Whether you’re a recreational gym-goer or an elite athlete, chances are you’ve tried a protein shake or two at some point. And even though this type of supplement is quite popular in the fitness community, you may be wondering if it’s worth the hype.
To help unravel fact from fiction, we’ve turned to science to better understand how protein shakes impact recovery and performance. From nutrient timing to potential benefits, here’s what science has to say about protein shakes.
What is protein powder?
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a vital role in strength, lean muscle mass, post-workout recovery, and satiety [1
]. While you can get adequate amounts of protein through dietary sources
, protein powder can be beneficial to bridge any gaps.
is one of the most popular supplement choices and is a powdered form of protein that comes from milk (casein or whey), egg white powder, or plant sources (soy, pea, rice, pumpkin seed, and hemp). They can often contain other ingredients–like artificial sweeteners and flavorings, thickening agents, vitamins and minerals, and other functional ingredients. Protein powders also vary in protein content depending on the type used.
When combined with a healthy diet, protein shakes are a convenient and cost-efficient way to boost protein intake and meet your nutrient needs.
How much protein can your body absorb?
The amount of protein your body can absorb at once is partly based on muscle protein synthesis, which is how the body maintains and builds muscle [3
]. Studies show that 20-25 g/protein per meal is enough to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Any additional protein consumed from a meal is used for energy or transformed into urea or other organic acids [4
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein for adults* is as follows:
Men and women:
0.8 g protein/kg of body weight/day [5
Over 65 years old:
1 to 1.2 g protein/kg of body weight/day [6
Athletes and highly active individuals:
1.2-2.0 g/kg of body weight/day, depending on training needs and goals [7
*These numbers will vary depending on your activity level, age, and other needs. Talk with a dietitian or your healthcare provider to see what is right for you.
How much protein to build muscle?
Experts suggest that 1.2-1.7 g of protein/kg of body weight/day can be beneficial to increase muscle mass [8
However, more isn’t always better; research shows that 1.6 - 2.2 g of protein/kg of body weight/day can greatly diminish the effects of protein, as large amounts may modulate anabolism by suppressing protein breakdown (proteolysis) [9
What are the best types of protein powder?
The best types of protein powder are ones that are high quality, backed by science, and meet your dietary and nutrition needs.
Elo Smart Protein
is a personalized protein powder that is designed for anyone who wants to further boost recovery and enhance performance. Unlike other custom protein products, Elo Smart Protein uses your goals, health history, workout data, and dietary preferences to craft the right protein blend for you and provide specific protein dosing recommendations after every workout.
Elo Smart Protein is also backed by the latest science to help you recover faster and get the most out of every scoop of protein powder. Try it out for yourself today
When to drink protein shakes
To get the most benefit from protein shakes, you may want to consider timing your protein consumption depending on your goals.
For instance, if you’re looking to repair muscle and enhance recovery, science shows that consuming 20-40 g of high-quality protein within two hours of exercise can stimulate robust increases in muscle protein synthesis [10
]. This will benefit both performance and recovery.
However, if you’re looking to lose weight, then you may want to consider drinking protein shakes at meal times. Research suggests consuming 25-30 g of quality protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner may benefit weight loss by improving energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and appetite control [11
How Elo Smart Protein can help
Elo Smart Protein draws data from your wearables and fitness apps to provide specific protein dosing recommendations after every workout. These Smart Dosing recommendations are carefully calibrated based on the duration and intensity of your workout, your body weight, the contents of your blend, and the latest science on post-workout recovery. This way, you're never left guessing about how much protein you need and when.
Do protein shakes make you gain weight without working out?
Weight loss relies on energy input/output, meaning that the number of calories consumed should be less than the calories burned. On average, it takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat, which means that both diet and exercise play important roles in weight loss [12
]. Other factors such as meal timing, sleep
, age, medications, and genetics also impact weight loss.
Weight gain happens when your energy balance is disrupted and you consume more calories than you burn. For example, if you stop exercising yet consume extra calories (including from protein shakes), your energy output will decrease while your energy input increases, which can lead to weight gain.
Protein shake before or after workout?
Research shows that drinking a protein shake before or after a workout can increase physical performance, recovery, lean body mass, muscle hypertrophy, and strength [13
While timing your protein intake may prove beneficial for athletes, experts agree that it’s not necessary for everyone, as taking protein pre- or post-workout may have the same effects [14
]. As such, it’s more important for non-athletic people to focus on getting enough quality protein each day as this will benefit overall health [15
Should you take a protein shake before bed?
Studies show that taking a protein shake before bed can increase overnight muscle protein synthesis rates and have a beneficial effect on muscle mass and strength [17
Since sleep is arguably just as important for your recovery, performance, and muscle growth as exercise, it’s important to try and get 7-9 hours of sleep per night [18
How to blend a perfect recovery protein shake
You can make a perfect recovery protein shake by blending it with water or adding it to your favorite smoothie.
Other FAQs about protein
Protein shakes are a convenient supplement that have been shown to aid in muscle growth, performance, and recovery. Studies show that nutrient timing for protein can be beneficial depending on your goals, and can also be taken before or after a workout.
Protein shakes can be healthy for you if you choose a high quality one that has no added sweeteners and meets your dietary and nutrition needs. Elo Smart Protein is one such product, since it is backed by the latest science to provide specific nutrient dosing and help you recover faster. This way, you're never left guessing about how much protein you need and when.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.