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Natural protein or protein shakes — which should you pick?

It’s not only good to increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat while maintaining muscle tissue, but it will also optimise anabolic hormone levels, increase metabolism relative to other nutrients and improve cardiovascular risk profiles.

Protein powders come in various forms. Most popular ones being whey, soy and casein protein. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock Images)

Proteins are large, complex molecules that play a critical role in our bodies. The best-known sources of protein, which include meat and dairy, are all complete proteins. That means they provide every amino acid the body needs to synthesize muscle and stimulate tissue growth and repair. They even consist of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and disease-preventing antioxidants.

In addition to health benefits like reducing your risk for cancer and heart problems, these substances promote digestive health and satiety. There are some negative side effects of protein shakes like gastrointestinal distress, nausea, bloating, headaches, nutrient deficiencies or negative interactions with certain medications.

Protein from shakes

Protein powders come in various forms, the most popular being whey, soy and casein protein. The most commonly used is whey as it’s a water-soluble milk protein containing a high range of protein and less fat. Further, it’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the amino acids necessary for human dietary needs.

Every athlete requires an adequate amount of good quality protein. It not only helps to increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat while maintaining muscle tissue, but also optimises anabolic hormone levels, increases metabolism relative to other nutrients and improves cardiovascular risk profiles.

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“It’s really not necessary, if you have access to a healthy diet including lean proteins. But in some circumstances, protein shakes can be considered as a good alternative,” says Rinki Kumari, Chief Dietician, Fortis Hospital.


Are you someone with a hectic schedule? Then a protein shake might be the best bet. They are an easy and convenient alternative and a good source of complete, high-quality protein. So if you need a quick supply of protein or are unable to prepare a whole meal, a protein shake is, of course, a better option than going without.


One benefit of protein shakes is that it only takes around 30 minutes to reach the muscle after drinking. This means it’s absorbed a lot quicker when consumed immediately after a workout. Solid food, on the other hand, takes more time to digest and the body requires longer to break down the protein and send it to the muscles. Clearly, protein powder has advantages when you take it directly after your workout, but during the day protein from food sources is sufficient.


Protein quantity and quality

“One 30g scoop of whey powder contains about 21g to 27g of protein. That is the same amount of protein as in a four-ounce chicken breast, 250g of nonfat Greek yoghurt or 1 ½ cups of black beans,” explains Kumari. Even though the powder has a higher concentration of protein, it lacks nutrients that naturally accompany proteins found in meat, fish, dairy products or whole grains. Protein food sources consist of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and healthy fats which otherwise may not be available in protein powder.

How much protein do you need?

“If we are highly active, a general guideline for our daily amount of protein is 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of total body weight. But be careful as there’s risk of consuming too much protein. A surplus of any nutrient can be stored as fat and lead to undesired weight gain. It is, of course, harder to overeat unprocessed proteins like meat or eggs than processed carbs and fat,” points out Kumari.

Whether trying to lose weight, build muscles or just stay healthy and satisfied all day, using both proteins from foods and powders has benefits. Limit your use of protein powders to when you feel that your body really needs a quick and fast supply, like post-workout and stick to foods high in protein throughout the day. Remember, a healthy and balanced diet is always the best choice.

First published on: 26-08-2019 at 16:00 IST
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