Protein Shakes Can Help You Lose Weight and Boost Your Metabolism
Protein shakes are an easy way to add more protein to your diet, and have been shown to help with weight loss.
This article explains everything you need to know about protein shakes and how they affect your weight.
What Are Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes are drinks made by mixing protein powder with water, although other ingredients are often added as well.
They can be a convenient addition to the diet, especially when access to quality high-protein foods is limited.
Although most people don't need them to meet daily protein requirements, they can also be useful if you need to increase your intake for some reason.
You can buy protein powder and mix it yourself, but you can also get many different brands of pre-made liquid shakes.
Some of the most popular types of protein powder on the market are:
- Whey protein: Quickly absorbed, dairy-based. Contains all the essential amino acids (1).
- Casein protein: Slowly absorbed, dairy-based. Contains all essential amino acids (1).
- Soy protein: Plant-based and contains all essential amino acids. Also contains soy isoflavones, which may provide some health benefits (2).
- Hemp protein: Plant-based and high in omega-3 and omega-6 fats, but low in the essential amino acid lysine (3).
- Rice protein: Plant-based and low in the essential amino acid lysine (3).
- Pea protein: Plant-based and low in the non-essential amino acids cystine and methionine (4).
Some brands contain a mix of different types of protein powder. For example, many plant-based brands combine types to complement each other's amino acid profile.
Bottom Line: Protein shakes can contain different types of protein, each with its own characteristics.
Protein Shakes Decrease Hunger and Appetite
Protein can decrease hunger and appetite in two main ways.
Increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories helped participants in another study consume 441 fewer calories per day without actively trying to limit their portions (14).
What's more, by the end of the 12-week study period, they had lost an average of 11 lbs (5 kg) (14).
These shakes can be a convenient way to add extra protein to your diet. However, keep in mind that too much can still lead to excess calories.
Another study found that shakes containing 20-80 grams of protein all decreased hunger by 50-65%, regardless of the amount of protein in their shakes (15).
So if you're trying to lose weight, 20 grams per shake seems sufficient to reduce hunger.
Bottom Line: Protein can decrease your appetite by affecting your hunger hormones. It can also help you feel full for longer, which can help you eat less and lose body fat.
Protein Shakes May Increase Metabolism
That's in part because a high-protein diet — especially when combined with strength training — may help you build muscle.
This can speed up your metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat.
One study gave obese participants shakes with either 200 or 0 grams of extra protein per week.
Those given the protein gained 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg) more mass following a 13-week training program (18).
In another study, researchers gave participants a combination of foods and shakes providing either 0.5 g/lbs or 1.1 g/lbs (1.2 g/kg or 2.4 g/kg) of protein per day.
After 6 weeks, those on the higher-protein diet gained 2.4 lbs (1.1 kg) more muscle and lost 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg) more fat (19).
It should be noted, however, that your ability to gain muscle during a weight loss diet may depend on the amount of muscle you already have (20).
Protein can also increase metabolism because of the amount of calories needed to digest and metabolize it. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
For instance, 15-30% of protein calories are burned during digestion, while only 5-10% of carb calories and 0-3% of fat calories are burned during digestion (21).
Bottom Line: Protein helps boost metabolism because a lot of energy is spent digesting and metabolizing it. It also helps you build muscle, which burns more calories than fat.
Protein Shakes May Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
In one study, participants on a diet providing 25% of calories as protein lost 10% more belly fat after 12 months than those eating half that amount (24).
In another, participants given an extra 56 grams of whey protein per day had lost 5 lbs (2.3 kg) more at the end of a 23-week study period, despite not consciously changing anything else in their diet (25).
A separate study compared the effect of various weight loss diets. The participants consuming more protein lost 31 lbs (14.1 kg) in 3 months — 23% more than those consuming less (26).
In one final study, participants on diets providing 30% of calories from protein lost 8.1 lbs (3.7 kg) more than those on diets providing 15% of calories from protein (13).
Bottom Line: Protein shakes are a convenient way to increase your daily protein intake. This can help boost fat loss, especially from around your mid-section.
Protein Shakes May Also Prevent Muscle Loss and Metabolic Slowdown
Weight loss diets often cause you to lose muscle, which canslow down your metabolism. This makes it easier to gain all the weight back (and more) once you go off the diet.
In fact, researchers reported that participants' metabolism decreased less on a weight loss diet providing 36% of calories as protein than on a diet providing about half that amount (30).
Evidence shows that consuming a daily protein shake as part of a weight loss diet may make muscle maintenance up to three and a half times more efficient (31).
A study of athletes compared weight loss diets providing either 35% or 15% of calories from protein. Both diets helped participants lose about the same amount of fat, but those consuming more protein lost 38% less muscle mass (32).
A recent review further notes that weight loss diets that exceed 0.5 g/lbs (1.0 g/kg) of protein per day can help older adults retain more muscle and lose more fat (33).
Bottom Line: Protein shakes consumed during a weight loss diet can help prevent muscle loss and metabolic slowdown. This is particularly effective in combination with strength training.
Protein Shakes May Help Prevent Weight Re-Gain After Weight Loss
Protein's effect on metabolism, appetite and muscle mass may also keep you from regaining the fat you worked so hard to lose.
One study reports that participants given more protein lost more weight and maintained their results better than those given less.
In fact, the high-protein group regained only 9% of the lost weight, whereas the low-protein group regained 23% (26).
Another study gave participants who just completed a weight loss intervention a supplement that provided 48.2 grams of protein per day.
Participants who took the supplement felt more full after meals and had regained 50% less weight 6 months later, compared to those given no supplement (34).
A separate study noted similar effects with a supplement that provided only 30 grams of protein per day, once again showing that more is not necessarily better (35).
Bottom Line: Additional protein, whether from shakes or whole foods, can help minimize the amount of weight you regain after weight loss.
Which Type of Protein is Best?
Different types of protein have different effects on the body.
One study reports that 56 grams of whey protein per day helped overweight and obese participants lose 5 lbs (2.3 kg) more fat than the same amount of soy protein (25).
Another describes whey as 3 times more effective at maintaining muscle-building ability during a weight loss diet than soy protein (31).
That being said, not all studies agree that whey is superior. For example, one report notes that the faster hunger-reducing effect results in no differences in the amount of calories consumed at meals (36).
One final factor to consider is the protein's quality.
Whey, casein and soy contain all the essential amino acids your body needs.
That being said, these deficiencies likely don't cause a problem unless if shakes are the only source of protein in your diet.
Also, many plant-based protein powders mix different sources so that the mixture contains all the essential amino acids.
Bottom Line: The exact type of protein powder you have in your shakes should not make a major difference for fat loss. Some studies show an advantage for whey, but the evidence is mixed.
Dosage and Side Effects
Taking 1 shake per day should be a good way to start.
It is best to take it either before or instead of a meal, with 1 or 2 scoops of protein powder in the shake.
Mixing it with water, ice and perhaps a piece of fruit in a blender is a simple way to create a delicious and satisfying shake.
These symptoms can be simply avoided by switching to protein powders not derived from dairy, such as egg, pea, soy, hemp or rice protein powders.
Of note, high-protein diets were once thought to have negative impacts on kidney and bone health, but newer research shows this is not true.
Most studies report that total protein intakes of between 0.5-1.0 g/lbs (1.2-2.2 g/kg) per day provide most beneficial effects for weight loss.
This amount of protein normally represents around 25-35% of the calories you consume in one day and is generally considered safe.
You can read more about that here: How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day?
Bottom Line: Taking one shake per day is a good way to start, with 1 or 2 scoops of protein. Some people may experience digestive side effects.
Take Home Message
Most people can easily get enough protein without using shakes.
That being said, these supplements are an easy, safe and delicious way to add extra protein in your diet.
If you're trying to lose weight, extra protein from shakes can help you feel less hungry, help you lose weight faster and lower the likelihood of regaining the lost fat.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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