Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

The question "do protein shakes make you fat" is often Googled, but is there any weight to that query? Pun intended.

As with most things, there is no black and white answer, because really, it's a little more complicated than that. In this article, let's dive a little deeper into the topic and look at both sides of the argument.

Read on to find out if protein shakes will make you fat or thin.

Do Protein Shakes Make You Fat?

Counting calories, Apple Shake, Supplements

No protein shakes don't make you fat. However, poor choices surrounding their inclusion as a meal replacement in your diet could lead to weight gain.

You can use protein powders as a replacement to whole foods, and if done properly, it can aid in weight loss.

Calorie Counting

If your goal for your protein shake is weight loss, then you are typically going to be using it as a meal replacement alongside a regular exercise routine. Protein is not a miracle product, and it is certainly not a magic pill.

By replacing your morning meal with a protein powder supplement, you can essentially kick start your metabolism and reduce your appetite for the rest of the day.

You will still need to be very aware of the caloric intake of your other meals. If you find yourself in a caloric deficit, you'll burn fat. If, however, the protein powder adds to a caloric surplus, you will obviously be putting on those pounds you wanted to shed.

Choose a protein shake that is low in calories and high in its protein content and stay away from protein in the rest of your meals if it makes up 25% of your caloric intake for the day by itself (more on that later).

It's All In The Mix

A big part of counting calories is knowing what ingredients are in your protein powder and the makeup of its nutritional profile.

A study found that powders containing 20-80 grams of protein reduced hunger by 50 to 65%,[1] meaning that you only really need around 20 grams of protein if your goal is weight loss. Anything else would be excessive.

What you mix your shake with would be the next most important factor. Ideally, water and ice, with maybe a piece of fruit for a little flavor and consistency, is definitely the recommended blend for weight loss.

You can use dairy or dairy-free milk, but you'll be chalking up more calories if you do.

Meal replacements supplemented with caffeine, or fortified with fiber have proven links that they reduce appetite and make you feel fuller for longer. So choosing a powder that is based around these ingredients could improve your experience.

Meal Planning

Now, while some protein shakes are advertised as meal replacements, no-one is recommending you replace every meal with them. If you want a hardcore liquid-only diet, it should only be for a short while. It won't help in the long-run.

Replacing meals with protein shakes may help you reduce your daily calories, which can help you lose weight. But eventually, you will need to start eating solid food again,
- Katherine ZeratskyEditor for the Nutrition And Healthy Eating Guide

Try replacing your breakfast or lunch with a protein shake and plan your other meals around that. Make sure you are hitting your nutritional needs but still leaving yourself in a caloric deficit if you're looking to shed those unwanted pounds.

The average person needs 46 to 56 grams of protein a day, and you could easily do this with a shake and allow your other meals to focus on the other nutrients of a healthy diet.

A big part of using protein shakes as a meal replacement is learning proper portion control when you eventually go back to three solid meals a day, so make sure you're learning good habits.

Can Protein Shakes Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, protein shakes can help you to lose weight. With a careful diet and regular exercise, protein has been proven to have a positive impact on both weight loss and diet control.

This is due to its ability to reduce hunger, increase metabolism, and act as a meal replacement with fewer calories than other options.

Hunger Reduction

man craving for food

Protein has been proven in several studies to reduce appetite, control hunger, and help you to feel fuller for longer.

In fact, in one study, participants were found to consume 135 fewer calories later in the day after having had a protein shake in the morning.[2]

But how does it have this effect? In regards to appetite reduction, it's in large part due to the production of hormones such as GLP-1, CCK, and PYY, which protein has a positive correlation on.

In another study, it was found that the participants taking protein cut cravings by 60%, and it reduced late-night snacking by half.

By reducing the amount the body wants to eat, it can help those using it to control their diet in the present as well as building a more healthy attitude towards food in the future.

This is not limited to just protein shakes either, by increasing your caloric intake to roughly 25% protein-based, you can enjoy these benefits daily, forever.

Increased Metabolism

Metabolism Boost

High protein intake can increase your metabolism and help your body to burn more calories daily. This is due in large part to the diet allowing your body to build muscle.

Again, this effect is best observed when combined with a good workout regime and strength training. The protein won't do all the work for you.

Your ability to build muscle will depend on your condition when going into the diet and training, but a study has shown that participants that were given protein supplements gained more muscle mass and lost more fat than those who were not.

Protein also has a higher TEF or Thermic Effect of Food than other nutrients, with 15 to 30% of protein calories being burned during digestion, opposed to 5 to 50% for carbs and 0 to 3% for fats.

Ultimately, protein helps you build muscle, which will help you to burn more fat naturally, while also being burned more effectively during digestion.

Muscle Maintenance

Building muscle to help your metabolism is only as good as the longevity of those muscles.

A lot of weight-loss diets will actually cause you to lose muscle mass, which means when you come off the diet, you're almost certain to pile the pounds back on due to metabolic slowdown.

A high protein diet combined with strength training helps to reverse muscle loss or atrophy and actively encourages muscle growth, teaching good habits that will hopefully persist even after the diet is done.[3]

To lose weight and keep it off, you need to train your body and mind.

By building muscle, you will be creating a fitness routine, and the protein shakes are designed for exactly that purpose. Yes, they help you lose weight, but primarily by helping you to build muscle.

Here's a video on how to use protein powder correctly for weight loss:

youtube

FAQ

Do protein shakes make you fat FAQs

What happens if you eat only protein?

Eating only protein is not advised in the long term, as it's not going to provide you with a diverse enough selection of nutrients. The diet might not be harmful when done in a short period, but even then, it doesn't provide any additional benefit as opposed to a well balanced high protein diet would.

Is it bad to drink protein shakes every day?

It's not bad for a healthy person to drink protein shakes every day. There was some confusion as to whether this may have been harmful to the kidney, but this research has since been disproved with newer studies, showing it may be beneficial for those with existing kidney problems.

What Is The Best Type Of Protein For Losing Weight?

From our research, no particular protein is better than another when it comes to weight loss. It seems they all have a few studies and research that prove them to be superior in one way or another.

Whether you choose whey, soy, or hemp, just the fact that you are taking protein in the right amounts is the most important factor to consider.

So, do protein shakes make you fat?

In conclusion, no, protein shakes do not make you fat. However, this is obviously on the provision that you are paying close attention to the rest of your diet and exercising a healthy workout routine.

Consuming too much protein and excess calories will obviously cause weight gain.

Protein shakes used a meal replacement and as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen can actively reduce hunger, increase metabolism, and build muscle mass, leading to a slimmer body and healthier lifestyle.

Want to see my favorite protein powders?

For whey protein click here, or if you prefer plant-based, check out this post.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25979566
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25889354
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23446962/

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