How Many Protein Shakes A Day Should You Have?
We asked a group of nutrition experts for the lowdown when it comes to how often you should be having a protein shake
Protein shakes are probably one of the most popular types of health fitness supplements out there.
You probably already know that protein is an important macronutrient that’s well-known for its role in contributing to the the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, amongst other things. This is why it’s so popular in the fitness and bodybuilding worlds.
Generally speaking, it’s best to get your dietary protein from real food sources over supplements where possible.
However, having a protein shake from time to time can help to supplement your protein intake from dietary sources – something which can be useful when time is at a premium, for example.
A shake can also be a convenient way of adding in other healthy foods, such a fruits, nuts and seeds, as part of a smoothie.
However, as with most things in life, it’s best not to overdo it when it comes to the number of protein shakes you consume on a daily basis.
Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. Our articles and the products featured in them are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Always speak with a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, and/or taking any supplements.
We asked a group of experts for their input on how many protein shakes a day makes sense.
Here’s what they said.
Choose Real Food Over Supplements
Colleen Christensen, Registered Dietitian at colleenchristensennutrition.com
Protein shakes typically aren’t harmful, however they’re not the same as consuming whole foods.
It’s important to make sure that you’ve consuming a wide variety of foods to ensure your body gets all of the nutrients it needs – different foods give different nutrients!
Typically, I think it’s a good idea to cap protein shakes to one per day when possible as to avoid getting too ‘shake happy’ and possibly missing out on other nutrients.
It may not necessarily be harmful to consume more than one per day, but as a registered dietitian, I always recommend food first versus supplements.
One thing I see happen frequently is that people may begin to feel more comfortable drinking a protein shake versus eating real food if they have multiple per day. This ‘food fear’ can lead to disordered eating and stress or anxiety around food, which can impact your quality of life.
Additionally, many people over-consume protein and under-consume fats and carbs, as protein can be “glorified” by diet culture.
Focus on consuming a wide variety of foods from ALL food groups and use protein shakes as more of an as-needed convenience option – not as a replacement for real food.
Know The Effects On Your Body
Dr Uma Naidoo, Harvard Nutritional Psychiatrist and Author of This is your Brain on Food
We often think we are deficient in protein in the US, but it’s fiber that is more lacking in our diets. Fiber is essential for a healthy microbiome.
While a protein shake is a great vehicle to add in some extra nutrients such as polyphenol-rich vegetables and fruit, making a fruit into a liquid does alter the nutritional content. Why? Juicing the whole fresh or frozen fruit means a higher level of fructose is entering your bloodstream more quickly.
When you eat a whole fruit, the fructose is released more slowly and does not harm the liver, as it contains fiber which controls that release of fructose.
The fructose without fiber is free in solution and the liver could get ‘clogged’ with the excess fructose and convert it to fat. You don’t want this effect to happen.
For this reason – have a protein shake a day – but know the effects on your body.
Multiple Protein Shakes Can Be Helpful In Certain Situations
Jana Mowrer, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Founder of www.healthwins.org
Protein shakes? Yes. No. It depends.
Multiple protein shakes can be helpful if someone doesn’t consume meat or animal-based proteins, if they are recovering from surgery or a serious injury, or if they are trying to gain weight and it’s hard for them to eat enough protein.
But it’s very easy to get adequate protein intake from 3-4 oz of lean meat per meal and snacks like nuts. Four ounces of chicken breast provides 36g of protein.
The recommended protein intake is 0.8g per kg body weight for women (about 70-120g per day for 145lb woman) and 1g per kg of body weight for men.
It’s easy to consume too much protein by adding protein shakes to a meat eaters’ diet.
On the other hand, using them to replace meals can cut calories, often below 1000 kcal per day, and that puts someone into crash dieting territory.
Protein Shakes Shouldn’t Be Considered As Meal Replacements
Ashlee Van Buskirk, Founder of Whole Intent
The answer to this question isn’t always set in stone, because it depends on multiple factors.
What are your fitness goals? Are you trying to lose weight, train for a marathon, or tack on muscle mass? How much protein is packed into your standard protein shake? What is your diet currently like?
These factors and more can influence the right answer for your needs.
While it is usually safe to consume more than one protein shake per day, you need to remember that those shakes are just supplements.
Your shakes shouldn’t be considered as meal replacements. Instead, they are just ways to supplement more protein into your diet in a quick and simple way.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to consume roughly 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
And the more active you are, the more protein you should consume per kilogram of body weight.
We should note, though, that you can get in an adequate amount of daily protein from a well-balanced diet.
Plenty of foods like nuts, spinach, whole grain, beans, chicken, fish, beef, dairy products, quinoa, and many others contain plenty of essential amino acids and other forms of protein.
So as long as you eat healthy, you may only need one protein shake a day.
There are some downsides to drinking too many protein shakes per day. It may place an extra burden on your kidneys, as the continuous overload of protein may result in some kidney problems.
Excessive protein intake may also lead to weight gain, as the nutrient often comes with lots of calories. Excessive protein consumption may also lead to some digestive issues.
Unless you are trying to bulk up with a high-protein diet, it’s better to just stick to one protein shake a day. Try to take it before or after your workout for optimal results.
Anything Else To Consider?
As we have already mentioned, it’s important to remember that food supplements such as protein shakes are not intended to replace a varied diet and healthy overall lifestyle.
Supplements can provide a convenient way to top up your intake – and prevent potential shortfalls – in certain important nutrients, but it’s usually best to opt for real food choices where possible.
We generally always recommend that you speak to your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle, or trying a new supplement.
Wrapping Things Up – Our Final Thoughts
So, that bring us to the end of our look at how many protein shakes a day is best.
Protein shakes are popular nutritional supplements which can provide you with a convenient way of topping up your protein intake from dietary sources.
Make a protein shake can also be a convenient way of adding in other foods into your diet as part of a smoothie.
However, it’s best not to overdo it when it comes to how many protein shakes you should have a day. Excessive protein consumption could lead to a number of potential issues.
For that reason, having one protein shake a day is likely to be considered the upper limit for most people.
Be sensible with your consumption of protein shakes, and remember that it’s usually best to get your protein intake from real food sources.