Should I Be Drinking Protein Shakes to Lose Weight?

Should I be drinking protein shakes to lose weight? 

I go back to this question over and over again. 

You see, before becoming a trainer I was just a regular gal trying to lose weight. I had my own ideas and notions--you know, the things "I'd heard," about losing weight.

 

We hear many things: from co-workers, friends, family, and even people in the fitness industry, which is rife with a variety of products that we sometimes feel pressured to buy. 

 

Weight loss and nutrition supplements seem like a cornerstone of this industry. 

 

Protein shakes are everywhere and in every "weight loss" aisle.

 

Here's what I hear from most people: "If I eat protein and not fat, I'll lose weight, right?"

 

This is what I clarify for my clients and want to clarify for you: no.

 

What does a protein shake actually do?

 

I once called protein shakes a "one-trick pony," because they are meant for one purpose: protein intake. Of course, given the different brands that are available, along with each shake's proprietary blends and formulas, it's safe to say that there exist high-quality protein shakes that do more than provide protein. 

 

We all have a daily protein requirement, which increases if we are highly active. The average woman needs 46 grams of protein per day. In percentage terms, between 10% and 35% of your calories should come from protein. 

 

The more active you are, the more protein you want to consume. 

 

And why is protein important again? Energy?

 

All food, ultimately, is a source of energy. At the same time, when it comes to immediate energy, protein isn't the type of macronutrient (fancy word for food) that will help you run a marathon. Protein is great for keeping you satiated when you're really hungry, and protein shakes can be easily digested and absorbed into the bloodstream for those moments when you're feeling your glucose dip.

 

Protein helps to rebuild muscle tissue, and if  you're starving, then your body might break down the peptide bonds in protein for energy. However, the primary macronutrient our bodies use for energy is carbohydrates (I'm not talking cookies).

 

Because protein helps to rebuild muscle tissue, it is important to drink if you're undergoing a strenuous strength-endurance program. 

 

Protein shakes by themselves don't help you build muscle--building muscle and training helps you build muscle. Eventually, higher muscle mass will help your body increase the amount of calories used (but we'll save that for another post). 

 

 

Are meal replacements and protein shakes the same? Which one should I get?

Meal replacements have a more dense nutritional profile than protein shakes; this means that they've got more ingredients that, when put together, should offer a nutritional value that is similar or equal to a small meal. 

 

Meal replacesments are more expensive than protein shakes, and they will have more ingredients, such as:

 

  1. Probiotics and pre-biotics 
  2. Vitamins and minerals
  3. Antioxidant blends
  4. superfood blends
  5. adaptogen blends (helps with the adrenal system balance and counters the negative effects of stress)

 

Meal replacements also have protein, and because of the above ingredients, meal replacements are more expensive than protein shakes. In general, the higher the quality (think about testing, quality control, research, non-GMO, organic ingredients, etc.), the more expensive any protein shake or meal replacement will be. 

 

So which one can help me lose weight?

Let's clarify this statement: drinking a shake all by itself, without other lifestyle or nutritional changes, will not create stunning results. When it comes to fitness and body transformations, I emphasize consistency to my clients, and also that the changes have to come from multiple levels. 

So here it is: without a training and nutrition plan, throwing in protein shakes at random will not make your results suddenly appear.  Training, eating clean, and taking in essential nutrition is what will help you lose weight and build muscle. A protein shake is an excellent addition to a training and nutrition program, but by itself the results will be limited. 

 

That said, when choosing one that is right for you, it's better to ask these questions of yourself:

 

  1. How much exercise will I be doing?
  2. Is my current diet lacking in nutrients?
  3. Would I benefit from eating multiple small meals a day? Am I sensitive to blood-sugar dips and spikes?
  4. Am I willing to accompany the use of these supplements with exercise and overall more balanced nutrition?

 

For me, I take both. I eat many small meals per day. In part, this is due to the fact that I'm busy, and in part, this is due to the fact that I'm sensitive to changes in my blood sugar. I've seen the benefits of protein shakes and meal replacements in that they have kept me (and my clients) satiated, I know that when I drink my meal replacement that is a nutrient-dense meal that will supplement my eating throughout the day, and when I'm satiated, my food choices are more rational. 

 

Was this helpful? If you found this helpful, then share it and pass it along. I also love questions, so make sure to post further questions in the comments. Oh, and don't forget to join my free fitness community, Balanced Daily, at: http://bit.ly/libetfitness

 

 

xoxo Libet

Libet Chang