The amount of protein a person needs to consume can be variable depending on their goals, size, exercise level, age, and more factors. For a healthy person looking to build muscle through weight lifting and exercise, eating “your body weight” in grams of protein is generally considered to be a good and simple guideline. For example, if you weigh 150lbs, eating 150 grams of protein per day should be an acceptable amount. The goal is to have more than enough protein for your body to rebuild muscle after exercise, and maintain enough energy to continue exercise going forward.
If you’re not looking to gain weight, but instead cut fat and build muscle, you will not only want to reduce that amount of protein, but also other macronutrients like carbohydrates and fat. Tracking calories becomes essential to achieving one’s desired weight and body fat percentage (1).
The highest quality whey protein powders will have high protein and low sugar. This allows for a maximum amount of protein consumption while keeping calories low. For example, Protein Boost from Vitaliboost has 24g protein per serving, with only 120 calories. Compare that to a Clif Bar which has over double that calories at 250, and only 9g protein (2).
Some protein bars have an even higher calorie count due to the large amounts of sugar. If losing weight, maintaining weight, or simply not putting on more fat is a concern, using a clean, pure, low calorie whey protein is essential.
Unless you’re exercising at the level of a professional athlete, you will want to keep track of how many carbohydrates you’re consuming, as unburned carbohydrates can be turned into fat. A high quality whey protein like Protein Boost contains only 4g carbohydrate. Compared to 45g from a Clif Bar.
It can be difficult to consume a lot of protein without getting carbs as well, unless you’re eating mostly meat. That’s where whey protein shakes come in as a great option for pure protein. Carbs are essential for having enough energy to complete a workout, but most people eat enough carbs without specifically trying to.
In trying to consume more protein than you’re used to it can get boring eating the same meals of eggs, meat, nuts, etc. That’s where protein shakes come in. Rather than forcing down another plate of 5 eggs you can instead have a nice whey protein shake, which has the same 24g protein as those 5 eggs. Protein shakes are easy to take on the go, so there’s no more trouble in having to cook your meat, eggs, or other heavy protein meal when you’re strapped for time (3).
As for how many whey protein shakes you can have in a day? There shouldn’t really be a limit. Whey, especially when combined with digestive enzymes like DigeZyme, are easy to digest (4). You will still need to eat your daily servings of fruits, vegetables, meat, and other nutrient rich foods. If you have a protein goal, additional whey protein shakes are a great addition to an already balanced diet.
Something to consider when taking whey protein is the fact that whey is a derivative of milk. If a child has no issues digesting milk, they should not have any issues digesting whey protein. Whey protein shakes are a great option for quick, easy, and filling snacks. A whey protein shake on the way home from sports practice, or on a road trip are great options.
Whey protein shakes are a protein rich option for vegetarians, as it can be extremely difficult to find high protein vegetarian foods that don’t contain an excessive amount of carbohydrates or calories in general.
Most whey protein powder has a shelf life of about 12-18 months. Using expired whey protein is not a good idea for several reasons. The main reason is, like any expired food, you could become sick.
Another reason not to use expired whey protein powder is the fact that it can lose its effectiveness. “You can blame a chemical reaction called Maillard browning: The protein reacts with sugar left over from when the manufacturers extracted the whey from the milk, resulting in a gradual breakdown of the amino acid lysine.” To get the most out of your protein, make sure it’s not expired (5).
Protein shakes are a quick and easy option for a high protein snack or meal. One issue is the need for a blender, that slows down what should be a quick meal. The solution to this is shaker bottles. Shaker bottles are thick plastic reusable bottles that come with a blending device inside. This mixes up the protein and liquid when you shake the bottle, resulting in a nicely mixed shake.
Keto is a specialized diet that focuses on high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrates. Because of these restrictions, whey protein shakes are an excellent option for those on a ketogenic diet. As stated above, whey protein like Protein Boost contains 24g protein, 2.5g fat, and 4g carbohydrate. Consuming whey protein will not remove your body from ketosis, and will allow you to more easily meet your daily protein goals.
The timing of consuming protein shakes has been debated since protein shakes first existed. Some research speaks of a “anabolic window” after exercise, though there is not much solid evidence to prove that taking advantage of the anabolic window would actually have a positive effect on muscle building. The real key, much like consuming high quality Creatine supplements, is consistency. Rather than trying to perfectly time your protein shakes, just make sure you take your protein shake every day.
It’s more important to continuously get enough protein than it is to time it right, but sometimes miss a shake. If you will remember to drink your whey protein shake after a workout, then do that. If you like your whey protein shake with breakfast, have it with breakfast! In the end, regularly and consistently consuming nutritious food and protein is the most important part of a healthy diet.
While whey protein is great, some people don't like whey protein, or can't properly digest it. Some people are lactose intolerant. For these scenarios, or people that just want to try something different, there are other options that include:
There are other options as well, but these five are the most common alternatives. Each comes with their own unique taste and nutritional value. Though it's hard to compete with the protein content (per volume unit) of whey protein, these alternatives can be great dietary supplements as well.
One other option to try is probiotics, such as probiotic gummies. These can aid in digestion and help with potential issues with whey.