When you hear the word bodybuilding, you probably think about big goons slugging down protein shakes all day.
Although that’s not entirely accurate (not everyone is big), protein shakes are an important staple for many bodybuilders.
I love protein shakes and powders. I have several articles on this site right now about protein powder, so I obviously think they have their place.
That being said, there are a lot of people out there that are a bit confused about the proper and best way to use protein shakes.
I sadly wasted years before I learned how to use protein shakes properly.
I figured that just drinking them whenever or as much as I could, would help me pack on lean, quality muscle like magic.
While it helped, I know that I could have gotten better results looking back if I focused on eating real food instead of drinking the shakes.
If you are a shake addict like I used to be, hopefully this help you to think a bit differently about them. They are a tool in the toolbox however, they should not be the primary tool of choice.
Protein shakes are a tool
Protein shakes and powders are a tool. That’s all. There’s nothing magical about them. Slugging down shake after shake will not help you become Mr. Olympia.
Do you want to hear a dirty little secret about professional bodybuilders? Most of them barely use protein shakes.
I know that may be shocking if you were led to believe they are drinking them all day long. Especially when you realize that many of them have nutritional companies that produce protein powder.
If they’re not using protein powder, then what are they using? They are using real food. They are eating things like chicken, eggs and beef to get their protein.
They do not rely on a processed form of it. Even if a protein powder is all the right things I talk about like grass-fed and cold processed, it’s still a processed source of protein.
Protein powder and shakes are not something you can go out in nature and find. As much as I’d love to have a whey protein shake tree in my yard, it can’t happen!
Protein powder is derived from milk. It goes through a whole process where it’s separated in a factory.
While that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it at all costs, you should understand what it really is.
The vast majority of protein powders on the market are pure garbage. They are filled with toxic chemicals and preservatives. They are far from what I would call real food.
Professional bodybuilders know that the best source of protein is and will forever be real food. I would take real food over a protein shake every time when it comes to building muscle.
Professional bodybuilders understand that protein shakes are a tool, which is what you should use them for as well.
They should not be used in place of real food whenever possible.
They are for your convenience
Protein shakes should be used to make your life easier however, they shouldn’t take the place of every meal because you’re too lazy to cook.
Protein shakes should be reserved for those times that eating a meal just isn’t an option.
Many people do not have the luxury to be able to sit down to eat 6-7 meals a day, which makes shakes valuable to the busy person.
The most popular time for people to have a protein shake is immediately following a workout.
Although the anabolic window theory has largely been discredited, it’s important to get protein in your body after a work to repair the damage you just did by lifting weights.
It likely will be longer than 30 minutes after your workout before you are able to consume a full meal, unless you eat it in the parking lot of the gym like a savage.
In this instance for many, it’s far more convenient to have a protein shake right after they train.
It’s quick, easy and takes away the mental stress of knowing you need to get protein in your system to repair and rebuild your muscles.
If there is one time I would recommend shakes, it would be after your workout.
It’s difficult to beat whey when it comes to digestion rate, although eggs are very close.
Use shakes wisely
You should not be drinking a protein shake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you plan wisely with your food preparation, you shouldn’t need protein shakes that often at all.
The truth is that real food is going to help you get the best results.
Protein powder works, but it will never be able to replace the power of real food to help you build and maintain muscle.
It just does not work as well.
This is something that you need to keep in mind when you are planning your diet.
If the options are between having a shake or going without any food or protein, I am going to choose the shake.
If the options are between a shake or eating real food, I am going to choose real food every time unless it’s an inconvenience.
When used wisely, protein shakes are a helpful tool. They ensure that you will be able to hit your daily protein requirement, even if you happen to miss a meal that day.
They should be used to fill the gaps in nutrition wise however, they should not form the foundation of your diet.
Once I stopped being lazy and replaced most of the shakes with real food, I saw my results skyrocket.
Keep it real
Protein shakes and powders are great, but they should be used sparingly. It’s become too common to use them as meal replacements.
If you’re looking to lose weight, that’s not a bad option however, if you are looking to gain lean muscle then real food is going to be your best option.
I will likely forever include protein shakes in my diet however, I continue to use them less and less as the years go by.
I’ve found that they are just not as effective as natural protein sources like fish, chicken, beef and the like.
If shakes make up a large part of your diet right now, try replacing them with real food options. Even if it’s just a couple of them.
You don’t have to give up your protein shakes entirely! I felt a bolt of fear even just thinking I may accidentally be passing that message on.
If you do want to get the best results possible though, which I know everyone does, you’d be smart to choose real food over shakes whenever possible.
P.S. What are your thoughts on protein shakes? I’d love to hear your questions, comments or concerns below!