These days, everyone with even a basic interest in health and wellness probably understands the importance of proper nutrition and has at least a good general idea of what roles are played by the different food groups. Over recent years, the importance of protein has come further and further to the foreground and hence protein shakes have become integral to the training regimes of many athletes and gym goers. This has encouraged manufacturers to develop an ever-broader range of protein shakes to suit all possible needs, wants, tastes and budgets, but while choice can be good it can also be confusing, particularly to those new to health and fitness and maybe even to the more experienced too. With that in mind, here’s our look at protein shakes and our answer to the frequently-asked question of how many you should consume in a day.
It all starts with protein
Each person has an optimum amount of protein they should ideally consume every day and this amount will depend on various factors including their body type and their lifestyle, particularly how much exercise they take. Consuming less than this may have an adverse impact on your body, especially if you’re in training, but there is nothing to be gained by consuming more, in fact, if you find yourself eating too much protein at the expense of other food groups, you may actually find that your training suffers.
Protein is protein
This is the point where something very simple can be (perhaps incidentally) turned into something very complicated.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
Whether you consume your protein through meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs or vegan sources such as soya, fundamentally it’s all the same food group. It may look, taste and smell different and it may come with a different range of additional benefits such as carbohydrates and fibre, but the actual protein itself is identical. Therefore, once you have determined how much protein you need, you simply need to ask yourself how you are going to consume that amount of protein in a way which suits you, your tastes and your lifestyle.
Meals, snacks and shakes
The three ways of consuming protein are: as part of a meal, as a snack or as a shake. Traditional wisdom has it that we should only eat three meals a day and avoid snacking in between them and, as is so often the case, traditional wisdom is often right but sometime wrong. Those who are leading fairly sedentary lifestyles generally benefit from sticking as closely as possible to this advice, although even they may benefit from some well-timed healthy snacks to boost blood-sugar levels throughout the day. Those working on their fitness, however, may find it suits them better to combine three main meals with snacks and/or shakes. There are several reasons for this, one of which being that healthy main meals need preparation time and often cooking time as well. In our modern world, time is a precious commodity and anything which saves it is often much appreciated.
Additionally, while we may have a need for protein, we may neither need nor want a full meal, which is why protein-rich snacks and protein shakes can be so very useful. There’s also the fact that although natural proteins sources come in a variety of tastes and textures, the range of flavours for protein shakes is massively wider and all the more so if you are a vegetarian or vegan and your options for consuming protein from food are more restricted. It’s also worth noting that most natural sources of protein tend to be on the neutral to savoury side of the taste spectrum, whereas some people prefer sweeter flavour or at least prefer to have more of a mixture of savoury and sweet than is easily achievable with food-based protein.
So how many protein shakes should you have in a day?
You should have as many or as few as you need to make sure that you consume the right level of protein for you. If you’re the type of person who’s happy to prepare all your own food from scratch and you’re organized enough to ensure you always get the right level of protein from food you’ve made yourself, then you might not need any (although you might want to keep a tub in the cupboard just in case). If, on the other hand, you’re happy to cook when you can but are fine with using ready-made options such as protein shakes for convenience and variety, then you simply need to make sure that you consume enough of them to make up the right level of protein for you. How many this will be in practical terms will depend on what sort of protein shake you buy, since different products have different levels of protein, but any reputable manufacturer will state the quantity of protein in each portion, hence taking away the guesswork.