We can sum up the issue of protein shakes very simply: if you drink one, nothing will happen to you, absolutely nothing. Does that mean they don’t work? Are there so many self-suggested people in the world? If so, why do some elite athletes take them? Is there a conspiracy? Even if it takes away some of the mystery, a protein shake is nothing more than a supplement that can be useful if you follow a few rules, such as knowing why you are taking it and how much you need, for which I always recommend the supervision of a nutritionist. Beyond each particular case, we are going to expose some of the myths and realities of protein shakes:
- They don’t work magic. Remember, anything whose effects are outside any normal range and are almost immediate, will be illegal or very harmful to your health. Don’t expect any spectacular results.
- They are not drugs. There are people who, out of ignorance, believe that a bottle of protein is a steroid treatment. This is not the case at all, these substances cannot be bought without a prescription or without going to the “black market”.
- They end up with your liver in tatters. It is true that a diet with excessive protein levels can lead to liver problems, but that is not caused by the shake, but by the dosage. In other words, the problem is not the source but the quantity.
- Consuming them is a waste of money. It must be said without a doubt that their nutritional contribution can be found in real food, being this option much better because of the amount of micronutrients that it provides and that are not in the shake. In the same way, it can be a convenient option for many people who eat very healthily and, because of their schedule or for whatever reason, find it difficult to fit in a meal or want to have it on hand in case the day gets complicated.
Apart from these considerations, as in everything else, there are better and worse ones. Here are some points to evaluate so that you can choose from the options available on the market:
- Origin of the protein. We normally associate protein with meat, fish or milk, but there are soya, pea and rice proteins… In terms of assimilation, whey and egg protein (known as whey) is the best, in addition to the fact that in terms of texture and flavour they tend to be more successful.
- How much I buy. The labelling on protein bottles usually indicates the number of doses contained in the container based on a daily amount. This is a standard amount but may not match the amount you need. Don’t let the manufacturer set your daily intake.
- What grade of purity I buy. In general you will find three types of protein: concentrated, isolated and hydrolysed. Each is purer and more expensive in that order. While we would argue that hydrolysed is the best, it may not justify the difference in price you’ll pay. The purest proteins are most commonly used by people who are particularly careful about the amount of carbohydrates in their diet, among many other things. Paying for the purest protein and then bloating on industrial pastries in the cafeteria doesn’t make much sense.
- Look at their aminogram and nutritional information. The basic labelling on protein shakes indicates the grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat contained in each serving of the product. It may also include information on the vitamins or minerals it contains. To this information is usually added an aminogram, which is nothing more than a breakdown of the amino acids in the protein. Among them you should pay special attention to leucine, isoleucine and vanilla. Why? These are the famous BCAA’s or Branched Chain Amino Acids (Branched Chained Amino Acids). The combination of these make up almost a third of the skeletal muscles of the human body and play a very important role in protein synthesis. You won’t have to look far, because the brands highlight the BCAA content of their product. Between one or the other with the same characteristics, the one with more BCAA’s will be a better option.
- Trust in prestigious brands. There are quality tests for proteins just as there are for any other commercial product. When these rankings are drawn up, there is a set of brands that are always the ones that tend to have very good ratings and whose product is trusted. You always have the option to go straight to one of them and leave the hassle behind, but bear in mind that the top brands have a huge range of products. You need to know what you’re looking for to make the right choice.
To sum up
Always put yourself in the hands of a good nutritionist, look for brands of proven quality, don’t pay more for purity or additives that you don’t need. Don’t expect miracles, protein is just that, nothing more. You will need time and effort to notice results. In this sense, avoid any supplement that is recommended to you and that has spectacular results. From there, there are no secrets, just perseverance and training. It’s as simple as that. May the strength be with you.