When shopping in health food stores, or even just in the vitamin and supplement aisle at the grocery store, you’ve probably come across several shakes. Some of them brand themselves as ‘protein shakes’, while others are marketed as ‘weight loss’ or ‘meal replacement’ shakes.
It may not seem like an important difference at first, but trust us, it’s worth paying attention to it. These two products are designed with very different goals in mind, and accidentally choosing the wrong one could have some pretty disastrous effects on your diet or exercise program.
Here’s the Main Difference
Protein shakes are meant to act as a protein supplement only. Some people struggle to get enough protein in their diet, which can lead to issues with muscle repair after intense workouts. Typical sources of protein are meats, fish, and eggs. However, there are many factors that may prevent you from getting your recommended daily intake from food sources.
Cost can often be an issue, as not all of us can afford a steak dinner every night. Cholesterol concerns might be another, or you may simply be a vegetarian looking to avoid meat. Protein shakes offer a quick and easy way to supplement your diet.
Weight loss shakes on the other hand are designed specifically for weight loss. The idea is that rather than eating your regular breakfast or lunch, you drink one of these shakes instead. They are usually nutritionally balanced, but much lower in calories than a typical meal, making them an easy and convenient way to help create a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Getting the two mixed up would not be good. Someone drinking a meal replacement shake after a workout may only be getting a few grams of protein which is not enough to cover their muscle repair needs. While a person drinking a protein shake as a meal replacement may find that their weight loss stalls or even reverses, as a low calorie count is not the most important aspect of protein shake.
What’s In a Protein Shake?
Protein shakes will derive their protein content from one of the following sources: whey, caseinate, beef isolate, egg, soya, hemp, or pea and rice. Deciding which one is best for you will depend on a number of factors.
For instance, whey and caseinate are both derived from dairy products, and are therefore not recommended for anyone who is lactose intolerant. Soy, hemp, and pea and rice protein are all suitable for vegetarians and vegans looking to avoid consuming animal products. Protein sources can vary quite a bit in price, so don’t be surprised if you find that a hemp protein shake is twice the cost of one containing whey protein.
To determine your recommended daily intake of protein, use this simple equation: 0.8 x your weight in kilograms = how many grams of protein you need each day. Protein shakes will usually provide somewhere between 15 and 30 grams of protein per serving, so you’ll still need to take in extra protein throughout the day, but the shakes can be very helpful in keeping your numbers up.
What’s in a Weight Loss Shake?
Now, here is where some people get confused: weight loss shakes and protein shakes both have protein in them. However, the protein in a meal replacement shake is only meant to help you feel fuller for longer, and there isn’t enough to help you rebuild damaged muscle after a workout.
Weight loss shakes will ideally be low in carbohydrates and sugars, making them more appropriate for diabetics. Added sugar is often a sneaky culprit behind weight gain, so make sure there is not too much hiding in the ingredients list.
Lastly, they are also fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. Since you are skipping an entire meal, you’re also missing an opportunity to take in essential nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. So these are added back in, and will be listed on the nutrition label.
So, Can Protein Shakes Help You to Lose Weight?
The answer to this question is “maybe.” That’s not the definitive answer people are usually looking for, but weight loss depends on many factors. Protein can help with satiety, meaning you will feel fuller for longer, and be less likely to snack. Protein also helps build muscle, and muscle building burns calories.
In other words, protein shakes will probably help with ongoing, slow weight loss. For a faster initial weight loss however, weight loss shakes will provide better results – at least in the beginning when weight tends to come off faster.
Knowing the difference between these two types of shakes can be very important in helping you achieve your particular goals, while also avoiding certain pitfalls. Spending an extra minute or two comparing nutrition labels can go a long way.