Here’s a guide on how to start drinking them.
The facts on protein intake – and why you may need more than you think
Protein, which consists of molecules of amino acids, is vital for building, maintaining and repairing body tissue. While the UK Government only recommends a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day for men and women, anyone who does cardio and/or weight lifting should aim to consume significantly more than this figure. That's because your body needs more protein to repair your muscles while you rest (cardio also uses a lot of muscle power, even if it doesn’t really help you gain muscle).
Why drink protein shakes?
Protein shakes are a convenient daily supplement when you need to increase your protein intake but don’t have time to prepare a meal. However, with so many protein drinks out there, it can be difficult to figure out which types are right for you. So here are some top tips on how to start drinking protein shakes.
The main benefits of protein shakes
- They can help maximise muscle growth
We know you're probably be aware that many people take protein shakes to gain muscle. However, did you know that whey protein can appear in your bloodstream in as little as 15 minutes after consumption? That’s according to Dr, Jeff Vole, a dietician and professor at the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University. This is one of the main reasons why they’re such a popular supplement after an intense workout.
- They’re one of the most cost-effective protein sources available
Drinking protein shakes is very inexpensive. You can often get a standard 908-gram tub of whey protein for less than £25 – and this will typically include around 750 grams of protein. So that works out at less than £1 per 30 grams of protein.
- They’re convenient when you just want a snack
If you’re planning on hitting the gym during the week, protein shakes are a quick and easy way to fuel your body for your workout. They’re ideal when you need an energy boost for an early-morning workout – and they’re also handy when you want to go to the gym straight after a workout but don’t have time to go home to prepare a meal.
However, only use protein shakes as a supplement to a healthy, balanced diet. Aim to get your daily protein intake from many other sources as well – such as eggs, meat, poultry, beans, pulses, nuts or seeds.
When to drink a protein shake
Many bodybuilders and athletes agree that the best time to drink a protein shake is just before you hit the gym – and soon after you’ve finished. The best options are whey protein or whey isolates, as these are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
If you’re goal is to gain muscle, consider taking a whey protein shake in the morning, as the fast-digesting whey will quickly introduce amino acids into your muscles after you've been in a catabolic state overnight, when amino acids are used to fuel the body's metabolic functions. For optimum recovery, drink your protein shake within an hour of finishing your workout.
Because you'll go without food for many hours, before bed it's better to consume a slow-digesting protein called casein. This feed protein to your muscles gradually during the night to help prevent your body from reaching a catabolic state. Casein protein can also be taken before a workout to help release amino acids into your muscles slowly, although it's best to consume this at least two hours before you hit the gym, due to the slower digestion rate of this protein type.