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Protein Shakes and Muscle Growth: Clinical, or Controversial?

It seems like all anyone can talk about these days is protein. Our TalkVita.com visitors ask us questions about it all the time. Are people consuming enough protein? Are they eating the right kind of protein? Are plant proteins good, or bad for you? And if you need more protein but are too busy to cook, do you need to start drinking a protein shake?

The answer to these questions is different for everyone. Protein shakes can be an invaluable addition to certain people's diets - but for others, not so much. You need to choose the right kind of protein, you need to time your protein shakes strategically, and your need to make sure you're getting more protein in your diet for the right reasons. Otherwise, protein shakes will do way more harm than good.

Protein Shakes

How Are Fitness, Protein, and Metabolism All Connected?

Human beings can't live without protein, period. The human body uses protein and the amino acids within to produce skin, muscle, connective tissues, and more. It's important to get as much protein as your body needs without going overboard (because that's bad for your kidneys). But how do you do it? And how do you know how much protein you need?

Conventional wisdom says that sedentary men need around 56 grams of protein per day, while sedentary women need about 46 grams. Obviously, these numbers will change depending on your activity level, body weight, and lean mass composition. The average daily protein requirements equal about .4 Grams per pound of body weight. Taking that number and multiplying it by the number on your bathroom scale is a good way to figure out how much protein you should be consuming.

Your fitness goals will also determine your protein needs. If you are highly athletic or if you are trying to build muscle, you may require as much as 0.5 - 0.8 G of protein per pound of body weight each day. And some extreme bodybuilders believe you need even more than that! But it's better to start slow and scale your protein up than it is to overwhelm your system with too much, too fast.

You can get some bodybuilding and aesthetic benefits from protein shakes even when you aren't bulking. When you're trying to lean out so you can look extra shredded, you'll still need to consume some protein to maintain your muscle mass and other tissues. For each pound of muscle that you gained during your bulk, you'll be burning an extra 6 to 7 calories per hour. Consuming too little protein while you are trying to lean out means that you will lose some of the muscle you gained and it'll take you longer to get shredded after a good bulk. But keeping up your protein intake with the right protein shakes will help you hold on to that new muscle so that you can get shredded and vascular at lightning speed! We don't sell any protein shake formulas here at TalkVita.com because everyone's protein needs are different. But we do sell one particular pre-workout product which is great for everyone (and we'll talk more on that down below).

Timing Your Protein Shakes for Maximum Muscle Building

The time of day you consume your protein shake will have a major difference on what that your protein does for you. For example:

  • Protein shakes in the morning - Drinking a protein shake in the morning is better for weight loss than building muscle. But keep in mind that nobody can see your gains if you don't get shredded and burn body fat. Skipping breakfast or eating a high-carbohydrate breakfast can cause crazy sugar spikes and crashes which make it hard to stick to your meal plan and eat healthy. A good dose of protein in the morning from a shake will help steady your insulin levels so that you can avoid these highs and lows.
  • Protein before and after workout - This is the most effective strategy for using protein shakes to build muscle (although some people think that working out fasted helps build muscle too). You start by drinking a protein shake immediately before you workout, power your way through set after set in the gym, and then consume another protein shake after your workout is over. The first protein shake helps fuel your body so that you have the energy you need to be the beast you are in the gym. Drinking a protein shake immediately after you're done working out gives your body the protein it needs to build your muscles back up and recover more quickly after a workout. You couldn't ask for a better strategy.
  • Protein shakes in the evening - You have to use precision strategies if you're consuming any protein shakes in the evening. There have been a lot of crossover studies lately between the field asleep and the field of nutrition. Protein shakes fall into that gray area where these fields intersect. Here's what the eggheads have found: slow digesting proteins in small quantities alongside a small, low glycemic carbohydrate snack can help you sleep better at night. Sleeping better at night gives your body the restorative rest it needs to truly recover bigger and stronger after a hard day in the gym.

What Else Should You Know About Protein Shakes?

When it comes to protein shakes and the fitness world, some people are so focused on whether or not they can that they never stopped to think if they should. Protein shakes aren't for everybody, even if you're trying to build muscle. The biggest problem that protein shakes cause is that they increase your caloric intake. This is all well and good if you are weight training and trying to put on lean muscle mass; but if you are trying to get shredded so the people can actually see your gains, you're going to be doing more harm than good.

Instead of protein shakes - or alongside protein shakes, if that's more your thing - we highly recommend a muscle building pre-workout formula like Ultra Edge XL. It doesn't necessarily contain whole protein, but it does contain something better: the amino acids which act as the building blocks of lean muscle. That way you can give your muscles what they need to become bigger and stronger without worrying about a calorie surplus. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the health and wellness advice you can find right here on TalkVita.com!