Do protein shakes work? Muscle gain and weight loss
People drink protein shakes for multiple reasons, including muscle gain, weight loss, and injury recovery.
While many foods provide you with a lot of protein — such as eggs, meat, poultry, milk, and legumes — protein shakes and powders have become a popular, high-quality source of this nutrient.
If you wonder whether these shakes will give you the results you want, you’re not alone.
This article focuses on the effectiveness of protein shakes for muscle gain and weight loss.
Protein shakes are a dietary supplement
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dietary supplements are products that contain a dietary ingredient, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs (1Trusted Source).
In this case, protein shakes provide amino acids, also known as the building blocks of proteins.
Dietary supplements come in many forms, from powders to capsules to liquids. While you may find ready-to-drink protein shakes in liquid form, you can also purchase protein supplements in powder form.
Many types of powdered protein supplements are available from either animal- or plant-based sources.
For instance, the most popular animal-based protein powders are whey and casein, both usually derived from cow’s milk. However, if you have a milk allergy, egg white protein may be a suitable choice.
As for popular plant-based proteins, you can take your pick from soy, pea, hemp, or rice protein.
Lastly, as their name implies, dietary supplements are meant to help you complete or enhance your diet.
Overall, protein shakes may come in handy when you don’t have high-quality protein sources available or simply can’t reach your daily protein needs through food alone.
Benefits for muscle gain
Protein shakes were initially consumed by athletes and gym enthusiasts who wanted to increase their muscle mass and improve their performance.
In fact, combining protein shakes with resistance training may promote muscle growth and enhance physical performance and recovery.
This happens because resistance training stimulates muscle protein synthesis, as does an increased intake of high-quality protein.
As mentioned before, protein shakes provide amino acids that are easily absorbed by your body. Researchers believe that their intake increases amino acid levels in the bloodstream, which in turn triggers a more significant response for muscle synthesis.
What’s more, studies suggest that protein shakes help retain and may promote muscle gain even if you’re following a weight loss diet.
For example, one study in 40 men showed that those following a high protein diet achieved via protein supplements lost more fat mass and increased their muscle mass when they added strength and cardio training, compared with the control group.
Similarly, another study in 40 healthy adults determined that whey protein supplements lessened the expected decrease in muscle protein synthesis after weight loss.
Therefore, protein shakes may help you achieve your fitness goals, whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle.