Scott Tindal MSc (SEM, London) Dip (ISSN)
Director & Head Physiotherapist and Team Nutritionist for the ORACLE TEAM USA.
Instagram: @oracleteamusaphysionutrition and @scottytindal
If you want to get in contact with Scott email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
How many protein shakes per day is too many?
I was recently approached to discuss the topic of “How many protein shakes per day do I recommend”? It stopped me in my tracks and made me think about the question being asked and what was wrong with it. The issue here is not how many protein shakes should one be taking but more how much protein should one be ingesting. Focusing on the post workout shake is not going to magically turn you into a cover model or less even start to change your body composition into something more desirable. This is a common fault in today’s media driven nutritional thinking and one that needs to change.
Process First, Goals Last
If you focus on a goal then you are going about it in the wrong way in my opinion. More important is to focus on the process that enables you to get to that goal. The process I mention is really a periodized training & nutrition program. This means you are following a plan that has you peaking for whatever it is you are gunning for. If improved health & a better body are your goals then the principle still applies. You should consider following a training program consisting of resistance and cardiovascular exercises that ideally lasts for at least 5 weeks. To compliment this approach, a nutrition training program should be adhered to as well.
Just how much is required?
The world health organization recommends an estimated average requirement of 0.66g/kg/bodyweight and a recommended dietary allowance intake of protein of 0.8grams/kg/body weight respectively. The pitfalls of this have been highlighted due to variability in lean mass on individuals and the inadequacies associated with the activity of an individual (1). For an 80 kg male, this recommendation equates to 64g protein per day. This is the amount of protein to sustain life – not to perform and does not take into account the training effect on the body from resistance or cardiovascular training.
If you are training and looking to maintain lean mass whilst reducing body fat I would start with a recommendation of between 1.5g/kg/bodyweight to 2g/kg/body weight as recommended by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) & the American College of Sports Medicine (2, 3). This would only be advised if the individual does not have any renal (kidney) issues and no other reason not to increase their protein intake. The upper levels of protein consumption have been investigated and it is deemed safe to do so (4).
In addition, recent evidence has led to further support of the need for increased protein intake depending on your training schedule and type of training (whole body vs isolated training) being undertaken by an individual (5). These higher levels of protein recommendation are supported by evidence that reveals the recommendation of 0.8g/kg/bodyweight can be too low when looking at specific subsets of the population and misses the true amount that could be required to maintain lean mass, improve body composition and health (6).
Calculating your Protein Requirement
So in real terms, this means that in you need to determine your protein requirement.
Example: 78kg male wanting to be 80 kg without gaining fat & increasing lean mass by training (lifting weights and doing cardio exercise)
Let's say you go for a whole number of 2g/kg/bodyweight.
Daily protein intake = 2 x bodyweight (desired)
= 2 x 80
You then need to decide how many meals you will eat in a day. A sensible recommendation would be 4 as it divides into 160 very easily.
Now you have the need for 40g protein per meal.
What does 40g of protein look like?
In real food terms this is what it looks like. This is part of the process I go through with clients when starting to educate them on portion size and protein amounts. It is not bulletproof and initially, I would always encourage weighing food to get a good understanding or hand size in relation to food but if a client is really reluctant then this is a very good estimate. 1 HAND = 40g protein.
So, How Many Shakes?
If you use the above-mentioned method and you look back at the requirements for the 78 kg male then he would require 4 hands of protein per day. Now breakfast, lunch, and dinner should be manageable for most people but the snack may be the sticking point. So, using a quality Whey Protein isolate such as True Protein's WPI90 is a very convenient solution for a snack that delivers exactly what you want in a very manageable and convenient manner. You have 2 scoops with water and milk and you know you are getting at least 40g of protein. So for this example, 1 shake would be more than adequate. If you are heavier then either increase your food intake of protein (first recommendation) or potentially look to have another shake as an extra snack throughout the day.
The current recommendation of 0.8g/kg/bodyweight is inadequate for an individual (male or female) exercising if they are looking to maintain or increase lean mass. An increase in daily protein intake to 1.5-2 g/kg/bodyweight is a sensible starting point for anyone looking to meet their daily protein requirement. The amount of shakes you require depends on the quality of the protein being delivered per scoop and the actual amount of protein you require from a supplement based on your actual food intake. Remember this – it is neither the shake nor even the protein intake that will give you the body you desire. It is the entire nutritional and training program combined that will lead you on the path to better health & subsequently an improved physique.
- World Health Organisation
- ISSN Position Stand Protein
- American College Sports Medicine
- Schwingshackl L and Hoffman G. Comparison of High vs. Normal/Low Protein Diets on Renal Function in Subjects without Chronic Kidney Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2014; 9(5): e97656. Published online
- Macnaughton etal, The response of muscle protein synthesis following whole-body resistance exercise is greater following 40 g than 20 g of ingested whey protein. 2016; 4 (15):1-13
- Geisler et al, Inadequacy of Body Weight-Based Recommendations for Individual Protein Intake—Lessons from Body Composition Analysis. Nutrients. 2017 Jan; 9(1): 23.