What Do Protein Shakes Do?

There are a lot of people out there spending a pretty penny on fitness supplements. The hard part is determining how to incorporate them into your nutrition plan and fitness regimen to get the most for your money.

What Is In a Protein Shake?

There are many, many types of protein supplements out there, but generally speaking a typical protein shake will contain protein, carbohydrates, and fat along with some vitamins and minerals. The

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amount of each of these components will obviously vary depending on the purpose of the supplement. Whey Protein Isolate, a popular supplement among strength/power athletes, contains 90% pure protein, with very little carbohydrates and barely any fat. However, shakes intended for endurance athletes have a more substantial carbohydrate content to help re-establish energy stores in the muscles.

The reason that shakes are such a big deal all has to do with convenience. The fact that they are consumed in liquid form facilitates digestion and absorption at a much faster rate. There are several types of protein that can be consumed through a shake including milk, whey, casein, egg, and soy. The most popular among these in the fitness world is whey and casein.

What Can Protein Shakes Do for You?

1. Quick Pre and Post-Workout Nourishment: Protein Shakes are highly nutritious. When taken 1 hour before and within 30 minutes after training, protein consumption has been associated with increased protein synthesis, increased muscle mass, improved strength, fewer musculoskeletal injuries, and improved recovery after exercise by helping to repair damage as well as restore muscle glycogen.

-Strength athletes should choose a shake that is highest in protein, and lower in carbohydrates and fat to facilitate muscle maintenance and growth.

-Endurance athletes would likely need a shake with proportionately more carbohydrate along with protein to help promote restoration of muscle glycogen.

2. Increased Immune Functioning: Certain types of protein, especially whey protein, have immune-boosting properties. Whey protein is high in the amino acid cysteine, which is responsible for raising levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant the helps reduce risk of infection and makes the immune system quicker to respond.

3. Facilitates weight loss: Protein takes longer to digest than both carbohydrates and fat, making you feel full for longer. Also, studies suggest that whey protein increases and maintains fat free mass, and reduces fat by stimulating hormones that speed up metabolism. According to Jose Antonio, CEO and co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), it is important to choose a product that is greater than 50% protein, with fewer carbohydrates and just a little bit of fat, if your goal is a weight-loss.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

How much protein you need is contingent upon the type and intensity of exercise, the quality of the protein that you eat, as well as your energy level and carbohydrate intake. Generally speaking though, the ISSN suggests:

Endurance Athletes: 1.0-1.4 g/kg/bodyweight daily .

Strength/Power Athletes: 1.6-2.0 g/kg/bodyweight daily.

What Can YOU Do For Your Protein Shake?

Protein shakes are not magical. They require work on the part of the consumer. To promote muscle growth and improve strength and power, there must be commitment to a strength and conditioning program, suggested timing intake guidelines need to be followed, appropriate rest needs to be a priority, and above all, shakes should only be used to supplement a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), if protein shakes are used as directed, and as part of a nutritious diet, they can be a safe way to ensure that enough protein is being consumed.

Bottom Line:

If you are going to spend a pretty penny on protein, you ought to make every effort to guarantee yourself some pretty results!

Antonio, Jose, PhD, CSCS, FNSCA and Ziegenfuss, Tim PhD. (0ctober 30, 2008) The Role of Nutrient Timing in the Adaptive Response to Heavy Resistance Training. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on October 28, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Nutrient%20Timing.pdf

Campbell, Bill, PhD, CSCS, FISSN. (Downloaded 3-25-2010). Protein Needs for Athletes. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Protein%20Needs.pdf

Geiser, Marjorie, RD, NSCA-PT. (October 2003). The Wonders of Whey Protein. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, vol. 2, number 5, 13-15. Retrieved Oct. 7, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/issues/0205.pdf

Haff, G., Gregory PhD, CSCS.(December 2006). Protein plus amino acid supplements up-regulate protein synthesis and improve muscle performance. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, Volume 5, No. 6, 4-5. Retrieved on October 28, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/0506.pdf

Protein Shakes. Retrieved on Nov. 18, 2011 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/protein-shakes


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"Any change requires an initial period of discomfort until the body adjusts to the new demand." - Author unknown

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