Monday, March 14, 2011

The Very Beginners Guide to Protein Shakes

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I’ve been doing a lot of research over the past year on all kinds of health and fitness products. I’ve read up on everything from multi-vitamins and superfoods to building muscles and workout routines. There is one product though that it seems everyone has a different opinion on and there is so much to choose from, that it makes it hard for an n00b like me to figure out what to use or should I even use it at all.

Protein Powder/Shakes

That’s right folks. Try doing a search on protein powder and you will get hit with a plethora of information that will keep you reading for weeks. Not to mention that the information is so skewed by brands pushing their own products that it’s very hard to decipher what is truth and what is pure product pushing sales nonsense.

Well this is where I’m going to pay it forward a bit. I have been soaking up information and getting inspired by so many blogs this past year that I wanted to do my part and give out some useful info. Not just the usual whining about a gain or cheering about a loss, but some actual solid info I can pass on to you as a way of saying thanks. With that being said, please keep in mind that I am not an expert what-so-ever and I encourage you to do your own homework and consult a doctor before taking any kind of health/fitness supplements. This is just a kind of guide to start you off on your search for a good beneficial protein power/shake.

So, let’s begin…..
I want to try a protein shake, but I have no clue where to begin!

 Everyone needs protein. Whether you are losing weight or gaining muscle or just toning and maintaining. We all need protein. How we get it and how much of it we get is where the confusion comes in.
You can get your protein from your obvious sources like meats, eggs, fish and some veggies (yes I said veggies). Or you can grab it in the form of a drink. Now, I know what some of you are thinking, I’m not going to drink my calories. For the most part, I don’t blame you. Stuff like Slim Fast and the Carnation Instant Breakfast stuff, to me is just silly. Most of them do nothing to fill you up and most of the time they are filled with crap. But protein powders can be different. Protein drinks are not really made to be meal supplements. They are there to give you the protein you need for your muscles (among other things) and as an added bonus they fill you up and do it with less calories than eating the same amount of protein in a regular meal.

Ok, so what brand of protein powder should I try and what should I look for?

To keep this post from sounding like a sales ad I am going to keep brands out of it, but I can tell you what you should look for so you can make an informed decision when you go out looking.
1.    It should taste good! Seriously, I know this sounds obvious but if you don’t like the taste you are not going to drink it. You might try to stomach it a few times, but in the long run you’ll just stop taking it. Some places will even let you try it if you ask. Or ask around and see what others like.

2.    Make sure it contains at least 5g of BCAAs (Branched- Chain Amino Acids)and other amino acids.  I can’t go into all of them here but read up on them, you’ll be glad you did.

3.     Know what the source of the protein is (Whey, Soy, Casein etc...). I’ll go into the different types later.

4.    Read the nutrition label just as closely as you would read any other food label. You want to make sure you are getting the most protein for your buck/scoop. If a protein powder says you get 24 grams of protein per serving and the serving size is 3 scoops…leave it be, because most of what you are getting is filler. Look for something that gives maybe 24g per 1 scoop. This way you know you are getting more protein for your buck. Also look at calories, cholesterol and what sweetener they use. I stay away from anything with aspartame.

5.    Of course price. Do yourself a favor and shop around. What you can find in the popular health stores is usually much cheaper online. There are exceptions of course like sales and what not but for the most part buy it online.

Alright, so I’ve picked a brand. But now there are so many kinds of Protein to choose. What’s what?

Let’s go over the different types of protein.

1.       Whey Proteins: This is the most popular of the proteins right now because it’s a naturally complete protein. Meaning it’s loaded with EAAs and has the 3 BCAAs that I talked about earlier.  It’s also “quick acting” or “fast absorbing” as you will see on most of the containers these days.  Most whey protein powders now-a-days are made lactose free, so if you are lactose intolerant this is for you. Whey is one of two major dairy proteins and accounts for about 20% of the protein in milk.

2.       Casein Proteins: This protein is 80% of the protein in milk making casein the dominant dairy protein. It’s also a slower acting or “time released” protein because the body absorbs it and digests it at a slower rate.

3.       Soy proteins: This is the vegetarian protein and it contains all of the required amino acids in fairly decent amounts.

4.       Egg Proteins: Eggs…come on.  We all know eggs are a fabulous source of protein. They are loaded with EAAs and the protein quality is nearly unbeatable. They are a great alternative to the other proteins out there.

5.       Whole Milk Proteins: What we all know and most of us love. The powders are dried with most of the fat and carbs removed.
When should I be drinking my Protein Shakes?

To fully understand this you should really know more about why you are drinking them in the first place. You already know you need protein to help muscles grow and repair body tissue, nails and so on.  But do you know how protein does this, especially when concerning your muscles? Well, while you actually in the process of lifting weights you are not building any muscle. The muscle building process actually comes after you have worked out. During your weight training you are actually making tears in your muscle tissue. It’s these tears that are helping to grow your muscles.  After your workout the repair process begins on those tears and the growing begins. This is where your protein drink would come into play the most.
There is some debate on when is the best time to drink protein. But the one time almost everyone agrees on is right after your workout. This is when your muscles are recovering and therefore will benefit from the protein the most. The other beneficial times are debatable, but right when you wake up in the morning and before going to bed are two common answers.

