The consumption of protein shakes is fashionable, but are they really beneficial? What are they for? Are they useful for everyone? Can they have side effects? Let’s find out when they can be useful and when not.
What Are Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes, as their name suggests, are preparations that provide a high percentage of protein and, therefore, amino acids. They come in powder form that dissolves in liquid. They can be mixed with water, juice, milk or any other drink according to the desired objective.
What Are Protein Shakes For?
These shakes are used to increase protein in the diet when not enough is achieved through food. It may be necessary in oncological processes, after surgical interventions or after suffering major burns, malnutrition, in athletes , etc.
Types Of Protein Shakes
There is a wide variety of protein shakes on the market. The most used are milk protein or whey protein, egg or legumes such as peas or soybeans, and each one has specific characteristics.
Whey Or Whey Protein Shakes
It is the most consumed milkshake, obtained from whey proteins. It provides high-quality protein, that is, essential amino acids. It is easily assimilated, so it is usually taken after or during physical activity to provide the necessary nutrients to recover. They can be found in three types:
- Protein concentrate, protein isolate: contain all the nutrients of whey.
- Hydrolyzed: they are more “clean and isolated” proteins.
- Casein shakes , which are also obtained from milk, but whose release is slow, so they are recommended at times when food is not going to be consumed.
Egg Based Smoothie
The protein is obtained from albumin , the second most popular after whey. It is of high biological value, that is, it provides essential amino acids necessary for muscle recovery and its absorption is very good , since it is sequential, that is, slow and prolonged, so it can be taken at any time of the day .
Vegetable Protein Shakes
It is the vegan option compared to shakes of animal origin, and they are obtained from soy, peas, rice… They are formulated to obtain high quality proteins, they are not comparable to whey or egg protein, but they really contain a good amount of essential amino acids .
Possible Positive Effects
- It induces a greater loss of weight and body fat thanks to the fact that protein is more satiating than carbohydrates and fats, the consequence is that food intake is reduced and with it the total caloric intake of the diet.
- Prevention against coronary diseases as long as they are not associated with the consumption of saturated fats or ultra-processed meats (hamburgers, frankfurter-type sausages, sausages, etc.). Well-formulated high-protein diets improve the lipid profile as they help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels . In addition, these effects are enhanced if strength exercise is performed, as this training helps increase muscle mass, strength and power, improving body composition and also increasing HDL cholesterol levels, which translates into a reduction in cardiovascular risk. .
- Improves insulin resistance, according to the journal Diabetes Care (2017), protein consumption seems to increase insulin response levels, so in people with type 2 diabetes, diets with protein consumption between 1 -1.5 g/kg/day as long as they do not suffer from any kidney disease.
Possible Negative Effects
High-protein diets must be supervised by a nutritionist dietitian who determines the need to supplement with protein shakes. There are endless supplements on the market, which in many cases do not contain the nutrients indicated on their label, but many more, and in many cases these are not desirable at all. A study conducted by Harvard University, published in 2020 concluded:
- Shakes made from protein powder can contain added sugars and other unhealthy components to lower their cost, it is very important to choose a good quality protein supplement with healthy ingredients.
- It can affect digestion , people with dairy allergies or problems digesting lactose may experience gastrointestinal discomfort.
- Caloric excess , on many occasions the excess calories that shakes provide are not necessary, so it will make the person who takes them fat.
Toxic In Protein Shakes
A study published by the Clean Label Project examined the 134 most consumed products, and the results showed that it was common to find lead, arsenic, BPA or mercury among other substances. Vegetable products were more toxic than those that came from egg protein. The study was questioned due to the methodological flaws it presented, and it should be remembered that a product that does not comply with the regulations of the food authorities, in the case of Spain, of the Spanish Food Safety Agency (EFSA), cannot be marketed, which demonstrates they are not toxic.
There is also some controversy about whether a high-protein diet causes kidney damage in healthy people in the long term, but current scientific evidence has not been able to clearly demonstrate this relationship. Currently, protein intakes of 3 g of protein/kg of weight/day in healthy people are considered safe for kidney function, although it is not necessary to exceed intakes greater than 2.5 g of protein/kg of weight/day since that there is no benefit to it.
The consumption of proteins generates a series of mechanisms to eliminate ammonia in the form of urea, and for this process the calcium citrate of our bones participates, with which a greater intake of proteins is related to a lower bone mineral density. However, some recent studies have stated that this acidification could be compensated by other nutrients in the diet such as vegetables and fruits and that, in addition, carrying out a hyperproteic diet together with a sufficient intake of calcium, potassium and other minerals, there are no negative effects on the bones but rather the opposite: it could be beneficial in the long term for bone health. More studies are required to know protein excess and bone health.
A classic high-protein diet is an unbalanced diet, not recommended and that does not benefit long-term health, what’s more, it can harm. A diet high in good quality protein, balanced and adapted to the individual needs of the person, which does not exclude foods such as vegetables, fruits and quality fats, can be a dietary strategy that can produce positive effects on health. Protein shakes will be recommended or not depending on each person, depending on their needs, and always as a complement to a healthy and adequate diet, never as a substitute.
What you should know…
- Protein shakes are used to increase the protein in the diet when it does not provide enough. It may be necessary in oncological processes, after surgical interventions or after suffering major burns, in malnutrition, in athletes, etc.
- There is a wide variety of protein shakes on the market. The most used are milk protein or whey protein, egg or legumes such as peas or soybeans, and each one has specific characteristics.
- They will be recommended or not depending on each person, depending on their needs, and always as a complement to a healthy and adequate diet, never as a substitute.