Dear Sports Medicine Counsel,
I am starting my “new year, new me” fitness routine and have been hitting up the gym 3-4 times a week with the focus on weights and resistance training as I am trying to bulk up. I’ve noticed that most of the people at the gym, especially the fit ones, are drinking protein shakes. I eat a fairly standard diet and was wondering if these protein shakes are a fad or if they actually have any benefit to them?
Amin O. Aseeds
Congratulations on the hard work towards your new healthy lifestyle change. On the topic of protein shakes, the answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. Proteins are an essential part of any diet as they can be broken down into things called amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. This is why the amount and quality of proteins you eat is important, as it can greatly affect the process by which muscles are built. High quality amino acids such as leucine have been shown to greatly aid in muscle growth, and can be found in cheese, soybeans, beef, and chicken.
The daily-recommended intake of protein is about 56 grams for the average male or more specifically about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. However, evidence suggests that a higher amount of daily protein intake is needed when trying to gain muscle mass through resistance training. A suggested intake ranges anywhere from 0.9 – 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For reference, a chicken breast contains around 52 grams of protein.
The benefits of protein shakes are debated amongst nutritionists. If you are able to achieve the daily-recommended amount of protein through a typical diet, then there may be no need for the protein shake. The highest quality of protein is often found in lean meats such as chicken. However, protein shakes can be very beneficial for lifters who are trying to bulk up but typically eat a low protein diet (i.e. vegetarians).
Other considerations to keep in mind are the loose restrictions that supplement suppliers have. According to the Food and Drug Administration guidelines, they do not have to list every ingredient or quantity in the products. Supplements are also produced in facilities that are not well monitored/inspected. This means that the products are potentially exposed to unclean conditions, cross contamination, and/or unwanted potential side effects from filler products. If you do choose to take the route of protein shakes to achieve your recommended protein intake, then shop around and find a trusted supplier.
All the best,
Sports Medicine Counsel