For years protein powders have been marketed as the solution to everyone’s muscle gains and weight loss. Today we examine the advantages and disadvantages of including a protein shake in your diet for muscle gain or weight loss.

Muscle Gain

Some people use protein shakes as a supplement to build muscle. The addition of protein to the workout regime theoretically means that muscle gains come faster and easier.

Protein and Muscle Building

During resistance training, the tiny fibers inside the muscle are being torn. These tears are repaired with amino acids. It’s this tear and repair that causes the muscle to grow bigger and stronger. With insufficient protein, muscle growth can be stalled rendering a workout ineffective. This is often the reason why protein shakes are used by those chasing muscle gain in the first place. To get the gains they are chasing, many weight trainers will use additional protein powder to get the amino acids they need.

Daily Requirements for Protein

The daily protein requirement for most people is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass, or approximately 60 grams of protein for the average adult. This can easily be achieved through diet, however for muscle gain to occur the body needs more protein than this base amount. There is a limit to how advantageous more protein can be though, with 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram being the maximum daily intake for this positive effect to occur. Protein powders can have up to 100 grams of protein in a serving. This means that on top of daily diet, the protein shake risks turning into additional calories that may not be required.

Professional Athletes

Some athletes are competing at the elite level and need the additional support of a protein boost. Performing in these rigorous training sessions does generate the need to have an additional boost of protein prior to, or just after a workout. These supplements are carefully selected from reputable suppliers and are made to deliver very specific needs for their body’s requirements.

The Verdict

Additional protein can be beneficial for muscle gain. For most people who are training, a satisfactory amount of protein can be consumed through a healthy and balanced diet. Additional protein can be beneficial for the high-performance athlete. For the average person going to the gym a few days per week, that daily protein shake could be turning into additional calories that aren’t needed. Additional supplements should be used based on the advice of a professional trainer or medical expert.

Weight Loss

There are plenty of protein shakes available that are marketed towards trimming body fat. Many of these options offer the protein shake as a meal replacement rather than a nutritional supplement.

Speed Up Metabolism

Protein in the diet can speed up metabolism, leading to weight loss. This is because the amount of energy the body requires to digest protein is higher than that of fat and carbohydrates. A diet high in protein can also encourage gluconeogenesis; your body produces glucose from protein instead of from fats or carbohydrates. Gluconeogenesis is also believed to burn more calories. These reactions rely on consuming a protein shake as well as adjusting the diet to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. Caution should be taken when it comes to replacing meals with protein shakes. There is also dietary fibre and many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can’t be offered by a protein shake, and should be consumed daily.

Decrease Hunger

A meal that is high in protein can assist in lower hunger throughout the day. Studies have found that a breakfast high in protein usually leads to a decreased calorie intake throughout the rest of the day. A protein shake can be a great way of adding additional protein to the diet, decreasing hunger, and limiting cravings. As a meal replacement, protein shakes also mean that overall daily calorie intake is lower since most protein shakes are only 300-400 calories. As mentioned before, as a meal replacement protein shakes continue to lack many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Trimming Fat

Consumption of protein in a low-carb diet can assist in weight loss. Ketosis occurs when the body consumes a low amount of carbohydrates and turns to burning fat instead of carbohydrate as a replacement. The subject of low-protein diets is highly debated by dieticians. Care should be taken when selecting a protein powder or shake, seeing as many can still be high in carbohydrates. It is also been found in multiple studies that the consumption of a protein shake helps directly burn fat from the abdominal area.

The Verdict

Protein shakes can be beneficial to weight loss in multiple ways. Caution should be taken to ensure that the body continues to get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are required in a balanced diet. Adding a protein shake to a diet without adjusting other meals can also create a calorie surplus, leading to weight gain.


A protein shake can be advantageous for either muscle building or weight loss but you need to use them the right way. Care should be taken when it comes to the existing diet and calorie-burning activities. While a protein shake can be beneficial, it should be used as a supplement more than a pillar of your dietary needs.