How many protein shakes should I have per day?
As protein consumption continues to grow and the benefits become more widely spread about the importance of consuming protein in everyday life and fitness regimes, the common questions continue to arise of “how many protein shakes should I take a day”, “how many scoops of protein should I take per day?”, “how long does protein last?”, “how many protein shakes should I take on rest days?” plus many more. In this article we address the most common questions in relation to protein consumption and the benefits of timing your protein shakes to make sure you get the most beneficial outcome for your goal whether it is weight loss to muscle gain, timing can be everything. Protein can be utilised in a number of ways to help you reach your specific goal, whether you are looking to lose weight, tone up, build muscle mass or even trying to recover quicker after an intense session, protein can help you.
The importance of protein
Proteins are present in every cell within the human body and are involved in a vast range of metabolic interactions. Proteins are the structural and functional components of every cell and all cells and tissues contain proteins, highlighting the importance of protein for the growth and maintenance of cells and muscle tissue in relation to good health and functional dieting for weight loss, recovery, toning up or building lean muscle mass. According to the British Nutrition Foundation see study “Protein provides the body with approximately 10 to 15% of its dietary energy and it is the second most abundant compound in the body, following water. A large proportion of this will be muscle (43% on average) with significant proportions being present in skin (15%) and blood (16%)”.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Amino acids are categorised in two ways these are essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential Amino Acids are amino acids that cannot be produced by the body and need to be consumed through the diet and non-essential are amino acids that can be produced by the body. Each protein molecule has a structural make up of: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, and it is the nitrogen that plays such an important role in the growth, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. Consuming enough protein in your diet to activate muscle protein synthesis also means that your nitrogen balance has risen and is positive, meaning your body is an anabolic state of building muscle. After an intense workout the muscle tissue becomes sensitive and due to the increased blood flow (pump), nutrients are delivered quickly to the muscle to help it repair and build new tissue.
The amount of protein I need?
The amount of protein you need is solely dependent on your goal, weight and type of lifestyle you lead. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is set at 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day for adults, for example for someone who weighs 75Kg would need 75Kg x 0.75 = 56.25g of protein a day just for cell maintenance. To gain muscle or lose weight you would need significantlymore protein. According to a study carried out by McMaster University research facility (2016), a report published that “1.3g – 1.8g per kg of bodyweight of protein per day is sufficient to activate muscle protein synthesis. In simpler terms, the building of lean muscle mass, however this can be increased to around 2.2g/Kg of body weight for frequent gym-goers or bodybuilders” see study. This was further backed up a study published by the University of Western Ontario who concluded that “1.6-1.8g of protein per Kg of body weight may be sufficient enough for athletes but also highlighted other factors such as the intake of carbohydrates, fats, and training intensity levels etc, see study.
The topic of protein consumption is hugely complex and there are many conflicting studies as there is no ‘one size that fits all’ solution to this process. However according to a study published by Mettler et al, (2010) see study “2.2g of protein per Kg of bodyweight for muscle gain and 2.6-3.3g of protein for athletes looking to cut fat / lose weight per day”.
How many protein shakes a day?
So back to the original question of “how many protein shakes a day?”, it is dependent on the protein source and the percentage of protein in your supplements, using our Protein Cupboard 100% Whey Protein as an example we recommend drinking 3 shakes a day. Our scoop serving size is 40g and this provides 35g of whey proteins giving you a total of 105g of protein per day through your supplements. This could then be tailored to your goal and your own individual needs. Many people find it difficult to consume significant amounts of protein through their diet hence the need for supplements, if you are able to easily consume protein through the diet then your number of shakes can be reduced and vice versa, if you struggle to get protein in through your food, add an extra shake to your diet, however we recommend getting at least 50% of your daily protein in through a healthy balanced diet.
How many scoops of protein should I take?
Answering the question of “how many scoops of protein should I take?” is very similar to the above question of “how many protein shakes should I take a day?”. It is all dependent on your protein brand, we recommend following the instructions on the back of the tub to get the best results. Using the above theory on protein consumption, calculate the amount of protein you need a day to fulfil your goal and adjust accordingly. Using our Protein Cupboard Isolate 95 as an example we recommend taking 1 scoop (30g) which provides you with 27.6g of protein per shake. For example if you were wanting to build lean muscle and weighed 50Kg, you would need a total of 110g of protein per day calculated as 50Kg(bodyweight) x 2.2g (protein for building muscle). This would equate to drinking 2 shakes of our Protein Cupboard Isolate 95 with 1 scoop in each shake.
How much protein should I take on rest days?
The amount of protein you take on rest days should stay the same, the main factor to be considered on this day is the type of protein you supplement. Whey Proteins are absorbed fast so are important after workouts to quickly replenish your muscles, however on rest days we recommend taking casein proteins as this has a much slower absorption rate of around 4-6 hours and will provide a constant drip feed of protein and amino acids over this period also making you feel fuller longer. Our Protein Cupboard Micellar Caseinite provides 28g of protein per serving and is also recommended for drinking before bed to prevent your body going catabolic which is the loss of muscle tissue over long periods of time without food or protein.
When should I take proteins and which proteins should I take?
As well as the amount of protein you need, when to take your protein is an equally important question and this can affect the type of protein you will need to suit your needs. Whey proteins can be taken at any point throughout the day to help with overall protein consumption. Overwhelming research all suggests that whey proteins are best taken after workouts for their fast absorption rates allowing you to provide instant replenishment to your active muscles after an intense session helping the grow and repair faster.
It is recommended that you have proteins in almost every meal, so you can have a shake along with your breakfast first thing in the morning to get nutrients to your muscle tissue. We recommend having protein shakes in-between meals as a snack to help increase overall protein consumption.
After workouts your muscle tissue is more sensitive to absorbing nutrients, this makes it essential to consume protein and carbohydrates after your workouts to help them recover quicker and build muscle faster.
Research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights that Casein is a slower releasing protein which is typically released over a 4-6 hour period, this makes it the perfect protein to consume on rest days or before bed to keep yourself in a positive nitrogen balance state to help build lean muscle faster, see study.
- Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42:326–337.
- British Nutrition Foundation, (2018), www.nutrition.org.uk
- McMaster University. “Losing fat while gaining muscle: Scientists close in on ‘holy grail’ of diet and exercise.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2016.
- Journal of American Nutrition, (2000 ) Oct;19(5 Suppl):513S-521S. Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals, Conducted by Exercise Nutrition Research Laboratory, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
- Journal of American Nutrition, (2009) Aug;28(4):343-54. The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons. Conducted by Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University.