Protein shakes are everywhere. Whether they’re in massive tubs with bold text that belongs in a body builder’s kitchen or ~aesthetic~ bags held by your favorite healthy Instagrammer, it seems like everyone is turning to protein shakes. But why?
What do protein shakes do?
Does protein powder even work?
How much protein powder do I need?
What type of protein powder is right for me?
All valid questions. Let’s dive in.
Is protein good for you?
Protein plays a significant role in our basic daily nutritional needs. Our body composition and development depend on protein from adolescence to adulthood. But, of course, not all proteins are created equal.
In most western diets, we find our protein in meat. While meat is loaded with protein, it can also be loaded with saturated fats that can wreak havoc on our bodily function.
In plant-based diets, foods like soy, tempeh, and nuts step in to give our bodies the protein it needs. But essential amino acids that we find in traditional proteins are missing.
So, protein shakes were created.
We typically think of protein shakes as big tubs of chalky powder that only serious athletes use to bulk up in the gym. That’s not always the case.
Protein is good for you, and it’s essential to our bodily function. Whether you’re trying to monitor your intake of saturated fats or if you’re looking to add vital nutrients to your diet, a protein shake can be a great solution.
When to drink a protein shake.
There are so many pre- and post-workout drinks that claim to have muscle-building, recovery-boosting, and performance-enhancing benefits. So, it can be a bit challenging to navigate when to drink a protein shake, especially if you are new to the basics of nutrition.
Unfortunately, there’s no one definitive answer to the best time to drink a protein shake. It all depends on your personal goals and body type.
Thankfully, there are a few solid rules to live by to make the most out of your protein shake—whether you’re looking to gain muscle or simplify your diet.
Drink a protein shake for better recovery + muscle development.
When working out, you are actually making small tears in your muscles. When they repair themselves, they become stronger and bigger. But, to give your body the right resources to heal these muscles to their best, biggest, and strongest form, they need quality sources of protein. Or, a source of protein that’s packed with amino acids and carbs for energy.
Lucky for us, this exists in protein shakes. But, this doesn’t mean that you should chug one right before or after a workout. And, it certainly doesn’t mean that all protein shakes will make you ripped.
In fact, research shows that your daily intake of protein is crucial for the efficacy of protein shakes.
Your body needs protein before, during, and after your workout. If you are deficient during any of these windows, your body has nothing to use to repair your muscles. So, when to drink a protein shake really depends on your workout schedule and daily diet.
Drink during your strenuous activity to avoid fatigue.
Sometimes, protein shakes are confused with performance-enhancing supplements. While protein shakes can help your body recover and perform better, they are not meant to be used or relied upon for enhancing your regular training habits.
During any strenuous activity, adding more protein into your system with a protein shake can help delay central fatigue.
When you are working hard, your breath picks up, meaning your respiratory system is working just as hard. Protein consumption during this type of activity has also shown to protect the health of your respiratory tract and immune system.
Drink in the morning to curb cravings throughout the day.
When your body is hungry, it releases something called ghrelin. Before you eat, ghrelin levels rise. After eating, they are strongly suppressed.
So, switching your seemingly filling breakfast sandwich or loaded bagel to a protein shake could actually keep you fuller, longer.
How often should you drink protein shakes?
Yes, there is such a thing as too much protein.
Relying too much on protein shakes or using protein powder too often can result in some complications.
According to the US Food and Nutrition Board, the average adult needs .8 grams of protein per every kilogram of body weight. But, before you go stuffing your face, you should remember that there’s a cap. Going over 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight pushes you into over-consumption territory.
So, to make sure you’re not consuming too much, you’ll need to do some simple math.
How often you drink protein shakes depends on your overall goals. If you’re looking to bulk up, getting close to that 2.2-gram range may be a good option. But, if you’re just looking to add more protein into your plant-based diet, you should tread lightly.
How to use protein powder.
Okay, so you’ve seen all the tubs on your feed. But how do you use protein powder?
It’s quite simple.
When you drink protein shakes, you can still make it enjoyable. It doesn’t have to just be powder in a cup.
Infused workout shakes.
When you’re trying to eat healthily and live a healthier lifestyle, usually chocolate takes the back seat. But, many coca-flavored protein powders can give you that sweet taste that you crave without the guilt.
