Do protein shakes work?

Protein shakes in milk bottles

Protein shakes have grown in popularity over the last few years, and not just with burly bodybuilders. You’re now even more likely to see your colleague supping down a shake at their desk as part of their diet and exercise routine. But do you know what protein shakes are for and what the benefits are?

What is a Protein Shake?

Effectively, a protein shake is just protein powder mixed with water or milk, but you can also find varieties with a smoothie style base. They are super easy to make at home, with bulk bags of protein powder available to buy in many supermarkets, health food shops or online. Many gyms and studios will sell you a protein shake or smoothie, and although it will probably be tastier than what you make at home, it could be full of sugar or other additives. Ready made drinks can also be bought in supermarkets, but read the label carefully for any added nasties.

Protein powders themselves come in many varieties and flavours, including vegan and vegetarian versions.

Protein shake in a glass

What are the Benefits of Protein Shakes?

Protein is important for the body for a number of reasons:

  • muscle growth
  • repair of muscles after they have been stressed (through injury or exercise)
  • forming hormones and enzymes
  • transmitting nerve impulses through the body
  • protecting the body’s immune systems

Drinking a protein shake is therefore a convenient way of getting the protein intake that your body needs to properly function. They are not a replacement for protein in your diet though, they should be used as a supplement to it. Supplementing in this way can be beneficial if you are following a restrictive diet, such as vegan or keto.

For a normal daily lifestyle, you should be aiming to eat a daily amount of 0.8g to 1g of protein per kg of your body weight. This protein amount should increase to 1.4g to 2g of protein if you are looking to build muscle. Having a higher protein intake can also be of benefit if you undertake certain sports, such as endurance running.

If you are looking for significant muscle gain, you should be consuming protein throughout the day with a recommended amount being 25g to 40g of protein every three to four hours (depending on your total g intake per day)


Protein can also be beneficial if you are aiming to lose weight, because consuming protein can make you feel more full and for longer. However, you do need to take into account the calorie values of what you are eating and drinking, to ensure you are not outweighing this benefit.

A word of warning too, is that many protein powders and shakes contain artificial sweeteners because this adds sweetness without adding carbohydrates. This can cause flatulence and a laxative effect if taken in large doses.

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