Protein shakes vs. Protein from food sources

Protein shakesPeople sometimes ask me whether protein shakes are any good. The answer is yes, but there are some benefits of getting protein in through food in your diet. The reason for this is digestion and absorption.

Protein shakes, provided they are made from good whey protein, digest very quickly and absorbs well. So they are a great source of protein, especially if you are on a high protein diet that makes it hard to eat a lot of protein.

Protein from meat sources takes longer to digest and absorb. Red meat takes the longest while the whiter meats absorb faster, fish for instance. These are still good sources of protein but the fact that they absorb slower gives them a benefit over fast absorbing proteins. That benefit is metabolism.

Digestion takes up a good deal of you metabolic activity. This is why smaller meals throughout the day keep your metabolism going. Keeping in mind that smaller meals also means more effective absorption. You would absorb less protein from eating a 500g steak in one go that you would eating the same steak broken down into 5 100g meals throughout the day. And the other benefit is that your metabolic activity would actually increase with the smaller meals whereas large meals tend to slow metabolic rate down.

Using this information one can more effectively plan your protein intake to get the maximum benefit. During the day you can use protein from conventional sources in smaller portions, thus increasing absorption and metabolic activity. Fast absorbing protein shakes works great at night before you go to sleep, when your metabolism will naturally slow down. It also works great right after a workout when you need to get your protein level up quickly to help recovery.

A work of caution – not all protein shakes are good. The label may say that they contain a certain amount per serving, but that does not mean it’s good protein. Many companies use combinations of protein to make up their protein shakes. This is done for one reason – cost. By adding low quality cheap protein to the mix you can still claim the same amount per serving, when in fact the profile of amino-acids from cheap sources like soya means much less benefits for the user. Makes sure you look for Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate combinations and stick to good brands.