Are Protein Shakes Healthy? Here’s What You Need To Know
There’s a lot of noise in the health and wellness space about protein shakes. From packaged drinks to powders, protein shakes vary widely in their ingredients, protein type, and the health claims the brands tout. So no matter your reason for incorporating shakes into your diet, they can be difficult to navigate.
“Any protein is better than no protein at all when it comes to building muscle, losing weight, or gaining body mass,” said nutritionist Lauren Manaker. That’s a good place to start, but we wanted to learn more about protein shakes and what to look for when buying them.
Are Protein Shakes Healthy?
“Healthy” is a subjective term and depends on the individual. Diana Rodriguez, Registered Dietician Nutritionist at New York City Nutrition, said that protein shakes can be a healthy addition to a diet when consumed in accordance with someone’s needs and goals. But there are a few factors you should consider, like the quality of the ingredients, protein content, added sugars, and caloric balance. Many of these factors are dependent on what your individual goals are, which could include losing weight or building muscle.
“Remember that protein shakes alone won’t magically help you gain muscle or lose weight. They should be part of a well-rounded diet and fitness plan,” said Rodriguez. “While protein shakes can be convenient, they should not replace whole, nutrient-dense foods in your diet.”
What To Look For In A Protein Shake
“When choosing protein powders, I always tell my clients that not all protein powders are created equal,” said Rodriguez. “It is important to choose powders that are third party verified meaning they have an NSF or Informed Choice seal.”
Then you’ll want to go to the nutrition label. “Look for high-quality protein sources such as whey, casein, soy, or plant-based proteins. Avoid shakes with excessive artificial additives, preservatives, or fillers,” Rodriguez added.
The dietitians we spoke with note that you should look for added sugars and be aware of caloric content. Again, it all depends on your goals, whether they are to lose weight or gain muscle.
“And perhaps most importantly, consider the taste and mixability of your shake, because the last thing you want to do is drink a shake that you don’t enjoy drinking,” said Manaker.
Types Of Protein Shakes
Some protein shakes come conveniently packaged, while others come as a powder that need to be mixed with a liquid or into a smoothie. “If you’re looking for a quick post-workout recovery option, a packaged shake might be convenient,” said Rodriguez. “But if you’re aiming for a specific macronutrient balance, powdered shakes allow you to fine-tun your intake.”
And when it comes to the protein itself, there are tons of options on the market, not just limited to these: Whey protein is a popular option for post-workout because of its high absorption rate and on the other end is milk-derived casein, which the body absorbs slowly, making it a great option for muscle recovery while sleeping. Hemp and pea protein are also plant based, with hemp offering a complete protein.
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Allison Arnold is the Associate SEO Editor at Delish, where she writes about kitchen gadgets and food and culture. She likes exercising almost as much as eating, and has a thorough Google Maps ranking system for her favorite restaurants and bars. You can find her spewing hot takes on the food world and planning her next trip, all with multiple cans of seltzer open at a time.