The low down on protein shakes

The low down on protein shakes

One of the most frequent topics people ask me about is protein shakes. Should you use them? How? And why?

In my humble opinion, protein shakes have no place in a fat-loss program. That’s not to say they’re entirely useless, though. They can be consumed as part of a rapid fat-loss program—to great effect, actually—but the point of my online clients’ programs is to build good, sustainable habits. I don’t want my clients to rely on any product or service (even my own) just in case some sort of apocalyptic event takes place. Should that situation arise, I’ll be able to rest easy knowing that I helped build good habits in a group of would-be survivors. If you’re going to repopulate the world, it helps to look good naked.

I personally enjoy protein shakes; they’re delicious and incredibly helpful in the pursuit of muscle. Additionally, they allow for a convenient post-workout snack. Unfortunately, besides their convenience and so-called “fast absorption,” protein shakes don’t offer the same benefits as real food.  Some whey supplements come close in many aspects, but the truth of the matter is that no protein powder will ever truly outperform an egg.

The reason protein shakes are beloved by many (besides the candy flavor) is that they allow you to consume protein in the anabolic window, the time after your workout when your body is happiest to accept nutrients.

The narrowness of that window is actually a bit overstated. While muscle protein synthesis is increased during the hour after a workout, the effect is not much more substantial than it is two hours after a workout.  It’s certainly not substantial enough to give a “fast-absorbing/digested” product any merit. In fact, it is far more important to just consistently eat protein instead of trying to optimize the timing of it. (Plus, whenever I see fast-absorbing or rapidly digested, my mind reads the word diarrhea.)

But I digress. You are probably reading this for information on protein shakes.  


Q: What brand of protein powder should I use?

A: First off, I do not represent any supplement company. When I choose a powder, I base my decision on three factors:

1)   Number of ingredients. The fewer the better—besides whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate, the list should be pretty short.

2)   Taste. If you are going to drink something after your workout, it should be a reward, not another discipline. Enjoying your post-workout drink will help you create a lasting habit.

3) Price. A good rule of thumb is if it costs more than your monthly gym membership it is too expensive. 

Q: Should I drink a protein shake before or after my workout?

A: After, to help rebuild your muscles! Additionally, working out after drinking a protein shake can make you feel sick in a short amount of time.

Q: How much protein should I consume per day?

A: One gram of protein per pound of body weight, although keep in mind that 90 percent of that should be from food!

Q: Whey vs. Casein: Which is more important?

A: Both! Think of whey as kindling and casein as slow-burning coals. It’s easiest to build a bonfire with both!

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