Regular gym-goers are sure to have noticed muscly guys tossing back a protein shake straight after their workout and it’s true that many bodybuilders use whey protein to assist with building muscle. But don’t be fooled by this stereotype, protein powder can also be a useful aid in weight-loss for both men and women.
Whey protein is basically a convenient alternative to whole foods that can be used to supplement the diet. It is produced as a by-product during the cheese making process. Milk is separated into solids and liquids – the leftover liquid is the whey. This is then processed to form a powder and the resulting whey protein is considered a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids and with a low lactose content.
When used as a supplement, whey protein can help to improve muscle protein synthesis and promote the growth of lean tissue mass. There is also some evidence to show that drinking whey protein can help women retain muscle mass and lose fat while trying to shed weight.
But before you stock up and start drinking protein shakes on top of your regular diet, you need learn how it can be used in a weight loss program. The suggestions below are options for times of day that we have found helpful when trying to lose weight. You would not use whey protein at all of these times.
Our suggestions for how and when to use whey protein for weight-loss:
- As a meal replacement – add into a smoothie
- As a snack replacement – mix with just water or water with a dash of milk
- Before going out to eat – mix with water (to help with satiety and prevent overindulging)
- After a workout – mix with water
Many people are in a rush at breakfast and then struggle all day when they miss this important meal. A great option is to whip up a breakfast smoothie you can consume on the go. Create a blend using liquid, protein powder, some fats like avocado and fruit and/or vegetables so it is both nutritious and filling. This makes for a convenient, nutrient-dense way to fuel up.
Keep in mind your overall macronutrient goals (protein/fats/carbohydrates) when creating your own mix. Below are a couple of suggestions but if you have the basic idea you can get creative!
Nutrient-dense breakfast smoothie - In a blender mix 1 cup milk, 1 scoop of vanilla flavoured whey protein, a handful of baby spinach leaves, 1/3 cup of frozen raspberries, a handful of ice.
Quick breakfast smoothie – In a protein shaker mix 1 cup water, dash of milk, 1 scoop of chocolate flavoured whey protein, ½ teaspoon peanut butter, 1 scoop of instant oats (or leave out if following a low-carb plan).
Whey protein, and indeed any protein, can help you feel full for longer than other food types, so you’re less likely to snack. For many, the afternoon is a difficult time to avoid snacking on high-sugar processed snacks and this is when a protein shake can be very convenient.
Likewise, if you were going to have a can of tuna for afternoon tea but couldn’t face it, then the right flavoured protein shake can be a sensible alternative instead of reaching for biscuits or chocolate.
To Prevent Overindulging
If you are going out and are likely to overindulge in all the wrong sorts of foods, then having a protein shake before you go can help fill you up, before you’re tempted to make a whole lot of unwise food and drink choices.
Whey Protein & Exercise
Exercise is an important part of being healthy and just changing to protein shakes alone isn’t likely to help you lose weight and maintain it. Therefore, we recommend combining resistance training with whey protein for anyone looking to lose weight.
Men can have one or two 30g scoops per shake. Women on a weight loss plan should stick to one 30g scoop of whey protein. The beauty of a protein shake is for most people, it is easier to get down after a hard workout than eating the same amount of protein in a whole food.
Frequency & Diet
It isn’t a good idea to replace all your meals with whey protein in an effort to lose weight. Instead, you should be thinking of whey protein as a convenient form of protein that can be used to supplement your whole food diet. It is important to continue eating whole foods, even when your goal is weight-loss, to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and fibre in your diet. It’s also important to create healthy eating habits you can maintain once you reach your goal.
As such, during a weight loss program we recommend using supplements only once per day. Occasionally twice per day is ok. Once you have reached your weight goal, you may simply consume whey protein after a workout to help with recovery and maintaining muscle.
Which protein powder should I choose?
Make sure you choose a whey protein that isn’t filled with nasty and unnecessary fillers or chemicals that your body doesn’t need. Also check it doesn’t contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Flavoured options are pleasant to drink with just water. Natural proteins are best used in a smoothie or recipe in combination with other flavours.
True Protein’s Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) contains 80% protein content per serve, with small amounts of fat and carbohydrates. The other alternative is Premium Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), which contains almost 90% protein content per serve, with only trace amounts of fat and carbohydrates.
The decision about which to choose comes down to a couple of factors. For the best results, we recommend WPI due to the higher protein content, especially if you are following a low carbohydrate diet.
However, if price is a factor, then using WPC will still give you a great result and provide a high-quality protein boost.
For more information about whey protein, read our Beginner’s Guide to Whey Protein.
When embarking on any weight loss plan, please consult your doctor or nutritionist for the best advice directly related to your circumstances.