protein shakes for weight loss

Protein shakes have become of part of the fitness regimen of many people these days. Once seen as a supplement taken by bodybuilders, protein shakes are now popular with all fitness enthusiasts. Protein shakes provide protein to your diet without adding additional calories. They boost metabolism, reduce appetite, and thus help in weight loss. In this article, learn more about protein shakes and the way they help in weight loss.

What are protein shakes?

A protein shake is essentially a mixture of a few spoons of protein powder and milk or water. They are an easy and convenient way to add high-quality protein to your diet. There are several different types of protein powders available in the market. You can even opt for ready-made protein shakes.

Why do we need protein shakes?

Proteins play an essential role in growth, repair, and normal functioning of the muscles. They form enzymes and hormones, transmit nerve impulses throughout the boy, and boost immunity. When we exercise, the stress placed on the body leads to protein breakdown. Replacing protein in the body after exercise through protein shakes helps the muscles to rebuild and recover.

It is better and tastier to get your protein requirements from food. Most people can get enough protein from eating meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products. However, sometimes, individual needs or dietary restriction make it impossible to get enough protein from natural sources. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to use protein shakes –

If you’re trying to build muscle

If you have just started working out and you want to build muscle, you will need more protein in your diet.

Amping up

If you have decided to work out more strenuously or are preparing for a marathon, you will need to add more protein to your diet.

When you’re recovering from an injury

When you are recovering from a sports injury, you need to consume more protein.

Vegan lifestyle

If you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you have to eliminate several protein sources like meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy from your diet. You may need other sources to increase your protein intake.

Weight loss

Protein shakes help improve our health in several ways. They promote muscle growth, help reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, help treat type-2 diabetes, and are even beneficial for inflammatory bowel disease. However, one of the most common reasons why people use protein shakes is to lose weight. These are some ways in which protein powders help in weight loss –

1. Reduce appetite

According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, increasing the amount of protein in your daily diet increases satiety to a greater extent than fats or carbohydrates (1). Protein increases the levels of appetite-reducing hormones like GLP-1, PYY, and cholecystokinin and reduces the standards of the hunger hormone-like ghrelin (2, 3, 4).

During one study, when overweight postmenopausal women took a high protein breakfast, it enhanced their satiety and reduced their energy intake later in the day (5). Another study found that when male athletes took whey protein shakes, it reduced their appetite by 50 to 65 percent (6). Eating a high-protein diet can make you feel fuller and less hungry (7).

2. Reduce belly fat

Protein shakes are also known to reduce belly fat. According to a 2014 study, whey protein, along with resistance exercise, can reduce visceral fat and abdominal adiposity. It also improves insulin resistance, which is known to cause visceral fat gain (8).

Whey protein also contains lactoferrin and immunoglobulin, two milk proteins that protect against obesity and inflammation. These compounds balance the good bacteria in the gut, reduce intestinal permeability, and promote visceral fat loss.

3. Boost metabolism

A high protein diet can boost metabolism, which helps to burn more calories (9). When we eat food rich in protein while strength training, we can build more muscle. Since muscles burn more energy than fat, this helps to boost metabolism.

During a 2016 study, researchers gave participants a diet that contained either 1.2 g/kg or 2.4 g/kg of protein per day for six weeks. The results showed that the participants that took 2.4 g/kg of protein gained 2.4 pounds more muscle and lost 2.9 pounds more fat than the other group (10).

Proteins also need a higher number of calories to be digested and metabolized as compared to carbohydrates and fats. This thermic effect of food is known as diet-induced thermogenesis. The DIT values are highest for protein (15 to 30 %), followed by carbs (5 to 10%) and fat (0-3%).

4. Prevent muscle loss and metabolic slowdown

Most weight-loss diets lead to muscle loss, which causes metabolic slowdown. This metabolic slowdown is the reason why most people regain all the weight once they stop dieting. When you consume a high protein diet, including protein shakes, combined with strength training, you can prevent loss in muscle mass and metabolic slowdown (11).

According to a 2015 study, consuming whey protein supplements as a part of a weight loss diet helps prevents muscle loss and makes muscle maintenance more efficient (12). A high protein diet helps even older adults to retain more lean mass and lose more fat mass during weight loss (13).

5. Prevent weight regain

Not only do protein shakes help you lose weight, but they also help you to keep the weight off. According to a 2012 study from the Netherlands, high protein diets are more effective in weight maintenance than other foods. The results of this study that involved 132 participants showed that the people who took that high protein diet regained only 9 % of the lost weight, while the people on low-protein diet regained 23 % (14).

Another study showed that a 20% higher protein intake during weight maintenance after weight loss resulted in 50% lesser weight regain, only consisting of fat-free mass (15).

How to take protein shakes?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. However, if you are strength training, you need 0.72 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  So, a person weighing 150 pounds needs 109 grams of protein a day.

A protein shake provides 25 to 30 grams of protein per scoop. Taking two scoops of protein powder in your shake can give you 60 grams of protein. You can prepare a protein shake by mixing two scoops of protein powder with water and ice in a blender. Add a piece of fruit to increase the nutrient quotient.

Protein shakes are supplements, which means you can drink them to increase your protein intake when you can’t get enough from food. They are not replacements for meals. It is best to drink them between meals or around your workout time.

Types of protein powder available

The most common types of protein powder include –

1. Soy protein

This plant-based protein is perfect for vegans and vegetarians. It contains all the essential amino acids. It also contains soy isoflavones, which provide some health benefits.

2. Pea protein

This plant-based protein is low in non-essential amino acids like cysteine and methionine. It is a good source of the amino acid arginine.

3. Whey protein

This popular milk protein is water-soluble and is absorbed into the body quickly. It is a complete protein as it contains all the amino acids.

4. Casein protein

Our body digests this milk protein slowly, so it is advisable to take it at night. Casein is rich in glutamine, an amino acid that speeds up muscle recovery after exercise.

5. Hemp protein

This plant-based protein is an excellent choice for vegans with soy allergies. It is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids but low in lysine.

6. Rice protein protein

This plant-based protein is low in lysine.

Some brands of protein powder mix two types of protein powders. Protein powders can vary in price and quality as the US FDA does not regulate protein powder. A 2018 study found that many of the popular protein powders contained heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. Many powders contained BPA, which are known to cause cancer, congenital disabilities, and other developmental problems (16). So, always choose your protein powder from a reputable supplier.

Side effects

  • Bloating – Protein powder can cause bloating, cramps, diarrhea people who are lactose intolerant.
  • May increase insulin resistance – Some studies have found that whey protein can lead to insulin resistance (17, 18).
  • Protein shakes, when taken as a high protein diet, can lead to inadequate intake of fiber, which can harm long-term health by not providing enough fiber to gut bacteria.

Final thoughts

Most people can get enough protein from their diet alone. Protein shakes can be highly beneficial for athletes, older adults, vegans, and vegetarians. These shakes also help in weight loss by reducing appetite, boosting metabolism, reducing belly fat, preventing muscle loss, and preventing weight regain.

However, these shakes are supplements, and you should not take them as meal replacements. It is best to consume protein shakes between meals around workout time. People with lactose intolerance should avoid using whey and casein powders.