Protein shakes: are they effective for weight loss?

Proteins are macronutrients that improve metabolic function, and help reduce appetite and body fat.

A simple and effective way to obtain them is through shakes, which in recent years have been touted as ideal options for losing weight, but how effective are they? Here we review the available evidence.

Protein shakes are drinks made by mixing protein powders with water or another liquid, such as milk. This combination will depend on the objective pursued, since, when mixed with water, a faster absorption and a lower amount of calories is obtained, while with milk it increases the caloric value and the absorption period.

These shakes typically do not need to be met by most people to meet their recommended daily protein intake, although these products may be helpful for those who have deficiencies or trouble getting enough protein from their meals.

It is important to understand that protein shakes are dietary supplements, so they should never be used as a meal replacement for protein.

There are different powders to prepare protein shakes that you can get in health food stores or online shopping portals, although it is recommended to consult a health professional before including these products in your diet.

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This will determine, in the first place, if protein shakes are necessary in your diet. Also which ones you should consume, how to do it and what diet and exercise routine you should incorporate to take advantage of them.

Protein shakes

There are different types of powders to prepare protein shakes, among which the following stand out:

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Of animal origin

  • Whey protein: dairy-based, contains all essential amino acids and is rapidly absorbed.
  • Casein protein: dairy-based, contains all the essential amino acids and is slowly absorbed.
  • Meat proteinContains all essential amino acids, and is often a popular choice for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Egg protein: it is characterized by good nutritional value and medium absorption.

Of vegetable origin

  • Soy protein: It contains all the essential amino acids, and its content in beneficial compounds called soy isoflavones also stands out.
  • Pea protein: contains all the essential amino acids. It is usually a very popular option among those who are allergic to soy or wheat.
  • Hemp protein: it contains all the essential amino acids, it is also rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and its richness in arginine stands out.
  • Rice protein: It has a lower content of the essential amino acid lysine than the other options.

The choice of each type of protein to prepare the shakes will depend on the conditions of each person: allergies, intolerances, or food preferences (free or not of products of animal origin). A healthcare professional will determine the best option.

It is often pointed out that some of these options are more “complete” than others. For example, rice and hemp proteins are often considered less allergenic, although they tend to be low in the essential amino acid lysine.

However, experts say that as long as these shakes work as supplements to a diet rich and varied in protein sources, these deficiencies should not pose any problem.

Do they help you lose weight?

In recent years, different celebrities or figures in the field of health began to highlight the benefits of consuming protein shakes. One of the main benefits noted was better control (or even loss) of body weight.

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Various investigations have corroborated these claims, noting that proteins tend to help increase the feeling of fullness and maintain it for longer compared to other macronutrients.

In part, this is because it stimulates the release of the satiety hormones GLP-1 and PYY. The evidence that supports this process comes from different studies that analyzed how the intake of breakfasts or lunches rich in protein meant a lower caloric intake during the day, compared to other meals.

However, not many studies have focused on protein shakes. An example is the work published in Nutrients, which found that young, obese women who drank whey protein shakes reduced their appetite. However, the sample was too small, as there were only 9 participants.

Another work, published in Nutrition Journal, found after studying 32 men, that drinking 20 g of casein and pea protein 30 minutes before a meal increased satiety and reduced the amount of food eaten.

For this reason, experts point out that, although the shakes are useful to help control and lose weight because they increase satiety, they should be supplemented with nutritious diets, regular exercise and healthy habits.


Depending on their weight and general health, an average adult needs between 46 and 56 g of protein per day. For this reason, it is advisable to control the information of the products that are purchased to prepare the protein shakes and to know the appropriate dose.

Because protein shake powders are not subjected to the same controls as, for example, medications, it is impossible to know for sure what it contains. Experts also emphasize that care should be taken with:

  • Presence of active ingredients in supplements with strong biological effects on the body.
  • Excessive consumption of supplements, to obtain better and faster results.
  • Improper combination between supplements.
  • Combination of supplements with medications.
  • Substitute medications for supplements.
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In order not to be in danger when using supplements, you must take into account different safety measures. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shares these tips so that the user knows the supplements and does not fall into the inappropriate use of them:

  • If you are looking for supplements on the Internet, use non-commercial sites, such as the National Institute of Health, FDA, or the Federal Department of Agriculture. In this way, you will not depend on the information offered by sellers.
  • Allow yourself to doubt when statements are too good to be true, such as: “works better than a prescription drug,” “totally safe,” or “has no side effects.”
  • Remember, natural does not always mean safe.
  • To remember:

    Until there is significant scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.

    Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

    Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

    Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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