All you need to know about protein shakes – Are they really necessary?

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I’ve received questions from many people regarding the supplements that I take, most common question being “What brand of protein do you take?” To answer all questions at once, I’m going to give you a clear idea on the things you need to know about protein.

Before reading on I would like to emphasize that this is just my opinion and experience on protein after drinking it for about 8 years now.

I’ve drank many different brands of protein shakes throughout my swimming career, and I’ve came to a conclusion that the brand of protein shake doesn’t matter, all sources of protein are great as long as you take them at the right time.


Do we really need protein shakes? 

There has been a lot of debate on whether protein shakes are better than natural sources of protein like chicken/beef. Ask my nutritionist and she’ll say that natural sources of proteins are definitely better than protein shakes, and I agree with that. It’s always better to get your protein sources from natural foods as less processed food is always better. Protein shakes have added artificial flavorings which may be harmful to the body as well.

However, despite it being inferior to natural food sources, I still continue to drink protein shakes. Why? That is because your body is more sensitive towards these nutrients within 45 minutes of your training session therefore it speeds up your recovery. You may have heard of the “45 minute window” and if you miss it, your body is just not going to receive those nutrients as well after 45 minutes.

For me personally, showering and getting home takes about 1 hour after training so I would have missed the recovery window by the time I reach home, so I stick to drinking protein even though I know that natural food sources are better.

I’ve experimented going off protein for about 3 months before, just to see if the 45 minute recovery window analogy was a hoax, but I did realize slower recovery rates post training so it’s safe to say that the recovery window is true.


What to look out for in Protein shakes 


So if you’re like me, who takes about an hour to get home and eat your first meal after training, you may want to consider taking protein shakes. With that said, I’ll let you know what I look out for in protein shakes:

1) I always try to look for “No artificial flavoring and coloring” because I know that since protein is long term (been on it for 8 years now) and if accumulated, drinking artificial flavoring and coloring would definitely do a lot of harm to your body, so always look for whey protein that is natural. However, do take note that I do take adventurous flavors like cookies and cream sometimes as the taste is far more superior compared to a “natural vanilla” taste, but most of the time I always go for natural whey.

2) Check the label, and make sure that “Whey protein ISOLATE” is the first word you see on the label. If you’re not sure about how to read nutritional labels, it always goes by descending amount in content, which means that whichever word you see first, it has more of that content. So if you see “sucrose” as the first word, you can chuck the protein in the bin because it’s loaded with loads of sugar, which is not what we want after working so hard.

Back to why Whey protein isolate should be first. Protein consist of Whey protein concentrate, Whey protein Isolate, Casein protein and many different forms of protein. To simplify things, Whey protein isolate is the fastest digesting form of protein which your body needs after a tough session, so having that first in your label means that you’re getting the purest form of protein your body needs. Of course there are other superior forms of protein like “Hydrolyzed Whey protein isolate” but I think that Whey protein isolate is already good enough, so you don’t have to worry about spending that extra money for something that you don’t need.

3) The ideal recovery protein shake is to have a 2:1 ratio of Carbohydrates to protein, so for example, if you’re drinking 24g of protein, the ideal carbohydrate intake you should have should be 48g. However, there is actually a limited amount of products that offer both carbohydrates and protein in the same drink, and even if they do, it’s usually really pricey, and almost double the price of a normal protein shake. So even though it’s ideal, I would recommend just taking your protein shake with a banana, it would suffice that way, unless you don’t mind going that extra mile to go for a protein blend that has carbohydrates in it.


Protein – With milk or with water? 


I would have to say that protein with milk taste the best, especially when I’m on my cookies and cream tub, however, I would still say mixing it with water has a far more superior absorption rate as compared to milk.

Like I mentioned earlier, Whey protein isolate is the most superior source of protein, so choosing a protein source with isolate being the primary source would be ideal for our body. Whey protein isolate is filtered from protein, and protein has a mix of isolate, concentrate, casein and many more. The reason for filtering it is so that your body can get the best source of protein within 45 minutes after your training session. Milk’s primary source of protein is Casein protein, which is the slowest digesting protein which you can ever drink. So if you think about it reasonably, if you’re going to mix your protein with milk, you’re actually going to slow the digestion rate of your protein as the isolates are being mixed with casein now, so what’s the point of buying whey protein isolates if you’re going to mix it with a slow digesting protein source then?

So to conclude, mix protein with water after your workout. Even though it may not taste as good, it speeds up the absorption rate of your protein.


How much Protein should I drink? More =/ Better

AIS protein

This list was taken from the Australian Institute of Sport nutrition page, which I refer to it for my protein intakes. This list may be confusing to some, so I’ll explain it to you so that you can gauge your own protein intake.

The list on the left shows the different types of people and the one on the right shows the different amount of protein which you require. This is the amount of protein you need A DAY, not after each training session.

For example, in my case, I would consider myself to be under the “Elite male endurance athletes” column, and the protein intake is 1.6g/kg/day. What it actually means that for every 1kg of my body weight, I will need 1.6g of protein.

So my protein intake would look like this:

My weight: 70kg
Protein intake per kg: 1.6g

70kg x 1.6g = 112g of protein a day

To further break it down:

(Your weight):
(Your protein intake per kg):

(Your weight) x (Your protein intake per kg) = (Amount of protein you need a day)

Common mistakes

Protein tubs usually offer about 24g of protein per scoop, so referring to my chart, does that mean that I have to have about 4 and a half scoops of protein a day?


That is the common misconception that people may have. My body requires 112g of protein a day, but we have to factor in the different protein sources that we will take in a day through our breakfast, lunch and dinner, so here is a list of things which may be high in protein which you may already be eating in your daily meals: 

Eggs (3 large eggs): 18g protein
Rib Eye Steak (250g): 60g protein
Chicken meat (100g): 27g protein

If you’re lazy to calculate, a good gauge would be to divide your protein intake by 3, so for my case it would be about 40g-50g of protein a day through my protein shakes as I’m roughly guessing that I can get 2/3 of my daily intake of protein through proper meals.

For me personally, I take 2 scoops of protein shake a day, 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening, both of them after my training sessions, so I get about 50g of protein through protein shakes in a day.

So all in all, if you’re a really busy person which can’t get natural foods 45 minutes after your workout, I would recommend you to invest in taking protein shakes for your recovery, it did help in my recovery so I would strongly recommend it. However, if you stay close to your gym or training area I would strongly advise that you stick to having proper meals post training as natural food sources are always superior as compared to all these processed food sources.

Hope this blog post answers any doubts/questions you have about protein! Feel free to drop me an email if you have anymore questions with regards to supplements.

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