Updated October 2020.
Protein shakes are a frequently consumed supplement for those looking to build and maintain lean muscle mass. They can range from 100% protein to mostly carbohydrates with added protein and fat. They also come in a variety of flavors in powder form or ready-to-drink packages, such as cans or foil packs.
Whey is one protein supplement that continues to grow in popularity. Whey is one of the two major groups of proteins found in milk and is a fast-absorbing source of protein. It also has a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are highly concentrated in muscle tissue, and are used to fuel working muscles and stimulate protein synthesis.
Whey is created by filtering milk protein and is the byproduct of the cheese-making process. It can be processed to yield whey protein in three forms: whey isolate, whey concentrate, or whey hydrolysate. The difference between the whey protein forms is the process used to filter the proteins. Whey isolates yield a higher percentage of pure protein and can be filtered enough to be virtually lactose-free, carbohydrate-free, and cholesterol-free.
How much protein do you need?
Are protein supplements always necessary? Keep in mind that generally, it's best to try to obtain as many of our nutrients from whole foods. That means whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you are an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or serious strength trainer, you may find that adding a protein supplement post-exercise helps with optimal muscle recovery and synthesis. It is a quick fix when you're short on time and can't prepare a nutrient-dense meal or snack immediately after a workout.
It's important to know that most people can get the protein they need from whole foods and drinks in their diet. The recommended daily intake of protein for normal healthy adults is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight or about 45 to 56g of protein a day.
Remember, the more active you are, the more energy you will need. It is important to maintain a well-balanced diet satisfying all of the food groups and not just an increased consumption of protein. Too much protein in the diet can have detrimental effects. Consuming excess protein in the diet, especially with carbohydrate restriction, can lead to the buildup of toxic ketones that is accompanied by a corresponding loss of water through the kidneys, leading to dehydration. A deficiency in nutrients like fiber and certain vitamins can occur, too.
If you're curious about the right protein intake for your lifestyle, talk to a nutritionist on Amwell from home! Registered dietitians can help create a meal plan ideal for better health.