A beginners guide to protein shakes

For many people, when you hear the words ‘protein shake’ this might create images of ripped men, at the gym every day for hours on end and lifting the type of weights that could cause their already bulging muscles to explode.

This is an extremely stereotypical view of the type of people that use protein shakes, as in reality there are a wide range of people who could really benefit from using them.

Protein shakes are a great way for people to add extra protein into their diet, whether they need it for working out or ensuring that their diet contains enough protein.

The shakes are typically made using soya, whey, rice or egg as a base and can come in a variety of tasty flavours; the most common being vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The shakes can come in either cans and bottles that have been ready made for convenience, or in a powdered form for you to make up for yourself.

Why would I need protein shakes?

The reason why protein shakes are associated with gym-goers is due to the fact that protein is ideal for muscle recovery, which can help with rebuilding tissue and building muscle. It is recommended that the average person should consume around two to three portions of protein every day, however, for someone who needs more than this (such as those with very active jobs or of course those who go to the gym) protein shakes are a great, tasty way to add more to your diet.

Most shakes will also contain added vitamins, minerals, fibre and amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The body can make it’s own amino acids, however, there are eight essential amino acids that the body cannot make (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) and so having these in your diet can benefit your health.

Whey protein is probably the best type of shake for athletes and gym users, as it is one the most absorbable types of protein available and usually provides high quantities of protein and amino acids, while remaining low in fat and carbohydrates.

Dieters might also be interested in protein shakes, particularly low fat, low carb ones, as they can make a great breakfast replacement with added fruit, or a snack that will keep you full whilst still being low in calories and fat.

When is the best time to take protein shakes?

There will be certain shakes that are best for either a pre-workout or post-workout.

The best type of shake to have before you workout is one that has a higher amount of carbs, in order to prepare your muscles for exercise by providing more energy. It’s best to take this type of shake about half an hour before a workout.

For your post-workout shake, choose one that isn’t as high in carbs; a whey based protein is best for this time as the body will digest it much quicker, which means that it will get to work on your muscles straight away. You should have this immediately after your workout, as soon as you possibly can!

There are many people who may be confused about whether it is best to get their protein from either shakes or bars.

For those who are constantly on the go, grabbing a bar may be a more convenient option, however, it’s important to know that most protein bars will take longer to digest meaning that your muscles will have to wait longer for the repairing properties of protein.

For the weight conscious, bars will usually contain a lot more calories than shakes, with the average amount being anything between 200 – 500kcals; there’s also the added sugars and fats to look out for. However, some bars can actually contain slightly more protein than what you might find in your average shake.

In conclusion, it’s probably best to get the majority of your protein from shakes, but if you really haven’t got time to prepare your shake before hand, a bar can be a more convenient substitute.