One thing that we hear time and time again is that the Western diet does not contain enough protein. But managing to hit your protein targets can be tricky. Protein shakes are a cheap and convenient way to hit your protein, but how many can you have? Can you drink two protein shakes a day? Or is that too much?
It is certainly possible to drink two (or more) protein shakes per day, particularly if you are looking to build muscle. However, your best option is to consume protein from multiple sources via your diet. Try having one protein shake and adding a high-protein food to your regular diet.
In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at what protein shakes are, why they can be beneficial, and how often you should consume them each day.
What Are Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes are drinks made from a combination of protein powder and a liquid (usually water). The most common protein shake is whey protein, which comes from milk. But you can get protein powders from plant-based sources such as pea, brown rice, and soya.
Protein shakes are designed to be fast digesting, meaning that your body can absorb them and extract the necessary protein relatively quickly. They are also convenient. You can make a protein shake in seconds, they can be easily transported, and they have a long shelf life.
Protein shakes are also cost-effective. While the price may seem steep when purchasing a large bag of protein powder, the cost per serving is very low, much cheaper than most high-protein snacks or meals.
Protein shakes have another benefit that makes them attractive to people trying to build muscle or lose weight. They have a very high protein-to-calorie ratio. For example, a typical protein shake contains between 20 and 25 grams of protein, but will only be 100-140 calories per serving.
You can get similar protein from peanut butter, but the calories would be 500-600. This is because peanut butter while high in protein has a poor protein-to-calorie ratio.
Are Protein Shakes Healthy?
One of the biggest issues in the fitness and nutrition space right now is the talk about healthy and unhealthy foods. This conversation completely removes context and attempts to separate food and drink into good and bad.
A banana, when eaten alongside your lunch, is a healthy food. 500 bananas eaten in a single sitting every single day is not healthy. The nutritional makeup of the banana has not changed at all, but in one scenario it is incredibly healthy, and in the other scenario it would be a good idea to stop eating bananas.
This is an extreme example, but hopefully, it gives you an insight into the problem with asking whether a food is healthy or not.
Protein shakes aren’t particularly healthy or unhealthy. They rarely have many micronutrients, but they can make it easier to follow a high protein diet, which is considered healthy.
Even that is an oversimplification. Studies have shown that a high protein diet is highly effective at improving body composition , particularly when it is combined with exercise.
High protein diets increase satiety helping you to feel full for longer even after a low-calorie meal. This can allow you to create a calorie deficit and eventually burn excess body fat.
This means that high protein diets can help to reduce obesity and all of the other health factors that come with obesity . But a high protein diet that does not create a calorie deficit will not lead to weight loss, and it, therefore, won’t convey any health benefits.
If we accept that a high protein diet is a healthy option for obese and overweight people, then we can say that protein shakes can contribute to a healthy diet. But the shakes themselves are neither healthy nor unhealthy.
Bottom Line: Protein shakes are neither healthy nor unhealthy, but when used strategically they can help to improve body composition and may help tackle obesity.
Is Real Food Better than a Protein Shake?
In a perfect world, we would all be able to cook varied, nutritious, and delicious meals and snacks. We’d all be ridiculously healthy, and everyone would live active lifestyles. In that world, real food would be a better option than a protein shake.
But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where time is at a premium. Where cooking a healthy breakfast or lunch is often unrealistic as we have work, families, and thousands of household chores to finish before we can even think about food.
In this world, a protein shake can sometimes be a better option than some of the foods we eat. Protein shakes are low in calories, highly satiating, and packed full of good quality protein. They are a better snack than a slice of pizza, which is of course “real food”.
As with the previous section, this question requires more context. If you need to increase your protein but can’t increase your calories too high as you are trying to lose weight, then a protein shake may be a perfect choice.
But if you are able to make yourself a meal that is equally high in protein and filled with fruits or vegetables then that’s a healthier and more enjoyable option.
Can You Drink Two Protein Shakes a Day?
You can drink two protein shakes a day without any negative effects, and it may even be a good idea if you are trying to build muscle or preserve muscle during a diet. Protein shakes are effective, safe, and easy to make.
But they are not as good as many real food options, which you should try to consume instead if you have the time to do so.
Final Thoughts on Protein Shakes
There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to protein shakes, it is best to think of them as a limited option. They are great for building and preserving muscle. They can be useful during a diet. But they rarely contain any useful nutrients other than protein.
Try not to over-rely on them if you can help it, but don’t be afraid to use them regularly. They are a useful dietary tool, not a magic bullet.