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Protein shakes for weight loss: Does it matter when you drink them?

Protein shakes can be good for encouraging weight loss.

When to Drink Protein Shakes for Weight Loss | Juniper

Whether you're looking to gain muscle mass or streamline your recovery from an intense workout, the benefits of protein powder are well-documented. Protein forms a crucial part of every diet as it constitutes the building blocks your body needs to grow and repair cells, including muscle and bone, and support vital organs such as the heart, brain, and skin [1].

Knowing that protein is so important for helping your body to grow can make for a record-scratch moment though when we start talking about weight loss. After all, if the idea is that protein powders are to bulk up or build muscle mass, why are so many people talking about shedding kilos and losing fat when they consume it?

The relationship between protein, whether in meals, snacks or protein shakes, and weight loss has been an area of study for decades, and for any question you've got, we've got the answer.

Are protein shakes good for weight loss?

Most studies indicate that yes, protein shakes can be good for encouraging weight loss when used in moderation. In fact, one study found that not only do protein shakes encourage fat loss, but they can also help you to both retain and build lean muscle, helping you to increase strength and definition [2].

Another study conducted 8 years later found similar results, with the added evidence that a high protein diet paired with a mix of resistance training and anaerobic exercise delivers the best change to a person's body weight [3].

The reasons why protein can help you lose weight are vast. Consuming protein, whether that be by drinking protein shakes or eating a protein-rich meal, assists with muscle protein synthesis, which burns calories. Some studies have also found that protein intake, unlike carbs and fat intake, is more effective in reducing the hunger hormones, helping to curb your appetite [4].

This combination of internal action — both physical and hormonal — is the key to helping many people reset their habits, lose weight, and work towards a healthier lifestyle.

When's the best time to drink a protein shake?

When to drink protein shakes for weight loss really depends on your lifestyle and activity.

It's often encouraged to pair a protein shake with a workout, which is when you are most likely to see direct results. After all, giving your body that boost of protein when it needs it the very most is feeding a hunger you might not yet be feeling.

Generally speaking though, if your workout is cardio or aerobic-focused, a post-workout protein shake is going to give your body what it needs, while if your workout is more based around resistance training such as weights, yoga or Pilates, a pre-workout protein shake can help you gain muscle mass and strength [5].

Does drinking a protein shake before bed help with weight loss?

The relationship between sleep and muscle protein synthesis has long been explored, but how much a protein supplement can impact that is still a new area of research. One study, though, has found that drinking protein shakes or eating something imbued with protein powder before going to bed can encourage muscle protein synthesis rates overnight while you sleep [8].

This looks like it could be an effective way of increasing both muscle mass and strength and while a relationship specifically between a protein shake nightcap and weight loss has yet to be studied, the benefits of increased strength and muscle growth indicate positive health benefits.

How many protein shakes should I drink per day?

When it comes to any nutritional need, your first port of call should always be to meet that need through a balanced diet.

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends 0.75 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, per day [9]. If you are looking to boost your protein intake, it's important to remember that a scoop of protein powder contains between 20-30 grams of protein, mixed with water.

As a result, if you are drinking protein shakes, experts recommend no more than 2 in a day.

What type of protein powder is best for weight loss?

If you need that extra protein in your diet, protein powders can be a great way to get it. Able to be drunk, stirred into yoghurt, or added to muesli, they're a versatile supplement that can help you get what you need without adding a lot more calories to your diet. But how do you know which one is right for you?

Protein powders are generally separated into 2 categories: animal-based and plant-based.

Animal-based protein powders

Animal-based protein powders such as whey protein, casein protein, and collagen protein are all made from animal byproducts.

Whey protein and casein protein are made from the protein in cow's milk, whereas collagen protein is made from the connective tissues of cow, fish or chicken. All 3 forms of this protein powder offer a high-quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids you would ordinarily get from food [6], making them a nutrient-rich dietary supplement.

Juniper's Nourish Shakes are made with high-quality whey protein, along with 24 minerals and vitamins (which cover up to 30% of your daily vitamin needs for immunity and overall health), a good dose of fibre to keep you fuller for longer, and probiotics for optimal gut health — all of this in just 204 calories.

Plant-based protein powders

As you've probably guessed from the name, plant-based protein powders are created by extracting and sometimes combining nutrients from plants to build the replica essential amino acids found in a complete protein.

Plant-based protein powder can come in the form of soy protein powder, rice protein, pea protein, and hemp protein — all good alternatives to animal-based protein powders.

These protein supplements are usually higher in fibre and lower in fat than animal-based protein, and the fact that they are based on plants instead of animal products means they can be a great option for people with intolerances or allergies or those who are vegetarian or vegan [6].

So which are the best protein powders for weight loss?

While neither is going to result in any sudden weight gain, animal-based protein has been found to be more effective when it comes to weight loss and lean muscle development.

Research has long shown that it's a more potent stimulator of muscle protein synthesis, and a recent study confirmed it. In fact, this study also found that if you are under the age of 50, animal-based protein will have an even more significant impact on losing weight and gaining lean muscle mass [7], with another study finding that whey protein had a particularly positive impact on weight loss [2].

That said, plant-based proteins are still effective, and particularly if you are over the age of 50, the differences between plant-based protein and animal-based protein seem fairly minimal [7].

How to incorporate protein shakes into a healthy diet

If you need more protein in your diet, incorporating protein shakes can help you reach your health goals. However, having too much protein in your diet can also have its own health risks, particularly straining the kidneys and liver [1].

As a result, it's best to start your shakes for weight loss with the support of a medical professional, like the clinicians, dietitians and health coaches leading Juniper's Weight Reset Programme. Taking a medical approach to weight loss with breakthrough GLP-1 medications, this programme is designed to provide you with advice, community, and health tracking to ensure you see the health benefits of your journey to lose weight.

If you have any questions about whether protein shakes are right for you, speak to your doctor or seek medical advice.

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