Our reliance on ‘quick and easy’ is sometimes not always the best approach. Take protein shakes, for example. Mixing powdered protein with water or milk makes it effortlessly easy for anyone. Forget about heating up (and cleaning) the grill to cook a steak or chicken breast. In fact, so easy that some guys may be mixing up several high-protein shakes each day, bypassing ‘real’ food in the process.
What is protein powder?
First, define what protein shakes are: Protein shakes can be purchased in grocery stores or online. The container of powders comes with a scoop, which when full, usually supplies between 20 to 30 grams of protein per scoop. If the protein powder is for muscle building, they have higher protein content than protein powders for weight loss. Most protein powders are mixed with water or milk, but can also use other beverages.
The powders come from forms of protein such as plants like soybeans, peas, rice, potatoes, or hemp and from animal sources such as eggs or milk (casein or whey protein). Many protein powders used to make protein shakes may contain added sugars, artificial flavorings, thickeners, vitamins, and minerals.
Are there risks to using protein powders?
There is a possibility of risk using powders for a protein shake. Protein powders are considered a supplement – they are not considered food. Years ago, the FDA allowed the manufacturers of supplements to evaluate the safety of their products. This makes it difficult to know what ingredients may be in supplements.
Data is limited on long-term use of protein powders for a shake. However, these products may cause digestive issues for some, especially if a person is allergic to dairy or has trouble digesting lactose (milk sugar) from a milk-based protein powder.
Another concern is the amount of added sugar within a protein powder. Always read the Nutrition Facts Label to know the amount of added sugars.
Finally, reports of toxins in protein powders have emerged. Over 100 types of toxins from bisphenol, heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and even pesticides were found in protein powders.
Men and protein shake use
Protein has always been a nutrient valued by men. Typically, men are interested in improving muscle mass by putting high protein foods on their plates or downing man-made products like protein powders mixed with a liquid. Protein powders made with whey and casein (two types of proteins found in cow’s milk) are considered complete, high-quality proteins. They contain all nine essential amino acids, similar to the protein found in meat, fish, and eggs.
Shakes made with protein powders are certainly a good option as a protein source, especially when animal-based protein, like whey and casein. However, plant-based proteins like soy protein and pea protein contain the nine essential amino acids, making them equivalent to animal-based proteins.
The amount of protein most men should aim for daily is between 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram. To figure this calculation, a man weighing 195 pounds weighs approximately 89 kilograms (divide 195 by 2.2 to convert to kilograms). Therefore, based on range of daily protein amounts for men, a man weighing 195 pounds or 89 kilograms, would have a protein range of 89 to 142 grams of protein a day.
What to do
The main role of protein shakes is to supplement a person’s diet. They should not replace food or a meal. Their main use is to boost the protein content in the diet, usually for muscle building. Protein shakes are also often used for older adults or anyone with certain illnesses prone to muscle loss or not eating sufficient food sources of protein. Drinking a beverage containing protein powder may be more palatable than foods.
Determining the number of protein shakes to consume each day is easy – don’t drink beyond two per day. If you want to build muscle and work out regularly, drinking two protein shakes is all most people need. However, less active people should only consume one per day and get the rest of their protein from food sources such as eggs, dairy, chicken, beef, beans, or fish.
Going beyond more than two protein shakes a day is likely not necessary. It’s easy to fill up on these drinks, reducing intake of other healthy foods offering various nutrients our body requires daily.
The main takeaway is protein shakes made with protein powder are not the same as food and should only be used as a supplement. However, when used in moderation, they will be fulfilling their role without you becoming overly reliant on them.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.