get a sample or buy a single sachet or premixed bottle. Make sure you enjoy the flavour before buying a bucket of it.
- Buy One – Get One Free– Once you know what you like and are happy with it, keep an eye out for special offers, reductions, 2-for1 offers, etc. You can sometimes save money by subscribing, and some shops and online stores sell supplements near or just past their best-before date.
- Research – If possible, find sites that compare brands by taste, mixability, purity and quality. Read online reviews, but don’t just rely on them. There is a good website that has laboratory tested a huge range of protein brands. Some of the results may surprise you. Check it out: labdoor.com
What should I mix it with?
That one is easy – Water!
As you will see on the label, one scoop with 8oz water is all you need. If you manage to enjoy it with a cup of cold water, stick to it. If you want to, try it with milk or juice, or a water-milk mix for fewer calories.
If you enjoy smoothies, you could go for an unflavoured protein powder, and mix it with some 0% fat yogurt, milk, banana and frozen berries.
Most supplement websites and supermarket will have protein shaker bottles at a reasonable price, and they are an easy option to carry in your gym bag.
Alternatively, you could go for an electric blender – particularly if you are going down the smoothie route. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but it’s definitely worth it to get that smooth blend.
(Click the photos below for the latest prices on Amazon)
When should I drink protein shakes?
Pre-workout, post-workout, after breakfast, before bed…
There are many, many differing opinions and ‘scientific reports’ on when to consume protein shakes, but you will probably find your preferred time.
If you consider the fact that a hard strength workout will cause muscle fibres to break down, they will be desperate for some protein to rebuild them, so I always aim to have a shake within an hour of training.