Should I drink certain kinds of protein during certain times of the day?

Well let’s take it from what you have learned about the different kinds of proteins. Obviously since whey protein is the fastest absorbing protein, you would want to take that right after your workout (within 1 hour). Seeing I live about 5 minute from the gym I take it as soon as I get home. Others will leave some pre measured powder in their cars and drink it right after working out. Some people also take the whey right before working out as well. I’m not keen on this, as I am dollar conscious and would rather take it when it will benefit me the most and that is right after your workout.

As for taking protein in the morning and at night, I would say it’s safe to use your proteins with casein in it. The casein as you learned, is a slow release protein and when taken (especially at night) will slowly release the protein to your body over time. This is why I believe that one of the popular shakes…we’ll call it Muscle Cow Juice (so I can say I didn’t mention a brand name) is not the best for drinking right after your workout, but better taken in the morning or at night, seeing as it contains casein.

Another popular thing to do is blend or “stack” your protein shakes with other stuff. Some mix the shakes with fruit others some syrup, and the serious athletes also stack with other amino acids like L-Glutamine. Some will also stack with creatine and well... many other things.

 How much protein should I be getting?

How much protein you get daily really depends on your age and weight. The average adult woman may need about 46 grams (1.6 ounces) daily while the average man may need about 56 grams (1.9 ounces) per day. 

For those who workout and are hoping to build muscle, some experts believe consuming about 1 (.03 ounces) to 1.5 grams (.05 ounces) of protein powder for each pound of lean mass a person has. For example, if a man weighed 180 pounds (81.64 kilograms) and had 10 percent body fat, he would multiply 180 by 10 percent, getting 18 pounds (8.16 kilograms). Subtracting the 18 pounds (8.16 kilograms) from his total weight, he would realize he had 162 pounds (73.48) of lean body mass and should consume between 162 (5.71 ounces) and 243 grams (8.57 ounces) of protein powder and protein-rich food on a daily basis.  (Number info taken from

Are you going to wrap this up? It’s getting kind of long.

You’re right; this is getting a bit long so I am going to conclude this here. So as I’ve said earlier, this is not a total information packet on protein. There is always more to learn and when it comes to putting stuff in your body I recommend you do your homework and learn as much as possible. I will say though that I think taking a protein shake is a good idea to help you along in your fitness goals.

I hope I was able to give some decent info to anyone that was as curious as I was about protein shakes. I would also love to hear in the comments how you use protein shakes (if at all).  I always love to hear comments…good or bad. :) Also if you have any other questions please feel free to ask. I don’t claim to know it all (by far), but I can almost always find the answer.


  1. Great post! Nice, concise and neatly laid out! Protein powder use is so confusing and can really boggle the mind! It's something I've been contemplating due to my increased weight training.

    Thanks for laying it all out so well! It makes researching so much easier!

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Thanks Mercade and German! I'm glad you stopped by. Your comments mean a lot :)

  4. I have been looking for information on protein powders all week, and it does all sound like a sales ad and I skip it. Thanks so much, I am definitely bookmarking this one and rereading it.

    BTW, I found your link through Fit Blogger.


  5. Virgina- Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm really glad I could help sort some things out for you. I hated trying to learn about this stuff and all I saw was "sales ads".

  6. I was wondering if I should try a protein shake. I have back disc issues and am off work right now. Iam overweight but am trying to do core exercises for my back. I am just worried if I will gain weight with this

  7. You can find Low cal protein shakes as well as high cal. Try some that fit into your diet plan. I'm trying to lose weight as well and I drink 1 shake a day after working out and I'm still losing weight! Good luck to you!

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  8. when should i drink whey protein if i work out 3 days a week? do i also drink it everyday as soon as i wake up and as i am going to bed?

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  10. This was really good info... thanks

  11. Very informative. Glad I stumbled onto your blog! Cheers mate!

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  13. Beginner to the protein shake world and got quite a handful information!

  14. Thanks so much for your post, it's really helpful to me as I research these shakes. I started my fat to fit journey about a month ago and have recently begun a serious weight training program and the first thing my trainer told me to do was to have protein right after my workout. A friend recommended Ultimate Muscle Protein by Beverly International which seems to meet all the requirements you stated and my research supports that this is a pretty good option for me. Hope it tastes good!

  15. This is the starter article ive been trawling for. Thanks a billion - massive help

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Whey Protein are considered easily absorbed because it has low molecular size. I think for that reason it's preferred to fasten the process. Plus it's highly essential for whom are seeking to gain weight. As casein protein has slow absorption rate giving less food graving and induces weight-loss

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