Throw a few scoops of chocolate protein, your favorite plant-based milk, and maybe even a scoop of nut butter into your blender bottle for a seriously indulgent, protein-packed shake that is ready in seconds.
Protein powder foods.
Yes, you read that right. If you prefer to chew your foods, there are a few recipes you can follow to use your protein powder as a cooking substitute.
Make protein powder pancakes with just a few ingredients. Add 1 cup oats, 1 banana, 2 eggs, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1-2 scoops of protein powder with a pinch of salt into a bowl and mix. They’ll cook into a better version of your favorite fluffy pancakes.
If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you can sneak some into a batch of 5-ingredient cookies. Mix together 2 bananas, 2 scoops of protein powder, 1 cup of rolled oats, 2 tablespoons of nut butter, and 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips and bake. In 12 minutes, you’ll have a batch of protein-packed cookies ready for you to snack on.
Both unflavored and flavored protein powders are versatile cooking agents that can make your favorite baked goods even better.
Smoothies & bowls.
Your protein shake doesn’t have to be basic. Protein powder gives traditional smoothies a creamy, thick texture, plus the bonus of heaps of protein. In your blender, add your favorite fruits, plant-based milk or water, one to two scoops of protein powder, and ice. You’ll get a snack or even a complete meal that will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but your hunger, too.
Types of protein powder.
There are a few different types of protein powders that you should know before you start your shopping journey. The main difference is the core protein source.
Some are protein concentrates, which means the protein is extracted from whole foods to keep high amounts of protein and low amounts of fats and carbs.
There are also protein isolates that use a filtering process to keep only protein and filter out fat and carbs.
And finally, there are protein hydrolysates, which use heat to extract and break down bonds in the amino acids found in protein to help it absorb into the body and muscles faster.
These are a few of the main types of protein powders that you might come across in your search.
Whey protein powder.
Protein powder vs. whey—it’s the battle that never ends. What people misunderstand is that whey is a form of protein powder that uses
Whey comes from milk. When making cheese, whey is found in the liquid that removes the curds from the process. It’s hight in protein but contains lactose. And, it’s typically not vegan-friendly.
Casein protein powder.
Casein is very similar to whey. Both are derived from proteins but differ in how the body reacts. Casein releases slower into the body, and it takes longer to digest, too. Because it’s gradually and steadily exposed to the body, your muscles have a more consistent form of amino acids. This results in less muscle protein breakdown, which can help promote better muscle mass creation.
But, like whey, if you’re looking for a vegan option, casein is not for you. Casein is found in milk, making it another suitable dairy protein powder option.
Soy protein powder.
We know lots about soy protein at Soylent, but we won’t go too in-depth. All you really need to know about soy protein is that it’s derived from soybeans. It’s often referred to as soy protein isolate because of the way it’s prepared.
Soy protein isolate powder is made from soybean flakes that have been defatted and washed in either water or alcohol to remove excess sugar and dietary fiber. The cleansed flakes are dehydrated and crushed, turning it into the powder that we all know and love.
Unlike whey and casein, soy protein powder contains zero dairy and also very little fat and cholesterol. Soy protein powder is also completely vegan and plant-based. It’s a complete source of protein that can blend into any dietary lifestyle.
Protein powder vs. Soylent.
Protein powder and Soylent powder are two different entities. While protein powder can keep you fuller, longer, there are not enough calories in protein powder to make it sufficient enough for a complete meal.
Soylent powder uses a balance of protein, slow-burning carbohydrates, omega-3 fats, and 26 essential micros to create a balanced 400-calorie meal. Soylent Powder is meant to replace a meal, but not all meals. Switching one meal a day for a Soylent Powder shake can help control your nutrition and give you better fuel faster.
Not all protein powders are created like this. If you use a typical protein supplement as a meal, your body will lack the essential nutrients you need to stay focused, feel satisfied, and function at your best.
Soylent was designed to give you both protein and a complete meal in every scoop. On the other hand, using Soylent Powder as a protein supplement, along with eating three meals a day, can push you over your daily recommended caloric intake.
So, we strive to create products that fill a food void—when you don’t have access or time to get proper nutrition, you can turn to Soylent.