You can’t beat the convenience of protein shakes. These drinks are easy to consume and give your body the protein needed to rebuild and renew. You can use these beverages to reach your health goals, but it’s essential to pick the best protein shake for your situation.
Your body needs protein to thrive, and protein shakes are an easy way to boost your intake of this vital nutrient.
Protein drinks come in more varieties than you might realize. Health goals and dietary preferences vary from one person to the next, and there’s a protein shake to suit each path.
For example, there are vegan protein shakes for those who are plant-based, and keto protein shakes for those on a ketogenic diet. And you can use protein shakes for muscle gain or weight loss, depending on your objective.
So, how can you choose the best protein shakes for your health goals and your lifestyle? Let’s dive in.
In this article, we will:
- Explain what a protein shake is
- Discuss key benefits of protein drinks
- List tips for selecting the best protein shakes for your health goals
What are protein shakes?
Protein shakes are also called high-protein shakes and protein smoothies, and they are beverages designed to boost your intake of protein. These shakes are a great source of essential amino acids, and they often are at the heart of sports nutrition protocols.
They typically include a protein powder mixed with water, juice, nut milk or another liquid. And fruits — such as raw banana or frozen banana — are often added to protein beverages to enhance their taste and nutritional profile. Some people also improve their protein drinks with peanut butter and nut butter ingredients.
You can create homemade protein shakes using simple ingredients and a blender. Alternatively, if you’re drinking protein to regain energy after a workout or for weight loss, you can purchase ready-made protein drinks at grocery stores, juice bars and restaurants. These ready-made shakes come in many different flavor selections. Choices include chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
Protein drinks differ in the protein powder they contain. Here are some of the different types of protein powder used in high-protein shakes:
- Whey protein, derived from milk
- Casein protein, also extracted from milk
- Egg protein, typically derived from egg whites
- Pea protein, usually extracted from yellow split peas
- Hemp protein, derived from hemp seeds
- Brown rice protein, made from brown rice
- Mixed plant proteins, made using a combination of plant-based protein sources
- Soy protein, derived from soy
Benefits of protein shakes
Protein shakes benefit your health and well-being in these ways:
1. They support muscle gain
Your muscles need protein to grow. It’s no surprise, then, that protein intake from shakes can help boost muscle mass. These shakes are a source of easily absorbable amino acids for the body. The body uses these amino acids to facilitate muscle growth. For best results in this area, combine your protein beverages with a regimen of muscle resistance training.
Research shows just how beneficial protein drinks can be for muscle growth. In a 2016 study involving obese adults, participants given an extra 20 grams of protein weekly via shakes gained more muscle mass than those who didn’t add this type of protein supplementation to their regimen.
2. Protein shakes benefit healthy weight loss
Protein helps the body burn fat. So, it makes sense that protein drinks help support healthy weight loss. Furthermore, these shakes can assist with ridding the body of stubborn belly fat.
The data bears this out. In a 2004 study, participants on an eating plan that was 25 percent protein lost 10 percent more belly fat after a year than those eating half that amount.
3. They assist with weight management
Protein drinks work with your appetite and metabolism to support weight management. If you’ve recently lost weight, these shakes can help ensure you don’t regain those unwanted pounds.
In a 2005 study, participants who’d lost weight were given an extra 30 grams of protein over six months. Those who received this additional protein regained less weight than those who didn’t.
What are the best protein shakes for your health goals?
Here is some guidance to consider when selecting the best protein drink for your situation.
1. Avoid whey and casein protein shakes if you’re sensitive to dairy
Many people are sensitive to dairy. If this applies to you, steer clear of dairy-based protein beverages. Whey protein powder and casein protein are dairy-based. Stick to plant-based proteins like soy protein, hemp protein, rice protein and pea protein.
2. Consider whey protein shakes if you’re interested in weight loss
Generally speaking, protein benefits weight loss. But some types of protein work better in this department than others. If weight loss is your primary goal, protein drinks made with whey protein deserve consideration.
A 2011 study compared the weight-loss effect of whey protein and soy protein. The research showed that study participants who consumed whey protein experienced more weight loss than those who consumed soy.
3. Choose a soy protein drink if you’re concerned about heart health
If you have existing heart issues or if heart disease runs in your family, heart health may be a top concern. Studies show that replacing animal protein with soy protein can benefit heart health. With this in mind, shakes made with soy protein would be a better choice for you than shakes made with egg protein or dairy-based proteins like whey or casein.
A 2003 study shows that substituting animal protein with soy protein may benefit heart health by reducing low-density lipoproteins – also known as LDL cholesterol – and triglycerides. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides have been linked with heart disease.
4. Select whey protein shakes for muscle-building
We mentioned that whey protein supports weight loss, but its benefits don’t end there. This type of protein is also great for building muscle. As a result, shakes made with whey protein are a great choice if you’re interested in increasing muscle mass.
Studies show that whey protein outperforms soy protein and casein when building muscle.
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