Protein Shakes: All Your Questions Answered

Woman Drinking a Healthy Protein Shake

Protein shakes were once the sole reserve of bulked-up, pumped-up weightlifters. No longer! With strength becoming the biggest aim of gym-goers - female and male alike - these energy- and muscle-fuelling drinks are gulped down by all.

With so many of you asking about them, we wanted to provide a complete list of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to protein shakes.

A Healthy Protein Shake

What Are Protein Shakes?

The classic protein shake comes in powder form which is mixed up with water or milk. However given the increase in demand, not only are retailers offer ranges that grow by the day, but gyms and studios are also getting in on the act.

Proworks Word of Warning: With the increasing demand for protein shakes, comes more choice on the supermarket shelves. But along with this, also comes products that are packed with sugar. So always be sure to bear in mind how much fruit or sugar your protein hit contains.

What Different Types of Protein Shakes Are Available?

The two most popular forms of protein shakes are whey and casein. The main difference between the two is how quickly your body processes the protein. While whey is processed quickly, casein takes longer to be broken down and used by the body.

Ideally you should use both - with whey following a gruelling workout, and casein drunk sometime during the evening, so it can repair your muscles while you sleep. Alternatively, you could pick a protein shake which blends the two.

What’s the Difference Between Concentrate, Isolate and Hydrolysed Protein Shakes?

Concentrate is the friendliest form of protein for the pocket, however isolate is the one that packs in the most protein (it’s also more easily absorbed by the body).

Hydrolysed shakes are the most expensive; they’re on par with isolate shakes in terms of protein content, but they are the fastest to be absorbed of all (this is thanks to the protein being partially broken down during manufacturing).

Are There Vegan Protein Shakes Available?

If you’re following a vegan diet, which increasing numbers of fitness fans are, you’ll be glad to hear that there are still plenty of options; with protein shakes that have soy, hemp, pea and brown rice as bases for their protein source. Among these soy is the most popular, as it packs in all nine amino acids, which are frequently referred to as the ‘building blocks of protein’.

A Healthy, Fresh Protein Shake

What’s the Point in Protein Shakes?

Some still mistake protein shakes as being suited only to bulking, when in fact they’re pretty much an essential for anyone looking to tone their muscles and improve definition.

Protein is a key ingredient for muscle growth, repair and function. It helps the body in forming enzymes and hormones, as well as transmitting nerve impulses. It also replaces the protein that is broken down during your workout, rebuilding them to be stronger and aiding in recovery.

In short, the benefits of protein go far beyond merely aiding your muscle tone and definition.

Are Protein Shakes Better or Worse Than Other Forms of Protein?

While protein shakes are great for bolstering your protein in one hit, they tend to be light on other nutritional essentials, which is why they should be considered supplements. It’s also worth bearing in mind that they have little to no fat, which compares to protein in meals which almost always involve at least a little fat. To put this into context, a 30g scoop of protein powder has around 21 - 27g of protein, which is the same amount as a 4-ounce chicken breast or 250g of non-fat Greek yogurt.

Who Are They Suitable For?

Protein shakes are ideal for anyone looking to increase their muscle growth, tone or definition; from Instagram models and bodybuilders to the average gym-going Joe Bloggs.

A Refreshing Summer Shake Filled with Protein

Can Protein Shakes Help Me Lose Weight?

You don’t need to look far to find a protein shake that’s aimed at those looking to lose weight quick time. While it’s true that they can help stave off hunger and drive down the temptation to snack, they naturally contain calories, so they’ll need to be added to your daily calorie count.

Are Protein Shakes a Viable Meal Replacement?

We’re going to be blunt here - No, protein shakes aren’t and never should be used as a meal replacement. They should always be worked into a healthy, balanced diet to ensure you are getting your required macronutrients and micronutrients.

How Much Should I Take Each Day?

Even if you lead a pretty laid-back lifestyle, your body should still be served between 0.8 - 1g of protein per kilogram of weight per day. If you want to build, tone or define your muscles, this should be hiked up significantly, to between 1.4 - 2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

Is There a Best Time of the Day to Take Them?

You may have heard that you must down a protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout. However this isn’t essential unless you’re committing to serious weightlifting at least twice a day (and for keeping your protein shake cool and fresh, you might want to buy a solid quality metal gym bottle). For everyone else, even those who train every day, simply try to consume a shake as soon as you’re able to do so following exercise.

And if you are working out twice a day, you should also add in plenty of liquids and some carbs to your post-workout intake (which is why eating, not just drinking protein, is important).