Is Your Protein Shake Making You Fat?

17 Dec 2019

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Whether you’re a fitness junkie or are simply looking to shed some kilograms and get healthy, protein shakes can seem like the best way to kickstart the journey. There’s no denying that they can help you achieve those goals, however, you need to know that they don’t always work. They can sometimes do just the opposite! If you aren’t careful, protein shakes can explode your caloric intake, making you pack on the kilos.

Whether protein shakes help or harm you largely depends on the choices that you make, so here’s what you need to know about protein shakes and weight gain.

Reasons for Weight Gain With Protein Shakes

Shake As Snack

A study by nutrition experts from Purdue University helped shed light on the effects of protein shakes on lean muscle mass versus body fat or body weight. They found that the manner of consumption can make all the difference. Consuming protein shakes as part of meals can help increase lean mass and decrease body fat while consuming them as snacks between meals promotes undesirable weight gain.

These effects have more to do with calorie calculations, rather than protein quality. People who consume protein shakes at mealtimes are more likely to adjust the calories from meals to include additional calories from their protein shakes. When consumed as snacks, people are more likely to skip such dietary compensation. This leads to a higher calorie intake than most realize, which results in weight gain.

No Exercise To Burn It Off

It’s safe to say that most people understand that consuming more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain. Despite this, many of us fail to take into account the added calories from protein shakes. If you supplement your diet with protein shakes but don’t modify your diet or workout routine to account for those extra calories you will gain weight and it won’t be from added muscle mass. Let’s look at a simple scenario to better understand this.

Let’s assume that you consume a protein shake daily without making adjustments to your diet and exercise program. Even if your protein shake contains just 200 calories (which is on the lower side), your body weight would start to increase steadily – 200 excess calories per day would translate into a weight gain of about 10 kgs within a year [2]. If you don’t do any weight training at all, it’s most likely that all of that weight gained would be from body fat.

Shakes With Sugar

Protein shakes are often marketed as healthy or low in calories, but you need to read the fine print. While some protein shakes are genuinely low in added sugar, many contain as much as 30 grams of sugar per serving! If you’re throwing in ingredients like dry fruits, nut butters, and sweetened plant milk, sugar and calorie content of your protein shake goes even higher.

If you don’t read the labels and monitor sugar content, your protein shake could end up containing 40 grams of sugar or more, which resembles a dessert, rather than health food. After all, a single scoop of ice cream typically contains half that amount of sugar at 20 grams. Keep in mind that the daily recommended limit for added sugar intake is 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men [3]. Exceeding the limit won’t just cause weight gain, but also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Should You Ditch Protein Shakes?

The short answer is ‘NO’, you definitely shouldn’t. Protein shakes can be a great way to add protein to your diet, especially if you work out regularly and aren’t getting enough of it from your meals. Protein intake of about 15 to 20 grams soon after or before your workout can help with muscle development and recovery, especially whey protein because of the speed with which it is processed. Protein is also more satiating than carbs, so including protein shakes as part of meals can help reduce food cravings, reducing the risk of overeating.

As should already be apparent, protein shakes can be extremely healthy, but it largely depends on how you use them and the kind of choices that you make.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29697807

  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/calories/art-20048065

  3. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars

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