The days of protein powders being seen as bodybuilder’s secret steroid juice are gone, now protein shakes have become so popular almost every gym bag rattles with a shaker. There’s been a huge rise in shakes marketed for weight loss, but can shakes really be the quick-fix for losing weight?

Protein for Weight Loss

What is a Protein Shake?

Protein shakes are the most widely used supplement out there, but do we actually know what’s in them? Protein is made up of around 20 amino acids, used for our bodies growth and repair. It is split into two types, complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins are sourced from meat and tend to have a complete amino profile, whereas incomplete proteins come from plant sources and may have some but not all of your amino acids. Whilst there are many different types of protein shakes, the most widely used is whey protein and this is the one that has been duped the best for weight loss. Whey protein is a waste product made when milk is curdled into cheese, if you were to watch the process, whey would be the yellowish liquid floating around curdled milk. Nice. So why would we want to drink that? Obviously, before it goes to sale whey is transformed and can come in all kinds of flavours, from favourites like banana and strawberry to cookies and cream and even mint choc chip.

Protein and Weight Loss

Benefits of  Whey Protein:

  • Whey protein contains an incredible range of essential amino acids, which are absorbed quickly. Of your 20 amino acids, 9 are essential. These 9 essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body on its own and therefore, we need to source them from the foods we eat.
  • Multiple studies have found that when supplemented with heavy resistance training, whey protein can help to increase lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest, a pound of muscle can burn up to three times as much as a pound of fat.
  • Protein helps to aid in recovery. The amino acid profile of Whey contains building blocks for growth and repair and is fast absorbed meaning it can reach your tired muscles quickly to aid repair after a tough training session.
  • Studies show that whey may keep you fuller for longer. Milk proteins contain glycomacropeptide, a peptide that stimulates the cholecystokinin known as CCK. CCK is an intestinal hormone that is released after eating a meal to signal satiety and keep you full.
  • Whey protein is high in Leucine which plays a key role in protein synthesis, a process that burns through quite a few calories as well as stimulating fatty acid oxidation.

Whey Protein can help you lose weight

As you can see, there are benefits which suggest whey protein can help you lose weight by increasing lean muscle and feelings of fullness and although having a diet rich in protein would do the same thing, quickly whizzing up a shake can be a lot easier than cooking a full blown meal. In order for these benefits to aid your weight loss, you need to make sure that your using more energy than you eat, which is why although protein shakes could help you lose weight, it’s not always the case.

How much protein do I need?

To help you calculate whether protein shakes are a good addition to your weight loss plan it is worth calculating how much protein you already intake and whether there is the need for it.

The recommended daily intake for a sedentary person is 0.36 grams per pound or 0.8 per kilogram, making daily intake reasonably low, however when used as part of a training programme this increase can triple by as much as 1lb per pound of weight, in fact, this is what I recommend to most of my clients and we calculate the rest of their macronutrients from this start point. So for a 130lb woman to reach her protein intake, a shake is going to be incredibly useful. Most shakes contain around about 20-30g protein per serving.

The Negatives of Whey Protein

Unfortunately weight loss via protein shakes isn’t without its setbacks and potential symptoms could include:

  • Increased Flatulence.
  • Constipation/Diarrhea.  
  • Insufficient Nutrition - Relying too heavily on protein shakes can lead to deficiencies in other nutrients and whey has been processed purely to be relied on for protein needs.
  • Sugar - In order to make them taste less like cheese, some shakes can have lots of added sugars which can have the adverse effect and contribute to poor health and weight gain.
  • Bloating - A lot of people suffer intolerances and bloating due to protein shakes.
  • Price - Finding a high quality protein can prove expensive.


It’s time to get ‘whey’sted. Will protein shakes help you lose weight? Yes, as part of a healthy and balanced diet and training regime, not as an alternative. Shop around for powders with low sugar and high protein contents and always try and keep your protein organic.