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Mailbag: Protein shakes to lose weight or build muscle?

December 5th, 2008

What have you heard about protein shakes?

What have you heard about protein shakes?

Dear AllStarHealth,

One thing I’m still confused about with protein shakes is whether they are going to make you slimmer or bulkier?



Dear Shireen,

It’s not really as simple as that; protein shakes won’t make you slimmer or bulkier just by virtue of you drinking them; that depends on your exercise habits and what else is in your overall diet.  Protein shakes don’t make you or break you in terms of weight gain or weight loss – you’ve got to be doing other things, too – but they’re still a good idea regardless of which direction you want to go:

1) People who are dieting to lose weight use protein shakes to help preserve their muscle and lean body mass, so that any weight they lose comes mostly from body fat.

2) People weight training for muscle strength and size use protein shakes to help build muscle.

But even if you’re not concerned with weight or building muscle, and no matter how you exercise, and even if you don’t exercise you still need your protein for health.  Protein shakes give you a lot of high quality protein, all the protein of a big sit-down meal, but at a fraction of the calories.  So nearly everyone can benefit from them and that’s why they’re so popular.

6 Responses to “Mailbag: Protein shakes to lose weight or build muscle?”

  1. December 09, 2008 at 5:42 pm, ken said:

    Protein shakes are great for people who are trying to gain weight but I think they’ll only hurt you if you’re trying to lose weight. Protein is good and it can help you retain some muscle mass when you’re losing weight. Since a protein shake gets digested and absorbed pretty quickly, rather than keeping you full, it will make you hungry soon after you finish it. This is good if you want to increase your calorie intake not if you’re trying to cut it. So if you’re losing weight, I think it’s a lot better to get your protein from food sources. Shakes and weight loss don’t mix.

  2. December 11, 2008 at 2:13 pm, MarkTaylor AllStarHealth said:

    Thanks for the comment Ken. It probably depends on how a person uses a protein powder and which type they use. Some are fast-absorbing, some are not, and there are right ways and wrong ways of using protein powder in the context of a weight loss (or to be more accurate) or a fat loss program. It’s not as though the protein shake itself causes weight-loss or ‘makes you lose weight’, instead, it helps support metabolism, energy, lean body mass and overall health while a person is dieting and exercising. Only certain proteins and MRP shakes are designed to digest quickly, but even in those cases, people should be trying to eat 5-6 small protein-rich meals per day; that’s a big change for some people, so a fast-absorbing protein might actually help achieve that. After all, dieting and calorie-restriction alone are insufficient to produce healthy and lasting weight-loss. That requires permanent lifestyle changes including exercise and changes in the way people eat and feed themselves, such as the smaller, more frequent meals. We don’t feel people need to choose between protein from foods versus protein from shakes; you need both, but gram for gram, a protein shake provides fewer calories, sometime far fewer, than you’d get trying to get that same amount of protein from a meal or a whole-food source. So that’s actually a major advantage in a fat-loss sense. The exceptions would be certain MRP or weight-gainer shakes, which are high-calorie by design.

  3. February 09, 2009 at 2:31 pm, Matt Mahowald-New PFC said:

    It’s also important to note that it depends on what else you put in your shake. Protein shakes can be deceptively fattening, if you aren’t careful about what ingredients are in the protein, or what else you are putting into them. That being said, as the article says, protein helps build muscle, and muscle burns more fat than anything else. If you are workingout a lot, a protein shake is a great way to help heal the muscles you are trying to build as well.

  4. July 28, 2009 at 12:48 pm, ahmar said:

    Protein wont make you big or bulky. The way you work out will. so if you want to get lean try alot of reps 12-15 reps. Protein helps to speed up the process of your Muscles recovery. and if you want to be bulky and big to les reps more weight and consume alot of proteins.

  5. August 04, 2009 at 2:54 am, Protein Shakes said:

    Great content. Looking for some nutrition materials when I stumbled across your site.

  6. November 07, 2009 at 11:38 am, Trying To Lose Weight said:

    I have checked out a few of your posts and found some great information, just wanted to say thanks there is so much garbage out there, it’s nice to know some people still put time into managing there sites.

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