Protein Shake Basics
Protein shakes are a tricky subject. While technically a supplement, protein powders are food-derived, and are the only supplements that provide macronutrients in any significant amount. Most supplements have trace calories at best, but protein powder has substantial protein in it, and often fat and carbs as well in varying in amounts. Protein powders are more like a meal replacement, or just another form of food, than some fancy, cutting-edge supplement.
With that being said, there are a few instances where protein shakes can be useful. If you are following a nutrition plan, and have a hard time reaching your daily protein goals, protein powder can be a very useful way to increase your daily intake, without adding a lot more food. If you are very full, and still need protein, adding a scoop of powder to some water is much less filling than say, eating a steak or large chicken breast.
After a workout, it’s important to get protein in your system within a couple of hours if you can. At the end of the day, total intake is most important, but it’s beneficial to get some after training if you can. A shake is a very convenient way to do this, if you know you won’t be able to get a good meal or other source in.
Lastly, protein powder is very diverse. Beyond shakes, you can add it to yogurt, oatmeal, bake with it - there are many ways to use it beyond a simple shake. It can also act as a meal replacement, or be blended up with fruit and liquid to create a satisfying, filling, on the go meal.
Ultimately, it just has to be seen as another food source. If you prefer to eat meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, and you are getting plenty of protein, you don’t need a powder at all. Many successful strength trainees have seen great results without ever drinking protein shakes. However, if you struggle to hit your protein goals, it’s a very good option. If you are dieting, or in a period of caloric restriction, you may be better off actually chewing solid food for protein, as this may help you feel more full throughout the day, but ultimately it’s all personal preference. You should view protein powder or shakes as just another food option, nothing magical.
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