If you have a dedication to getting fit and building muscle, it will require more than just working out because it also requires a close eye on maintaining nutrition goals. When trying to hit these goals, it’s common to have questions like if you should drink a protein shake on rest days.
The short answer is yes, usually. But for a deeper understanding of why and to learn more about the benefits of protein shakes, keep reading this comprehensive article.
Benefits of Protein
Protein is one of the three macronutrients, which means that the body needs plenty of protein, and protein provides calories. Protein is known for helping build muscle and being a tool for weight loss.
The reason protein is so essential is because it’s in every part of the human body, and it works to build and repair things from muscle to hair. However, before diving into the benefits of protein, it can help to understand a bit more about the structure of a protein.
Amino acids are the components that combine to create proteins. They’re in three different categories:
- Essential amino acids
- Nonessential amino acids
- Conditional amino acids
The human body can only make some of the amino acids that it needs. These are the nonessential amino acids because your body already creates all that is necessary.
Essential amino acids are the ones the human body cannot make, so it’s crucial to get these from outside sources of food or supplements. The essential amino acids are isoleucine, histidine, lysine, tryptophan, valine, phenylalanine, leucine, threonine, and methionine.
Finally, conditional amino acids are necessary only when the body needs to repair itself from illness or injury.
Protein might be best known for its ability to help build muscle. When exercising, you’re tearing muscles and forcing them to regrow stronger. They need that protein to regrow.
Multiple studies have tried to figure out if increasing protein helps build muscle. The general conclusion is that increasing protein can help form muscle mass faster, up to a certain point.
Depending on your activity and goals, you’ll want to adjust how much protein you consume. Athletes generally need around 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 100 lbs, you’ll want 50 to 80 grams of protein daily.
Protein can also be a helpful tool for losing weight. High-protein diets make the metabolism work harder, reduce appetite, and help you feel fuller longer. All of these are important for weight loss and management.
Protein is more complex than carbohydrates or fats, so when the body breaks them down, it can make the body use more calories than other foods. This gets the metabolism working hard and fast throughout the day.
A diet high in protein also tends to make you feel fuller than diets composed of other macronutrients. This is because protein seems to interact with hormones in the body to reduce appetite.
All of these factors are ideal when the goal is weight loss. Protein gets the body going while also stopping the need for snacking.
Sources of Protein
It’s clear that protein is crucial, but building a high-protein diet can still be a difficult task. Take the time to familiarize yourself with protein sources; it can help you plan your diet and figure out how to hit your goals throughout the day.
Protein Shakes and Supplements
Protein shakes and supplements are quick ways to ingest large amounts of protein. While these options have plenty of benefits, there are also a few drawbacks.
First, let’s look at the positives. Protein supplements are any pre-packaged food that boosts protein, and protein shakes are protein powder that mixes with other liquid ingredients. Both options are very convenient, as they’re each quick to purchase and consume.
Protein shakes can be more beneficial than protein supplements. Partially, this is because you can control the amount of protein powder added. They can also be better because they often have fresh ingredients that have their benefits in the meal.
Protein supplements can sometimes be a bit counterintuitive. These pre-packaged options can occasionally have ingredients that aren’t the best for your fitness goals, and while they may work in a pinch, it’s a good idea not to rely on protein supplements.
Now, you may be wondering what the source of protein is for these shakes. There are a few different options, which mostly rely on personal preferences and diet restrictions. Protein that comes from milk includes whey and casein. Plant-based proteins are options like hemp, pea, brown rice, or pumpkin seed.
Whey protein is generally the preferred protein source, as the body quickly absorbs it. It is also a complete protein source, meaning it naturally has all of the amino acids you need.
Plant protein options are great if you’re trying to avoid animal products. However, plant protein options can vary between brands. Only some protein powders will be a mix of plants to provide a complete protein source, and they may have a more intense flavor in the shake than whey or casein options.
Either way, you can find plenty of protein powder options for your shakes and experiment to find the best option for you.
Another crucial source of protein is the actual food that you eat. Whole foods provide their nutrients along with protein and generally offer a better source of protein than supplements. Unfortunately, it can be hard to meet protein goals with food alone.
Still, it’s good to hit protein goals with a mix of food and supplements. It’s usually not recommended to get all your protein in a day from supplements, but if you can get it all from food, that’s alright. Find the balance that works best for you.
There are so many food sources of protein it can be hard to list them all, so here are a few of the more common categories:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Dairy and meat
It’s generally better to get your protein from non-animal sources, as eating large amounts of dairy, meat, and eggs can harm cholesterol. Still, as long as you find a good balance, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Should You Drink Protein Shakes on Rest Days?
Whether you should drink protein shakes on non-workout days relies on your personal goals and eating habits. It’s possible to eat enough protein in a day that you’ll never need a protein shake.
But if your goal includes plenty of protein, it can be hard to hit the numbers without the help of protein shakes or supplements. Not only are they convenient, they usually come with the benefits of protein with few calories.
The most important thing to consider is your own protein goals. Whether you should drink a protein shake on rest days will rely on this, it may change depending on the day.
Overall, it’s a good idea to maintain your protein goals on your rest days. It can be crucial for your body that the amount of protein it receives daily is relatively the same, especially if you’re building muscle.
Not only that, but some studies have said that protein on rest days after workouts can help recovery by building muscle and reducing damage.
Of course, it can also help to hit your protein goals if you tend to have a large appetite on rest days. The protein will help stop cravings and keep you better on track for your fitness goals.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. There are many benefits to having protein shakes on rest days, but if you’re getting enough protein in other food, they may be unnecessary.
Now that you understand the benefits of protein and the uses of protein shakes, even on rest days, here are a few other frequently asked questions to help you with your fitness journey.
Is it better to drink a protein shake before or after a workout?
Your body must have protein while you work out, but when you get that protein in doesn’t seem to matter much. For the most part, studies have shown that drinking a protein shake before or after won’t make much difference.
Ultimately, all that matters is that you hit your protein goals. When you enjoy your protein depends on your preference.
Do protein shakes make you gain weight?
Yes and no. Protein shakes can help lose weight but occasionally causes weight gain when used carelessly. Additionally, muscle gains will lead to weight gain as muscle weighs more than fat. In that way, protein shakes can increase weight by increasing muscle mass.
Protein shakes help lose weight for a few reasons. However, shakes often include extra sugar and other additives that aren’t healthy in large amounts. So if you rely on protein shakes or consume too many, weight gain can occur.
Additionally, if you add protein shakes to your diet, you should try to balance them with exercise. On rest days, your body will be fine, but if you’re regularly drinking protein shakes without changing your activity level, it may cause weight gain.
For the most part, protein shakes won’t cause unwanted weight gain. Just make sure you’re carefully using these supplements for the best results.
It’s clear that there’s a lot to consider with protein shakes, but ultimately they can be a fantastic tool for reaching your fitness goals. As long as you find a way to balance them, they’ll be a great addition.
Feel free to enjoy your protein shakes on your rest days, and keep working towards your target.