Author: Raj Chandler • Fact checked by: Tara D. Thies • March 31, 2021
Protein shakes can be an excellent part of an eating plan for people with all types of fitness goals. Athletes rely on protein intake to increase performance and build muscle, while those looking to drop body weight and increase lean body mass will want to keep their daily protein intake elevated to maximize fat loss.
Protein powder shakes may be a convenient way to consume protein, but at some point you may wonder if there is a limit to how many shakes you should be drinking each day. Like any good thing, there comes a point when you can consume too many protein shakes.
To be clear, there is no hard-and-fast rule about drinking protein shakes, and having too many of them in one day likely won’t have any long-term detrimental effects. For most people, anywhere from one to three protein shakes per day should be plenty to help them meet their nutritional needs. Drinking more than three shakes per day probably won't be detrimental, but you’d likely be better off replacing protein supplements with whole foods that are more satiating and provide a more diverse array of micronutrients.
You probably already know the numerous benefits of protein consumption, which include making you feel for a longer period of time than other nutrients, improving muscle growth, and assisting with weight loss. Even if you are looking to build an eating plan that helps with weight gain, protein will help ensure that you add as much muscle as possible so that you can maximize strength and performance efficiency.
Protein shakes offer the same benefits of protein intake while providing you with a convenient delivery method compared to whole food protein sources such as chicken, steak and tuna. Shakes are an especially convenient form of measurable protein supplementation before, after, or even during a resistance training workout. It's much easier to prepare and drink protein shakes with a precise amount of protein out of a blender bottle than it is to prepare a fresh meal, especially for busy fitness enthusiasts who still want to ensure they consume the right amount of protein each day.
Shakes can also provide you with varying tastes and flavor combinations that you might not get from typical protein-rich foods. Strawberry, mocha, and vanilla are all common flavors found in meal replacement protein drinks.
As mentioned before, for most healthy people, there are no specific health risks or long-term dangers associated with consuming too many protein shakes to meet your daily protein requirement in a single day. Depending on the type of shakes you are consuming and their ingredients, you might experience some short term digestive side effects including cramping, bloating and excessive gas.
It's also important to note that in the long-run, there are risk factors of eating an extremely high protein diet. Studies have found that even normally healthy individuals who consume too much protein may suffer from side effects including decreased liver function and higher risk of coronary heart disease. Up to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is the tolerable upper limit, according to research.
The more important problem with drinking more than three shakes to get enough protein each day is it means you're likely neglecting whole foods that could be used instead. The benefit of consuming protein from whole food sources is that they tend to have a more diverse array of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, which are important for a healthy body no matter what your fitness goals may be. Variety is a critical component of meeting nutrient needs including protein and beyond.
Medical research also indicates that a more diverse diet tends to promote weight loss. This is especially true if you are eating a high-protein diet composed of nutrient-dense whole foods. Finally, whole foods tend to be more satiating than protein shakes. Imagine eating a post-workout meal with 20 grams of protein, versus drinking a protein shake with 20 grams of protein. Odds are you'll get hungrier more quickly after drinking the shake, compared to eating food.
In the long run, it’s not good to make a habit of replacing whole meals with protein shakes. Understanding the reasons behind not drinking too many shakes a day is important, but it still may leave you with questions about the best way to incorporate protein shakes into your diet.
There are two tried-and-true scenarios from the world of fitness that should help you come up with a way to consume protein shakes so that you don't overdo it. If you are new to regularly consuming protein shakes, these two situations are great to “plug and play” them into your diet.
Whether it's in the morning while you are getting ready for work or after a mid-day workout when you still have responsibilities to finish, it's not always easy to find time to sit down and prepare an entire meal for yourself – not to mention those who cook for others. These are the perfect instances when a protein shake can help you maintain your daily protein intake. Dropping a scoop or two of powder into a bottle is much easier than prepping a meal – plus, it gives you a way to meet your exact protein targets without having to worry about weighing every single thing in your meal.
You've probably been in the situation before: lunch was only an hour ago, you've got a full slate of work on your schedule for the rest of the afternoon, but your stomach is still growling. Whether you're looking to lose weight or build muscle mass, managing your food intake is important. Having a protein shake to help tide you over until your next meal is a great way to control calories while still helping satiate your hunger. This method of hunger control has the added bonus of getting you closer to your daily protein intake target.
Missing a meal might not make you feel great, but replacing one meal with a protein shake probably won't have any long-term effects. Besides the amino acids your body needs to build muscle, some shakes come with carbs and other nutrients that make you feel full and give you a larger variety of fuel. However, you don't want to get into the habit of frequently using protein shakes as a full meal replacement when you would normally eat whole foods.
The development of the nutritional supplement market means there are now a variety of high-quality protein shakes available in many different flavors, made out of more than just the classic whey protein you're probably familiar with. Peas, hemp, and soy are just a few examples of modern sources for protein.
Micellar casein protein shakes, which are derived from the other form of dairy protein besides whey, are also an excellent option for a more slow-digesting protein. By consuming a variety of different protein sources you can get a mix of quick, medium and slow-digesting proteins. This keeps a steady stream of amino acids available for muscle health.
It doesn't matter if your goal is to gain muscle, lose weight, or simply to maintain lean mass while improving athletic performance: protein intake is critical. Shakes are a great way to help you meet your daily protein goals and curb hunger – but like all other helpful tools, moderation is important.
This blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Be sure that you consult with an expert source – such as a registered dietitian – who can help you plan a balanced diet with all the necessary macronutrients, including proteins, fats and carbohydrates. When you have a balanced diet, a consistent schedule and the right type of supplements each day, it makes building muscle or losing weight a much easier and enjoyable process.
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