The consumption of protein shakes can be quite a confusing topic of conversation especially for uneducated individuals that are easing into a new lifestyle. Now that isn't necessarily the fault of the individual and I will explain why. Cast your mind from primary school all the way through to secondary school; when was the topic of food supplementation ever brought to the table? The only thing we were taught in school was how to adopt a healthy lifestyle by avoiding smoking, taking part in at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday and maintaining a balanced diet; don't get me wrong these are very important especially in a world today where 19.1% of year 6 children in the UK are obese (HSCIC, 2015). We must also state that whey itself is a complicated protein that has caused widespread confusion everywhere, so proper research from accredited sources (like I have done for this write up) must be done.
Before we concentrate exclusively on women we need to highlight the facts regarding protein shakes, unless you took an A level or a BTEC in sport or are an elite athlete yourself, then there is a chance that you lack the understanding on the different types of supplements that are out on the market; that is the key word as the aim of protein shakes is to "supplement the diet". Protein shakes are not magic powders that will instantly make one bulk up, this assumption might have come about because whey protein (the common form of protein found in tubs or sachets), has a high biological value compared to other proteins such as fish and soya; that means that more of the protein consumed is used for the muscle building process. Whey protein is easy to digest and when mixed with water it is absorbed into the bloodstream quicker. Below are a list of different protein sources and their respective absorption rates (Bilsborough & Mann, 2006).
Another popular supplement are casein proteins. They take longer to digest than whey proteins but do not let that throw you off guard. Because of the slow absorption rates they are good to be taken in between a meal and even better before you go to sleep to stop those midnight food cravings. I don't want to spend too long talking about the different proteins as I will save that for another article, but now we are in a better position to talk about women and protein shakes.
Now when protein shakes come to mind you probably associate it with gym freaks in a stringer vests hoping to be the next big thing (Brock Lesnar reference), but they are much more than that like we mentioned in the previous paragraph. Proteins themselves are an important macro-nutrient to have in the diet. The UK Food Standards Agency recommends the average sedentary adult to consume around 55g of protein per day (FSA, 2007). If the woman was physically active to maintain muscle mass she would need to consume 1g of protein per body weight in kg, and then to build muscle that would increase to 1.4-1.8g of protein per body weight in kg to allow for recovery and growth.
Yes proteins help with the repair and building of muscle tissue but if you are looking to lose weight then proteins play an important part in this process too. The metabolic rate is boosted with adequate protein consumption and appetite is reduced resulting in a reduction in calorie intake (Westerterp-Plantenga, 2008). A study conducted by Weigle and colleagues a decade ago showed that women who increased their protein intake by 30% ended up eating 441 fewer calories per day and in 12 weeks were able lose about 5 kg (Weigle et. al, 2005). Protein also keeps you from gaining (negative) weight in the first place, as a high protein intake also helps to build and preserve muscle mass.
Now that you know the benefits of proteins, you need to know what sort of shakes to purchase when you're perhaps looking for your first shake to buy. I recommend that you buy whey protein isolates instead of the cheaper whey protein concentrates, it isn't the end of the world if you decide to opt for the concentrate but the simple reason isolate is recommended is because the concentrates have less protein content than isolate and higher levels of fat and lactose. Remember the biological activity from a the beginning of this article? That is only valid for whey protein isolates as it is in a natural undenatured state and like mentioned previously, whey isolate gets absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly compared to other proteins.
So to conclude, you shouldn't be afraid to take protein shakes. If anything they will serve as your best friend and will help to achieve your goals whether it is to gain muscle mass, lose weight or maintain your shape. Always read the labels as every brand differs in what they include in their protein shakes (i.e. do they include BCAA's, article on that coming soon) and their recommended serving guide. Soon there will be a deeper look at supplementation so stay tuned for that. Remember protein shakes are designed to supplement your diet and should not be used as a meal replacement.
Take care x