If you've recently purchased a tub of protein powder, you may be wondering: how many protein shakes a day are healthy or recommended? This is a question we've all had at some point.
You should have between 1 and 3 protein shakes a day, depending on your necessary daily protein intake. Having too many protein shakes in one day is likely not going to have long lasting negative effects.
But what is your necessary protein intake, and how should you time the shakes?
Keep reading to find out:
If you are ready, let's get started.
How many protein shakes should I drink a day?
Thankfully, a lot of research was undergone to find an answer to this question. Since every individual is different, your necessary protein intake will differ from mine.
However, there is a simple formula you can use to determine your daily intake.
How many protein shakes a day to gain weight and build muscle?
With bodybuilding being so popular, people want to know how much protein they need to build muscle. Back in the day, there were no studies and athletes had to eat as much protein as possible.
Times have changed, and now we have a concrete answer.
You have to couple this with resistance training and eating at a calorie surplus.
Whether that is calisthenics, lifting weights, or both, you need to be training and placing your muscles under stress to elicit a hypertrophy (muscle building) response.
Furthermore, you need to be eating more calories than you are burning if you want to gain weight.
How many protein shakes a day to lose weight?
Losing weight is a matter of eating less calories than you are burning, rather than a matter of reaching a certain amount of protein. With that being said, eating enough protein during weight loss prevents loss of muscle mass and keeps you satiated.
So in the context of losing weight, having a protein shake has more to do with health.
When losing weight, you should aim for 0.36-0.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or 0.8-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
To further prevent the loss of muscle mass when losing weight, add 2-3 resistance training sessions in your week.
How should you time your protein intake?
Extensive research has been done to optimize the timing of protein intake too.
In the following lines, we will present how you should generally time your protein intake, as well as how to time protein shakes depending on your goals.
How to time general protein intake?
Let's have a look at how to distribute your protein intake throughout the day, ranging from how much to how often you should be eating it for optimal results.
To maximize muscle protein synthesis you need to eat 5 meals a day with protein in them. Spread your daily protein needs throughout the 5 meals and you will be building muscle optimally.
That said, you don't have to divide the protein equally. Just make sure you eat protein with each meal.
As far as weight loss is concerned, again, how you distribute your protein doesn't matter, just like it doesn't matter how much protein you eat (aside from the health benefits). As long as you are eating in a calorie deficit - eating less calories than you burn - you will lose weight.
How to time your protein shakes?
Most people who take protein shakes do it to build muscle. For all the other categories of people who supplement their protein, your timing really doesn't matter. Any time works.
If you want to optimally build muscle and strength, though…
You should be taking your protein shake as soon as possible after training. Taking protein right after a workout was shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, total muscle mass over time, sports performance, and strength. (3)(4)(5)
This applies equally to men and women alike.
Common pitfalls of supplementing with protein powder
Now that you know how many protein shakes a day you should have, let's see some of the common pitfalls most people fall into when supplementing with protein powder.
You are replacing your meals with protein shakes
This is by far the most common issue I see with people taking protein supplements.
In an ideal world, you would be taking your daily necessary protein from whole foods like lean meat, plant-based sources, dairy, eggs, and so on.
You should only take supplements when you can't reach your recommended intake from your diet, in cases like pregnant women who have food aversions, athletes who have to eat a lot of protein, diabetic people who want a healthy, sugar-free snack, etc.
However, most people use protein powder like a crutch and simply replace their meals with it.
And even though protein powder does offer a lot of benefits, it doesn't have all the vitamins and minerals you can easily find in whole foods.
You are overcomplicating things
Another issue with protein supplementation is the overthinking it leads to.
Should you drink one shake or two? Should you drink a shake before or after a workout? How about, how long after a protein shake to eat a meal? And the list goes on and on.
Truthfully, none of this really matters.
As long as you focus on getting your recommended amount of protein on a daily basis and distribute it (equally or not) throughout 5 meals, you are golden.
You are consuming too much protein powder in one go
There is no known limit as to how much protein powder you can safely consume in one go. Even if there is such a limit, it may not be possible to reach it either way.
That being said, you can easily reach a point where the amount of protein you are getting is useless.
Your body will simply process it into waste and eliminate it.
So how much protein should your shake have? Probably 20, 30, 50 grams of protein are good. However, if your shake has 100 grams of protein or more, we can almost guarantee a big part of it will be eliminated as waste.
Let's have a look at a couple common questions related to the topic of how many protein shakes you should have a day.
Is it bad to drink two protein shakes a day?
No, there is nothing wrong with drinking two protein shakes a day. Ideally, you would want to reach your daily recommended protein intake through whole foods only.
However, if that is not an option, you can safely drink two protein shakes a day, and even more.
When should you drink protein shakes?
In the context of training, you should be drinking them as soon as you finish your workout. This is not a do or die type of thing, but it will certainly optimize the muscle protein synthesis.
In any other contexts, drink protein shakes when you can't reach your intake through whole foods.
So how many protein shakes a day?
There is no clear cut number of how many you should have but anywhere between 1 and 3 should be safe. Just make sure that, ideally, you get most of your protein from whole foods.
If you are a person who needs supplementation, like a pregnant woman, athlete, or diabetic for example, don't worry if you drink several protein shakes in a day. Just make sure that you don't go over your daily recommended amount of protein.
Over to you.