Protein shakes are commonplace in the gym and if you’ve been working out regularly for many years they may form a key part of your diet. What makes them work though and DO they work?
Protein has long been a dietary supplement for fitness fans and athletes. These supplements are designed to create and enhance muscle mass when combined with you regular workout. The majority of modern protein supplements are either combined as shakes or simply come in pill form. They’re widely believed to have a positive effect on muscle mass but how exactly to they increase the growth process?
Protein supplements work with your body to create the necessary amino acids for building muscle tissue in a quick, effective and efficient way. Athletes and bodybuilders benefit from the intake of protein supplements because the intense levels of their workouts demand higher levels of protein naturally. Upping your intake gives your body a head start, helping your muscles recover more quickly and therefore have more time to grow.
The digestion process plays a key role in the effectiveness of proteins too. Protein is broken down in your gut by enzymes called proteases. The faster they are broken down the quicker they can become the essential amino acids your body craves to repair its muscle tissue and enhance natural, speedier muscle growth. Protein shakes can also give your body an overall boost – lifting your immune system giving you the chance to push through those extra hard workouts.
Research now suggests that pre-workout shakes are just as useful as post-workout. Extra protein before you train will optimise the body for muscle development. Quickly digested and ready for action your muscles will be primed.
Some fitness fans have mistakenly been led to believe that muscle-building proteins can work as a fat loss supplement. This is never the case. Fat loss supplements, usually prescribed by medical professionals, utilise a completely different makeup of ingredients and work on reducing the body’s cravings whilst increasing their metabolic rate. Protein supplements can however help you feel fuller for longer.
There is an important point to keep in mind once you bring additional protein to your diet. Taken to excessive levels it can irreparably damage your liver, therefore it’s important to always stick to the instructions provided by the supplement manufacturer. There are a huge range of different supplements to choose from too so you may find one suits you more than another and it’s worth giving a few different types ago before making your final decision. It should go without saying that a protein shake should never be a replacement for a meal as it’s missing many of the ingredients you need a healthy diet.
Which Shake When?
As mentioned there are different types of shakes for different times of your workout and your day. Below are some examples of shakes to take at different points during your day.
Experts recommend drinking your pre-workout shake around half an hour before your planned workout or gym visit. The benefits will be depleted if not non-existent if you leave it until later or drink it earlier. It’s also recommended you avoid shakes which are 100% protein. Carbohydrates are also important in your pre-workout shake. A lack of carbs leaves your muscles open to damage and therefore a balance of both protein and carbs is recommended – whether you make up your own with fresh fruits, bananas and protein powder or buy ready-made.
When it comes to the end of your workout it’s all about the whey protein. The highest proportion of whey protein you can find it probably the best option as it’s the fastest digesting protein on the market and automatically gives your muscles the attention they need. Your post-workout shake should also have some carb content. Carbs are essential for catalysing your body’s insulin after your workout and help nutrients reach your muscles more quickly. Drink your shake as soon as possible after finishing your workout.
You heard us right there’s even a shake to help you drift off to sleep and give your muscles a little extra attention. Bodybuilding experts suggest that a protein shake about an hour before you go to back is ideal – although some may need it slightly earlier to avoid difficulty getting to sleep. A casein-based shake works slowly and distributes evenly through your body. It’s ideal because your muscles are still being fed whilst you’re completely unaware. An alternative to a nightly shake is of course the classic glass of milk with a potassium packed banana.
The science certainly backs up the belief that protein supplements have a positive effect on muscle mass growth. It’s something worth considering if you’re dedicated to bulking up and want your diet to reflect this decision.
by Jessica Ward
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ward
by Laura Briggs
by Jessica Ward