Why You Shouldn't Be Relying on Protein Shakes

Why You Shouldn't Be Relying on Protein Shakes

Before we get into protein shakes I’d like to go a bit into diet. How important is diet to getting in good shape? 100% without a doubt the most important part of getting in shape. If you don’t follow the diet, you won’t grow properly. All muscle growth is, is a conversion of amino acids from the diet into proteins (muscles) in the body. You can take all the steroids in the world. You can train harder than anyone, but if you don’t follow a proper diet you won’t grow. 

I’ve often been asked how seriously one needs to take a diet, my client will see guys that eat garbage sometimes, yet still look decent and gain size. I think the key word here is “sometimes.” You may find someone who looks decent who follows a shitty diet - but they absolutely won’t look nearly as good as they would by following a proper diet… and the fact that they look decent is only because of their genetics. 

If you want to weigh a lot, look like a fat guy with your shirt off (but still be able to pull of the “big guy” look with a shirt on), and have people ask you if you used to play football, then take gear, train hard, and eat like garbage. If you want to look like a fitness model -- you need to eat like one. 

So now that I’m done with my dieting rant, let’s get down to protein shakes. I often get asked questions like; when should I use protein shakes? How often? What type of whey? Casein, blends? My answer is never (unless you can’t eat whole food protein at some time). They aren’t as good as whole food. They’re only to be used if you can’t eat a whole food protein source. If you must have one, they’re all pretty similar--a whey/casein blend is probably best, but it won’t be as good as a whole food protein (meat or eggs primarily) 

So how about the myth that protein shakes should be ingested immediately after a workout to stimulate protein synthesis. In theory this is true, but again, no protein shakes--just whole foods. Going back to the idea of “1g of protein per hour is the max rate of protein synthesis you can sustain long term,” let’s look at protein powders. 

A rapidly digesting source like Whey isolate or hydrolysate is going to be mostly digested in 90 minutes or so. Let’s assume we’re synthesizing new muscle at three times the max rate we can expect to sustain long term--that means that in those 90 minutes we are using less than 5g of that protein powder for actual muscle growth. The rest is going towards other energy requirements. When you consider that, your 50g shake becomes an expensive simple sugar. 

In conclusion, no shakes. If you need to have a shake because you don’t have cooked meat, then that’s a different story. A shake should only be used in case of emergency when you don’t have anything else on hand, a supplement to the base diet and never a replacement for whole foods.