After a challenging workout, a protein shake almost always sounds like a good idea. It’s tasty, fuels the muscles, and leaves your body feeling satisfied. But what if you work out every single day and find yourself enjoying protein shakes just as often? Is it even healthy to drink protein shakes every day?
While there are a lot of health benefits to consuming protein shakes, we spoke with two registered dietitians about the importance of protein and what will happen to your body if you drink protein shakes every day. Or even just consume protein powders or protein-enhanced products. Here’s what they had to say, and for more healthy eating tips, check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
While protein is found in a variety of foods, for anyone with a dietary restriction (like veganism), getting the proper amount of protein for your body can be difficult. A protein shake can be an easy way to get those amino acids.
According to Rachel Paul, PhD, RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, our bodies produce amino acids, but others are consumed through our diet, which are called “essential amino acids.” Animal protein sources provide essential amino acids, known as “complete” protein sources. However, plant-based foods don’t provide some of the amino acids, known as “incomplete” protein sources.
“Adding in a protein supplement like a high quality collagen, protein powder or bar is an amazing way to get all 20 of your amino acids,” says Tori Simeone, a trainer for Tone It Up. “It can be hard to get all of your [nine] essential amino acids in every day especially if you are plant-based, so adding in a high-quality protein supplement can be vital.”
Your muscles need protein in order to grow and stay strong—which is important for your overall longevity.
“Protein is essential for life,” says Paul, “Protein builds our muscles and organs, and also builds our enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters.”
“Protein (amino acids) is essential growth and development of muscle and other tissues, helps provide structure, helps maintain proper pH balance and fluid balance, act as chemical messengers that aid communication between your cells, tissues, and organs,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and the recent author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook.
While protein shakes do help with muscle growth and can be an easy source of protein for those who aren’t getting all those amino acids, be careful: Most protein powders contain heavy toxins and metals, including lead. This is due to the way the protein is grown and manufactured, and if you consume too much, you can experience high levels of toxins in your system.
“Anyone who takes a protein powder, or any supplement, needs to do their research and choose a third-party tested supplement,” says Goodson. She recommends the NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice. The Clean Label Project is also a great third-party source that does frequent testing of products.
“This can help minimize the risk that protein powders and supplements are laced with other ingredients than what is on the label,” says Goodson. “While it may not be a 100% guarantee, it is very close and weeds out those supplements at higher risk.”
Not only is a protein shake good for your muscles, but it can aid you in post-workout recovery. Having protein at least 30 minutes after a workout helps to feed your muscles and repair muscle tissues.
“Foods like protein bars or smoothies/ready-to-drink-shakes can be great options for snacks, especially post-workout snacks to help ensure you get the protein you need to start post-workout recovery,” Goodson.
“[It] is super important after a workout to fuel your muscles,” says Simeone. “We always say it’s best to feed your muscles within 30 minutes of your workout. Additionally, protein plays a key role in producing antibodies needed for immune function, important enzymes, and hormones that boost your mood and more!”
Having a proper amount of protein in your diet will help with overall satiety, which means having a protein shake will help you to feel full for hours after.
“Protein also slows down digestion, so it helps get you full faster, stay full longer and maintain stable blood sugar,” says Goodson
“Protein does so much for your body like curbing hunger and maintaining healthy body composition,” says Simeone.
Not sure if you’re consuming too much protein? Here are 7 Ways Eating Too Much Protein Can Harm Your Health.