That is the question that plagues many women getting into a fitness routine.
The common perception is that protein powders are for the guys and that they will just make you bulky and bigger (this is also a common perception around weight training as well but I will leave that ridiculousness for another day!)
So to delve a little deeper I thought I would start with WHAT IS PROTEIN and WHY DO WE NEED IT
Protein is a macronutrient commonly found in animal products however it can also be found in nuts/legumes. Protein is made up of amino acids, when you eat foods with protein in them your body breaks it down into the amino acids which are then distributed around the body to do their thing such as building and repairing cells in your muscles, heart, hair, they also assist with transmitting messages around your body as well as a variety of other functions. These acids can also be broken down to provide you with energy if you don’t have any other sources stored and ready to go such as carbohydrates and fats.
So you can see why we need to make sure we get enough protein in our diet! If we don’t the body isn’t able to repair and may begin to break itself down to repair the more crucial tissues or provide us with energy. If you are lacking in protein you may begin to become more fatigued, get sick more often, even your hair may stop growing or begin to thin out.
Generally speaking it is estimated that you require a minimum of 0.75g of protein per kg of weight per day. i.e at 55kg I require 41.25g of protein per day, but this does not take into account exercise. To put that into context 100g of chicken breast has 21g of protein, approximately half the requirement.
Things like exercise, intensity of exercise, type of exercise such as weight training vs cardio, metabolism etc all play a role in your requirements so it may be more depending on what you are doing.
If you’re consuming a shake to get the extra protein in, remembering that the shake also contains calories (1 gram of protein contains 4 calories) and have already fulfilled your protein requirement the broken down protein (amino acids) are excreted (i.e very expensive pee). However the calories also consumed by the shake may be stored as fat if you’re over your required calorie intake! There are some health effects associated with high levels of protein, although these are uncommon and require a very high intake, much more than then average person would consume.
It’s a bit of a balancing act trying to make sure you get enough in. It is also important to make sure your intake is spread out over the day, it is proven that eating a source of protein at each meal will help you feel fuller for longer and improve metabolism.
Personally I do not normally have a protein shake as most of us would get the required amount of protein in our daily diet not to have to worry about it. Assuming a protein source is included in at least 2 meals per day. However people who may need to consider it are those eating a plant based diet, those doing a lot of exercise or doing weight training or older persons.
I do currently have a Happy Way shake on training days as I have recently increased my training so my body requires more repair than normal but if you’re eating a well balanced diet and training only a few times per week you may not need to worry about forking out the extra $$ for something you don’t need. However, a shake can be a good post-workout meal if you wont be able to have a proper meal for some time. This is also why I choose to have a shake in the mornings at the moment as my training schedule means I don’t get to eat for at least an hour post workout.
These things are very individual and will depends entirely on your own circumstances.
Hope this has helped clear some things up.