Protein shakes are legitimate, but there are caveats. Here’s what you need to know…

Types of protein

Whey, a water-soluble milk protein, is the most common. The others are soy and casein. Whey mixes easily and gets high marks for taste. Another plus for whey – it’s a complete protein. That’s means you get all nine amino acids for an extra health boost. Obviously, since it is a milk protein, whey isn’t vegan. But if you are vegetarian, it may be a good option.


Protein shakes aren’t the only game in town

There has been a lot of emphases lately on protein shakes for weight management and muscle building. The bottom line is many of us have taken this advice too far. In our rush to get the promised benefits, we may be unknowingly causing harm. According to WebMD, most people only need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. More than that can force the liver and kidneys to work too hard. You are likely to get more than that if you drink too many protein shakes. Instead, take a look at your diet. There are many sources, such as lean meats, dairy, and legumes that can help you get adequate intake.


When you should increase your protein intake

There are instances when more protein can be useful. For example, if you are significantly increasing the intensity of your workout regimen or recovering from an injury, you can step up your intake. Competitive athletes and those trying to build bulk can also increase their intake. Even then, according to Gina Shaw writing for WebMD, the upper daily limit is 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day. The body doesn’t process more than that and there is no benefit to taking in greater amounts.


Am I getting enough protein?

Signs that you aren’t getting enough protein include weakness, fatigue, and flagging stamina during workouts. Another sign is slow recovery after an injury. Be sure that you have the right ratio of protein to carbs for best performance outcomes. The typical ratio is 5 to 1 or 4 to 1, which looks like 80 grams of carbs to 20 grams of protein. Adequate hydration is also critical.


The bottom line…


All bodies need protein. But not all bodies need the boost from protein shakes. The average adult gets adequate protein from healthy eating habits. If you are a recreational or competitive athlete, bodybuilder or teen lifter, protein shakes may be a good way to safely increase your protein intake. Just be sure not to overdo it because too much protein is taxing on the kidneys and liver.