Do I need a protein shake?
Protein supplements like shakes, powders, bars or pancakes (they’re a thing we promise) are popular with anyone wanting to build muscle and optimise their workout recovery.
The question is, do you really need it?
Your body needs protein!
Protein is a macronutrient, so like carbohydrate and fat, it gives us energy.
Your body needs protein to build muscles but also to make essential products like hormones, digestive enzymes and antibodies.
Your body also needs amino acids to grow and function properly – did you know there are 9 varieties classified as essential? Essential amino acids are components of proteins that the body can’t make itself so we must get them from the foods we eat.
Food sources that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins. The best sources of complete proteins are animal products like meat, seafood, eggs and poultry.
But are there plant-based alternatives?
Yes! Soy, quinoa and buckwheat are good plant-based alternatives that can help you towards that complete protein hit.
You can get the required essential amino acids on a plant-based diet, you just need to make sure you are eating a wide variety of plant proteins every day such as nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.
So… does more protein equal bigger muscles?
Strength athletes – or those involved in high volume, high intensity training – do need more protein per day (1.2-2.0g per kg body weight per day) compared to those that have a lower level of intensity (0.8-1.2g per kg body weight per day).
However, as long as you’re getting enough calories each day, a healthy diet will provide enough protein to meet any increase that you may need.
Loading up on protein over what you need, will not lead to bigger muscles. The body can only use so much protein at once, so any excess will just be thrown out when you go for a wee!
How much protein should I be getting?
Studies show that by adding 15-25g of protein after a strength workout in a meal or snack can boost glycogen storage, reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle repair.
This can be any time in the 24 hours after your workout. It’s best to spread your protein intake out regularly throughout the day, around every three to four hours.
To maximise the benefits, include carbohydrates in your post-workout meal or snack. Concentrating on a high protein intake without enough carbohydrates would mean the protein is used for energy instead of being used to build muscle.
What does 20g of protein look like?
Probably less than you think! Here are a few post workout protein fixes…
- Beef steak – 1 small palm sized portion
- 1 small chicken breast
- A medium cod fillet
- Half a standard tin of tuna
- 1 pint of semi-skimmed milk
- 350g of plain Greek yogurt (protein contents may vary)
- 3 eggs
- 2 large handfuls of almonds (100g)
- 1 tin (400g) of baked beans
- 1 portion of 150g of Quorn mince
So, what’s the verdict on protein shakes?
As we’ve explained, we need protein! If you need to increase your intake, the better options are to get these in natural ways through your diet and regularly throughout the day, however if you do have protein supplements to increase this, remember that more protein doesn’t mean more muscles – just take what you need!