Do you need protein shakes after a workout?

You bought a large package of protein powder after hearing boasts of its benefits after a workout, but is it actually necessary?

Protein and carbohydrates are important components that need to be replenished after an intense workout because of how the body breaks down its muscles.

But using protein powder can actually hinder someone who is trying to lose weight and add more processed ingredients into the diet. 

Health experts warn consumers to pay attention to the labels when buying protein powder and opt instead for healthier choices such as tuna, apples and mixed nuts to avoid processed ingredients.

Daily Mail Online spoke with Maria Bella, dietitian and founder of Top Balance Nutrition in NYC, and Nikki Ostrower, a nutrition expert and founder of NAO Nutrition in NYC, about protein powder and if it is necessary for the diet.

Protein powders are typically used after a workout to help repair the muscles that were used. Health experts warn that these powders can contain processed ingredients that are bad for the body. Also, drinking protein shakes can hinder a diet instead of helping it (file photo)

Why does the body need protein after working out? 

‘During cardio, most of the glycogen stores get depleted and having 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein helps replenish those,’ Bella said. 

The body burns three types of stores during a workout: glucose (from carbohydrates), fatty acids (from fat) and amino acids (from protein). 

What the body burns is based on the intensity and type of workout that someone is doing.  

These glycogen stores then need to be replenished by consuming protein and carbohydrates for the muscles to rebuild after an intense workout.

‘Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair,’ Ostrower said.   

Getting protein in the body after a workout is just as important as the workout itself when building strong muscles. 

It is also essential to consume something within 45 minutes of a workout.

How much protein do YOU need 

Bella recommends 20 to 30g of protein and 15g of carbs after a strength workout to help with the tissue growth and repair. 

‘The cheapest choice is a can of tuna in water (roughly 25g protein) and one apple (about 15g protein),’ Bella said. 

These choices are food options for people who don’t have or want to use protein powder to replenish their body. 

Not everyone needs a large amount of protein based on their workout plan and diet. 

Instead, their body can replenish itself through the consumption of mixed nuts (27g), eggs (8g for two eggs) or a banana with peanut butter (5g)

‘It’s about getting to know your body,’ Ostrower said.  

The amount someone might need, though, is dependent on their body size and the intensity of the workout. 

Cardio workouts require more carbohydrates than protein after while the opposite is needed for strength workouts.  

What to avoid when picking a protein powder

Protein powders are a quick and accessible way for someone to get their protein after a workout, but both health experts say reading the label is necessary.

‘Typically a lot of protein powders are processed,’ Ostrower said. ‘We really want to be conscious of reading the label.’

It is important to be aware of what type of ingredients are in each of the powders.

Typically, a lot of protein powders are processed. We really want to be conscious of reading the label

Nikki Ostrower, nutrition expert and founder of NAO Nutrition in NYC

If an ingredient isn’t pronounceable, it probably shouldn’t be bought. 

‘It is essential to select the correct type of protein powder: whey, casein, hemp, pea,’ Bella said. 

These types of powders are more likely to have ingredients that are easily digestible by the body.

Ostrower said to also look out for products that are organic or non-GMO to avoid putting something in the body that might not be as good for it as people might think. 

The flavoring in the powder can also impact how the body reacts to it. 

‘I suggest selecting unflavored types to avoid extra coloring and ingredients,’ Bella said. 

Why you might want to AVOID protein powder

‘It is so easy to obtain enough protein from food that most people end up going over than staying under the recommended amounts,’ Bella said

Going over your body’s recommended amount of protein can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers studied 44,000 women and their risk of developing heart disease. 

They found that those who consumed more protein than necessary in their diet increased their risk by five percent. 

 People have to do careful research on the shakes as they are not very well regulated in the United States

Maria Bella, dietitian and founder of Top Balance Nutrition in NYC 

The amount of protein someone needs is dependent on their gender, weight and how often they workout. 

Ostrower recommends her female clients to consume on average 70 to 80g and her male clients to consume 120 to 170g of protein per day. 

Protein powder can put someone over their limit because most have more than 20g in just one scoop. 

Also, both Bella and Ostrower warn about how protein powders are produced. 

‘People have to do careful research on the shakes as they are not very well regulated in the United States,’ Bella said. 

Acid reflux is a common side effect for people who drink protein shakes because of the extra ingredients that some manufacturers use.

Bella also warns those with gout, a form of arthritis, to avoid drinking protein shakes because it can increase the symptoms for someone.  

If people experience a reaction towards protein powder, then they can use other food avenues to get what their body needs. 

Can protein powder help you LOSE weight?

Yes and no. 

Protein powder can help someone increase their muscle mass or help them lose weight depending on their goals.

But for weight loss, it is important to be particular about the type of protein powder you buy.  

Bella said she tends to avoid recommending packaged products to her clients for fear it will actually derail their diet instead of helping them. 

This is because hidden ingredients in some products can fuel sugar cravings or other unhealthy foods.

‘There are some studies that incorporating one or two shakes a day instead of a meal can help people lose weight,’ Bella said. ‘But this is a temporary solution.’ 

The more successful diets are ones that people feel satisfied and full on, not starved. 

Drinking calories also prevents the body from sending ‘chewing’ signals to the brain that the body is consuming food. 

The hypothalamus receives these signals and then lets the body know when it is full. 

This doesn’t happen when drinking a shake or smoothie, so someone could end up consuming more calories because they still feel hungry. 

People might also end up consuming more calories than they originally thought when dumping protein powder into a drink mixture. 

‘Manufacturers are legally allowed a fairly large degree error when labeling products and this can slow down weight loss, not speed it up,’ Bella said.