In fitness and bodybuilding communities, protein shakes are as ubiquitous as water. Everyone has their favorite brand and swears by a particular amino acid formulation. At the same time, nutritionists and dieticians are warning against overdoing it and consuming too much protein.
How necessary are protein shakes if you exercise? How much protein is too much?
In this article, we will begin to answer some of the most salient questions about protein shakes, and help you determine whether you should be integrating them into your diet.
What Defines a Protein Shake?
A protein shake is a drink that has a formulated protein supplement as a base. Some shakes are composed purely of protein mix and flavoring, while others are mixed with juices, fruit, or vegetables for flavor, consistency, and additional nutrition.
The protein is made up of amino acids in different proportions, and normally contains all or most of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
Do We Need to Take Protein Supplements?
Protein is very important for human growth, development, and health. It is an important component of our bones, muscles, hair, and blood, as well as our immune system antibodies and enzymes.
To answer the question of whether or not we need to take a protein supplement, it is important to understand how much protein we need to consume.
What is Your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Protein?
To determine your RDA of protein, just multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.80. For example, if you weigh 50 kg (110 lbs) and don’t exercise, you should be consuming 40 g of protein a day. Keep in mind that this is a base figure, and it will increase depending on your level of exercise. You can use the USDA’s nutrient needs calculator to find out exactly how much protein you should be consuming.
Now, let’s say after having used the calculator, you find that you should be consuming 50 g of protein a day. Can you get this through only food?
One ounce of beef contains up to 15 g of protein. That means you would need less than 3.5 ounces of beef (less than a standard serving) to meet your protein needs. On top of that, you are getting protein through bread, legumes, dairy products, eggs, and most other foods. You can check out the protein content of common foods on the John Hopkins University Medical Center website.
So it is absolutely possible for you to get all the protein you need through food.
Why Do People Choose to Take Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes are beneficial for people who have a very restricted or controlled diet, or who exercise for a significant part of their day. These people control not only total protein intake, but also amino acid proportions.
Even so, it is important that everyone who performs intense exercise and follows a strict dietary regimen consults regularly with a dietician to ensure they are consuming foods in the correct proportions to prevent deficiencies, overnutrition, or related illnesses and side effects.
Even if you exercise regularly, as long as it is not a significant part of your day-to-day activities and you are able to consume protein from whole foods, there is no need to take protein shakes. You can get all the protein you need from whole food, as well as all the important carbohydrates, fiber, fat, and micronutrients needed for whole health and a balanced diet.
What Are the Risks of Protein Shakes?
It is possible to consume too much protein. According to this review, if you consume protein above your recommended dietary allowance the adverse effects can include:
- Disorders of bone and calcium homeostasis
- Disorders of renal function
- Increased cancer risk
- Disorders of liver function
- Progression of coronary artery disease
These risks are nothing to scoff at! If you worried about not getting enough protein through food, talk to a dietician or nutritionist to explore the possibility of taking a protein supplement.
Image Credit: Paige Yeaton