Having a protein shake has always been perceived as being healthy. Most people think that just because you’re drinking liquefied food you’re being ‘more’ healthy for some reason. If you think about it, protein shakes are a type of processed food.
Aren’t processed foods bad for you?
They can be.
All food has its purpose, and if you were to compare a protein shake to cinnamon toast crunch cereal for breakfast in the morning I would say the shake is a much healthier choice.
What about having a protein shake after a workout?
If you’re doing some challenging resistance training, having a protein shake or any sort of meal replacement can have some positive effects. If the protein shake you’re having has decent amount of carbs, it will cause a spike in insulin which will aid in quicker recovery and increased muscle protein synthesis.
After an intense bout of weight lifting your muscle cells become sensitive to absorbing sugar and using it for good processes instead of storage. If you’re the type of person who is having some trouble being disciplined with your nutrition, you can at least optimize your nutrition to eat your carbs after your workout to minimize the negative impacts of fat storage.
However, if you have 40 or more pounds to lose it might be best you skip all the carbs and even the protein shake all together. It really comes down to your goal and prioritizing nutrition practices for what you want to accomplish.
For those out there that have a significant amount of weight to lose , I would recommend a very low carb shake (10 or less grams) high in protein. You’ll get a mild rise in insulin which will signal your muscle to uptake nutrients to grow and recover faster. I would rarely recommend a client with a big weight loss goal to have a protein shake (or any liquid calories) for a meal replacement or a meal. Most processed food causes quick rises in insulin. Insulin signals growth of tissue. This means all tissue, fat and muscle.
For quick weight loss, stick to the low carb plan with minimal meal replacements. Use them when it makes sense, such as after intense resistance training.
If you’re 10-15lbs from your goal weight, post workout carbs in meal replacement shakes is a good plan to follow if you’re still trying to get lean. However, this isn’t always optimal for fat loss. Nutrition practices that are optimal for muscle growth are not ideal for fat loss.
If you are training for an endurance event like a half marathon or triathlon, doing low carb isn’t ideal. Fitting carbs into the mix will be important, however if your goal is still to lose weight – you’ll have a conflict. Of course you can do both, but there will be conflicts in best practices to optimize performance.
This is why it’s important to set specific goals and stay focused on them.
FOCUS. FOCUS. FOCUS.
When we get on the fitness bandwagon we feel good and then we want to conquer the world. We want to run faster, run longer, become stronger and have that lean flat stomach. Pick 2 or 3 specific goals and narrow in on them. After you accomplish them, choose another. Fitness goal setting is like going to college for a specific major. I highly doubt that there is someone who is studying for the bar exam while attending medical school. It just doesn’t work out well. If your attention is divided, you decrease your chances of getting anything done.
I know how hard it can be sometimes, because there is so much information out there. You hear one thing is good for you and then later you hear it’s not so good. It seems like a new diet book comes out every day. Information is coming in at us in such a rapid rate it can be hard to decipher what to do.
With most people trying to lose weight and get lean, post workout high carb (15 or more grams) protein shakes are not ideal if your body fat percentage is above 20% for male and above 30% for female.
Doing so will slow down your weight loss. However, it will increase your potential for muscle gain. If you have about 10-15lbs to lose, the boost in muscle growth potential will help a lot. If you have a big weight loss goal and you’re just trying to get your body fat % down as fast as possible, the benefits of the post workout shake will be too small to notice.
Each person’s situation is a different. There are always exceptions depending on your circumstances. Use these suggestions as a guide to help you make the optimal decisions for your fitness goals.
If you disagree, comment below.