Is it Better to Get Protein From Shakes or Food?
For anyone looking to build muscle, and maintain a strong physique, having some muscle gain meal plans in place is absolutely essential. Of course, the most important component of any muscle gain meal plan, is getting plenty of protein.
Protein is big business these days, as powders, bars and drinks that were once reserved for athletes, are now readily available for anyone looking to enhance their health and fitness. The protein shake has become the ultimate exercise accessory, with many people opting for one over some protein-rich foods.
But are shakes worth the hype? And isn’t it better to get your daily supply of protein from food? We wanted to discuss the potential benefits of both, so that you can make a more informed decision.
First, why is protein so important
You simply can’t underestimate the importance of food for building muscle, and an adequate amount of good quality protein is critical to sculpting the lean muscled physique you want. Protein won’t just help to increase and maintain muscle mass and reduce body fat, it will also optimise anabolic hormone levels, increase metabolism relative to other nutrients, and improve cardiovascular risk profiles.
Whenever you do any sort of weight training exercises, your muscles develop very small tears. Taking in protein helps your body repair these tears, filling them and making them larger and stronger. Of course you always have to combine protein intake with exercise in order to increase your muscle mass, and you need to balance your protein intake with other nutrients too
The demand for protein is high, which is why protein shakes and supplements have become increasingly popular.
Why have protein shakes?
Protein supplements come in a variety of forms, but the most common is whey protein, which is a water-soluble milk protein that very little fat. This is used in the majority of protein shakes, as it contains all nine of the amino acids your body needs. In truth there’s nothing you can’t get from a protein shake that a normal, healthy diet of lean proteins couldn’t offer you. However, in specific circumstances, protein shakes could be an effective alternative:
- Convenience is a big plus for protein shakes, because if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to prepare a whole meal of high quality protein rich food, then they can provide you with a quick and easy supply.
- Shakes can be absorbed a lot quicker by the body when consumed immediately after exercise. A solid meal can take longer to digest and breakdown, meaning it would take a little longer for the protein to reach the muscles.
The downside to shakes
Protein shakes may have the advantage of being quick and convenient, however there are few areas where they fall short:
- The protein powders that are used to make shakes have little to no fat content. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, because without the fat, you won’t get the same synergistic effects that you would from consuming protein filled meat and fish for example.
- Protein powder may contain a higher concentration of protein than actual foods, however it will lack other important nutrients that naturally accompany proteins found in meat, fish, dairy products or whole grains etc. You’ll miss out on these extra vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Getting protein from foods, gives you the other essential nutrients too, which helps encourage healthy eating patterns.
- Protein shakes largely get their taste from added artificial sweeteners, as they help to reduce costs and contain low to zero calorie content. Artificial sweeteners can’t really replicate the natural great taste of fresh food. And drinking a protein shake will never be as satisfying for the taste buds as eating a real delicious meal.
Are shakes really needed?
On average, around 20g of protein consumed after exercise can promote muscle repair and help them to grow, but you could easily get this amount of protein from something small as a succulent chicken breast, or even from three medium eggs. There are plenty of foods that are great sources of protein, and unlike shakes you will get all the added nutrients you need too.
If you exercise regularly and keep yourself active then you’ll need roughly 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of your total body weight. However, it’s important to know that there’s a limit to how much protein your body can process at once. Once you’ve consumed roughly 30g in one go, your body won’t absorb anymore, and consuming too much may lead to it being stored as fat.
There’s no evidence that too much protein causes harm in healthy people, but constantly consuming protein from shakes instead of food could mean you’re leaving out other important food groups. This will result in an imbalanced diet, lacking in fibre and other valuable nutrients.
The majority of people can easily get enough protein from food, but this can change depending on your specific goals and diet. If you feel that your body needs a quick hit of protein, such as post workout, than a shake can be useful. But it’s best to stick to foods high in protein throughout the day. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or just stay healthy and satisfied – both protein rich foods and shakes have their benefits.