Are you considering drinking protein shakes to lose weight?
Protein shakes have been popular in fitness and weightlifting circles for many decades. Most assume that protein shakes are designed exclusively for building a great deal of muscle mass. While that is certainly a common reason for drinking protein shakes, some say they can also be quite effective for weight loss.
What Are Protein Shakes and How Can They Contribute to Weight Loss?
For those not familiar with these drinks, the shakes are beverages with a very high amount of protein in them. The average protein shake could contain upwards of 40 grams of protein. This is a lot of protein considering that on average, a typical adult needs between 45 and 56 grams of protein per day, depending on body size and activity level. See below for determining roughly how much protein you need per day.
A common question that will arise among those looking at the advertisements for protein shakes would be how do these shakes contribute to weight loss?
There are two main reasons. The first would be that protein shakes can be used as a low calorie meal replacement or snack. Since you can cut down the amount of calories you are eating per day thanks to drinking a protein shake, you will lose weight. Most protein powders are about 150-220 calories per serving so if you replace some meals with protein shakes, you will be able to cut down on calories. The good thing about protein is that it usually keeps hunger away for hours.
Muscles also require protein in order to maintain their size and shape. Protein shakes help ensure you maintain lean muscle mass when working out or burning up muscle due to high intensity cardio. Muscle is necessary for weight loss because it speeds up the metabolism. The faster your metabolism is, then the more calories you will burn during the day. This will contribute to the burning of stored fat.
Problems With Protein Shakes To Lose Weight
Does this mean that protein shakes will always lead to weight loss? Honestly, simply adding protein shakes to your diet will not automatically lead to weight loss. Depending on the protein shakes you purchase, you might even gain weight.
Commonly, the reason people do not lose weight with protein shakes is that the shakes are not an overall diet that leads to a calorie deficit. Instead, the shakes add MORE calories to a current diet. This will lead to weight gain. So, it is critical to stay on top of your daily calorie intake when drinking protein shakes.
You also want to avoid any shakes that have sugar, artificial sweeteners, or many ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Sadly, most protein shakes contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, and also have tons of unnatural ingredients. While this may enhance the taste, the weight loss and health potential of the shakes becomes undermined.
Also, to gain the muscle mass metabolic enhancements from the protein shakes, you will need to work out. No matter how much protein you ingest, you cannot build lean muscle mass if you are not working out either performing free weight exercises, body weight exercises or cardio work.
Heavy Metals Found in Some Protein Shakes
In 2010, Consumer Reports published their findings on 15 protein powders. They tested samples of each protein powder for mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead, and their results showed that all drinks had at least one sample that contained one or more of the above heavy metals. These heavy metals are toxic and can accumulate in your body potentially causing irreparable damage!
The following 3 products, assuming 3 servings per day, had levels that exceeded the maximum limits proposed by U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), which is an organization recognized by the federal government that establishes voluntary standards for health products.
- EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake
- Muscle Milk Chocolate
- Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème
Below are links to relevant Consumer Reports articles.
CBS News also covered the same topic on their TV program. Here is a link to their video.
Should I Drink Protein Shakes To Lose Weight?
If you incorporate the right protein shakes in the right way, protein shakes could aid in your weight loss. However, it is not a magic pill and it is not the only way to get sufficient amounts of protein in your diet. It is always better to get any nutrient from real whole foods as much as possible and it’s possible to get your protein intake from whole foods. For example, half a chicken breast has 27 grams of protein and 3 whole eggs have 20 grams of protein. 1 small yogurt has 8 grams of protein and a quarter cup of almonds has about 8 grams of protein as well. Below are major food categories where you can get lots of protein:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Eggs and Dairy
If you still wish to drink protein shakes to lose weight, make sure to avoid the brands listed in the Consumer Reports article and try to find ones with as small a number of ingredients as possible without too much sugar and artificial sweeteners. And if you find a good protein shake, please share in the comments section!
How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?
According to Consumer Reports, an easy rough way to calculate your daily protein needs is to multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.4. For athletes, generally you can have 1 gram of protein for every pound you weigh.