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The good, the bad and (sometimes) disgusting world of protein shakes

April 21, 2016


Now if there’s one thing that divides the nutrition world more than the word paleo, it is the word “protein shakes”. Some absolutely sing their praises whilst others will claim they are the devil and should be avoided at all costs. Coming from a personal training background now moving into nutrition I can see both sides of the equation so personally I sit somewhere in the middle. In this blog post I am going to hopefully help you understand if you actually do need to have a protein shake.


Firstly what is protein?


Protein plays a huge part in the body beyond the gym junkie biceps that everyone equates it too. It is the major structural component of muscle and other tissues, essential for skin and connective tissue integrity, forms the backbone to the creation of many hormones and balances out insulin and when had in too little amounts can lead to diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. So really not something that we want to be deficient in.


There are a wide variety of protein shakes out there that come in all flavours and colors and believe me I’ve tried quite a few and some can taste absolutely disgusting so you’re onto a winner if you can find a nice tasting one. Protein powders can come in a variety of forms from both animal and plant sources the most popular being whey, casein, soy, rice and hemp. Animal sources of protein are generally considered to be what’s known as complete sources of protein containing all 20 amino acids, whereas plants are generally lacking one or two therefore vegetarians are urged to eat a variety of plants, nuts, grains and legumes to make sure they are getting all of the essential amino acids.


Why they aren’t a guarantee to losing weight


Much research has come out stating that a protein rich diet can help lower the levels of the hormone ghrelin, which has the job of suppressing the appetite or telling us when we’re full. Due to this, many weight loss companies have gotten on the bandwagon and spouted them as excellent weight loss suggestions. If you are just guzzling down the protein shakes and thinking that overnight you’re going to look like a Victoria’s Secret angel, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – isn’t going to happen. You need to have an overall good clean diet and do resistance exercise alongside the protein shake and what’s more have it within half an hour of doing exercise to get the benefits or you may as well not bother having it.


Who needs them?


Protein shakes are needed to be used most by people who weight train at the gym and need to replenish their muscle glycogen stores straight after their workouts. Many studies have shown that when doing vigorous exercise, protein requirements are greatly increased and that significantly greater gains were seen in protein synthesis and body mass when consuming a higher protein diet up to around 1.8g – 2.4g per kilo of body weight per day (Fern et al. 1991; Lemon, 1995). After a heavy gym session you have half an hour to replenish and refuel so it can help rebuild back to its optimum state. The normal protein requirements for a woman is around 46g per day for women or approximately 0.75 g/kg of body weight and 64g per day for men or approximately 0.84 g/kg of body weight (Australian Government Health and Research Council. 2014).


For me personally, everyday after the gym I have a protein shake to ensure that I get my protein in quickly as I may not be going straight home to eat. Simple as that.  I’m not using mine as a meal replacement or as a substitute to other food or nutrients!! I love food way too much. I would usually have a protein shake then go home and eat breakfast afterwards. And to be honest, why skip out on awesome food just to have a drink???


HOWEVER! in saying that mine is a good quality pea and rice protein, that is made by a practitioner only brand and I thoroughly researched it and looked at the ingredients before I ever dared put it in my mouth. Now notice how I said “good quality”. This means throw out the overpriced sickly sweet ones that advertise “you’ll have abs in 6 days if you drink it” and choose a good quality clean Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) instead. If you’re vegan or find that dairy (whey and casein) play up with you then a mixed brown rice and pea protein blend is the best to give you a mix of all of the amino acids. A couple of my favourite brands are Bare blends (( and Isowhey wholefoods which is made by Bioceuticals (




And this is one very big but, If you aren’t doing much heavy exercise and protein requirements aren’t as high, then chances are you can get your daily protein requirements met from food.  



- Available fromNutrient Reference values for Australia and NZ: protein. Australian Government Health and Research Council. 2014.

-       . Experientia. Volume 47. Page 168 – 172. Effects of exaggerated amino acid and protein supply in manFern, E.B., Bielinski, R.N and Schultz, Y. (1991)

-       . Journal of sports science and medicine. Volume 3, page 118 – 130.Protein – which is bestHoffman, J and Falvo M. 2004.

-       International Journal of sports nutrition. Volume 5. S39 – S61.Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids?Lemon, P.W.R. (1995).


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