If you follow me on Instagram, you might have worked out that I use a few supplements to aid my training. So, you can probably guess my standpoint is that supplements like protein shakes are not a scam. Although, their questionable advertising does mean if you’re not the most knowledgeable, you’re more than likely to buy the wrong kind for you and the whole thing be a massive bust. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll be a supplements guru, steal my job, and get hella gains.
Please note: this article is aimed at those over 16. It is not generally recommended for people under 16 to use protein shakes.
Following a quick poll I did on my Instagram yesterday, I decided to write a full length post on the credibility of protein shakes. You can see the results above.
What exactly are protein shakes?
Essentially, a protein shake just a more convenient way to get more protein into your diet. They’re used a lot by people super into fitness or those who are struggling to get enough protein into their busy schedules. The reason protein shakes and fitness almost go hand in hand now is because having a good intake of protein is vital for muscle growth and repairing our muscles after a tough workout. They’re not laced with steroids, you’re not gonna turn in to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson overnight… It’s simply just an easy way to add some more protein to your diet, which you also get in almost all the foods you eat.
Before you go buy some huge £40 (*gasp*) tub, you obviously need to ask yourself a few questions. What are you trying to get from supplements? Can you get it consistently from eating well/”real” food? Are you expecting too much or going to rely too heavily on supplementing? It is always preferable to get your protein from a plate of food than a shake.
What are you trying to get?
Generally, people start supplementing for more protein. Are you looking to recover better, gain muscle/strength? You’re probably looking at protein shakes. There is such an enormous amount on the market, it is so easy for even a self-proclaimed fitness guru to get lost in it. I’ll go into more detail in just a few.
I also find that a lot of people go to supplementing to lose weight, using meal replacement options. I think that this is a waste of time, you can get more nutritious, and lower-cal options with a little research and effort. This way you can save yourself some money and a possibly bad tasting shakes.
I’m going to go into quite a bit of detail on protein shakes, as getting the best one for you is imperative to getting good results. For now I will be only focusing on Whey Protein Powder but there are plenty of kinds of shakes which I’ll hopefully write about in the future. We are going to be paying a lot of attention to nutritional values and ingredients to make sure we get the best possible shake.
I want to gain muscle weight
There are plenty of protein shakes out there for us people who want to pack on some muscle weight. Maybe you are like me, always been pretty thin/small and considered a bit of a weakling, this’ll be the category for you (at least for a while). The problem is, some of these shakes have some unnecessary chemicals in that we want to avoid. So it’s important to buy from reputable companies and websites.
Most people refer to these kind of shakes as “gainer shakes”. Generally, there’ll be way more calories and protein (in g) in these, but of course with this possibly comes lots of sweeteners or sugars, so paying attention to the nutritional values are important.
When I was wrestling training and desperately needed to pack on some weight, I used Optimum Nutrition Serious Gainer which contained 1,250 calories and 50g of protein and 5g of Creatine(*). This is a fantastic shake in that it contains no added sugar, and honestly didn’t taste horrific. Some less intense options include Myprotein Hard Gainer Extreme (502 Cal + 35g Protein), Maxi Nutrition Gainer Powder (447 Cal + 20g Protein). These shakes alongside a higher calorie diet, about 200 calories more than your BMR (you can work out your BMR here).
Some people like to more than one shake a day to add some extra calories, but if you’re looking to recover better make sure drink one after exercising and within 30 minutes of doing so for the best results. Other times to drink a shake is with breakfast/other meals or between lunch and dinner to tide you over. You also want to eat more complex carbs, reading this article Why Poor Nutrition Is Holding You Back, for some more information on why a good diet is important. Tip: Mix your shake with milk to add some more calories and make it creamier.
I want to lose weight
As I said before, I think that meal replacement shakes are silly. Supplements are called supplements because they’re meant to be a nice little add-on to give you an edge, not totally replace your meals. If you’re wanting to get extra protein to help you recover better, gain strength but not pack on weight this is the category for you. You want to be looking for shakes with low calories, low carbs and obviously minimal amounts of sugar. Sweeteners are generally prefered in this category, but if it’s something you personally avoid make sure to watch out for that. For this category, Whey Protein Isolate is preferable.
Having a great diet is essential for losing weight. You need to be cautious of the amount of calories you eat. You want a little less than your BMR (100 or 200 calories less) which can be calculated here. Your shake should also fit into this. Generally, this category should be using a shake only after exercising and within 30 minutes of said exercise to help aid muscle recovery.
Some great weight loss protein shakes are PhD Diet Whey which has 182cals and 34g Protein, BPI Best Protein which has 120cals and 24g of protein or Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate which has 92cals and 22g of protein.
I want to recover better & maintain my weight
This is for the people who are pretty happy with their already healthy/sustainable weight and are just looking for some more protein to aid their recovery. You would be pretty set using a shake from the weight loss section above. But, as you’re less constricted on what you can use as a shake, your options are much more open and will probably taste better too. You should probably stick to Whey Protein, drunk within 30 minutes of working out.
A good way to test what ones you like is to buy sample packets, quite a few are available in Holland and Barrett, try them all before commiting to the big (usually expensive) tubs.
I’m vegan, what do I do?
Firstly, I respect your will power! I’m way too in love with cheese and a good steak, so good on you!! Whatever your reasons, you should know that Whey Protein comes from milk, so it’s considered dairy. However, do not fear there are options out there for you, though I haven’t tried any. There are so many plant based options but the variety of types is of course nothing compared to the above.
A quick google of “vegan protein powder” will give you plenty of options. But, if you’re looking for my recommendations… here’s three: Bulk Powders Vegan Protein Powder (23g Protein), Vega Clean Protein (25g Protein), Myprotein Vegan Blend (22g Protein).
I hope this helped you understand a little more about supplements. Hopefully, I’ll be doing a series of posts about supplements, what they are and how they can help you. It’s great being back to writing after my short break between seasons.
Lots of Love,