How to Lose Weight With Protein Shakes

Protein Shake

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Using protein shakes for weight loss is a common strategy, but it is not always the best choice for everyone. While protein is vital for many bodily functions and helps you feel satiated and full for longer than carbohydrate or fat-based meals, there are considerations to be aware of.

Below, you will find helpful information on how and when to use protein shakes for weight management including what the benefits and drawbacks may be so that you can make the best decision for your health and weight loss goals.

Weight loss is not always necessary and is not equal to being healthy. Health is more complex than the number on the scale, and not all weight loss methods are health-creating ones. It's vital to know that nutrient density is more important than caloric amounts. Be sure to discuss any weight loss goal or diet plan with a healthcare provider.

What Are Protein Shakes?

Protein shakes are beverages that are high in protein. They can vary greatly in protein quantity as well as other macronutrients and micronutrients.

There are pre-mixed protein shakes available that come packaged in liquid form, and there are protein powders that are meant to be mixed into liquid if creating a shake. Depending on your dietary preferences and goals, there are several types of protein powder to choose from.

Keep in mind, that while protein powder is most often used to create protein shakes at home, there are certainly ways to create high-protein shakes without the use of protein powder.

Using ingredients such as plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or unsweetened nut butter can help you craft a high-protein shake that is nutrient-dense and filling without powders.

Types of Protein Powder

There are many varieties of protein powder on the market, including animal- and plant-based options. Some protein powders are designed for fast absorption while others are meant to provide a slower release of protein.

Plant-based powders often combine protein-rich ingredients from several sources to provide all of the essential amino acids that are not usually present in a single plant-based source. Animal sources of protein powder are often made from a single type of protein and provide all of the essential amino acids. There are exceptions to this, such as collagen powder, which is not a complete protein.

  • Whey: Whey-based protein powder is derived from milk and contains essential and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) proven to aid in muscle building and preservation. Whey protein powder is typically 11% to 15% protein.
  • Whey concentrate: Whey concentrate is another form of whey protein powder that has been processed to be higher in protein by weight. It is 25% to 89% protein.
  • Whey isolate: Whey isolate is the highest concentrated whey protein powder, containing 90% or more protein. It is more expensive than the other forms of whey protein powder.
  • Casein: Casein protein is also derived from milk and is digested more slowly. This type is designed to provide a steady stream of amino acids over time to aid in muscle building and repair. Casein protein powder is a popular choice for evening or nighttime protein intake so it works through the night to help with muscle repair.
  • Soy: Soy is a vegan protein powder that is also lactose-free. Soy is one plant-based protein that provides all of the essential amino acids, including the favored branched-chain amino acids.
  • Pea: Pea protein is a plant-based protein powder that has been shown to be equally effective as milk-based protein powder. It is hypoallergenic and easily digestible.

There are several other types of protein powder available such as hemp, bone broth, beef, and several blends. Read the labels and consider your dietary preferences before making a decision. You may need to use trial and error to discover which powder suits your needs and tastes best.

Benefits of Protein Shakes for Weight Management

Aside from being quick and easy to put together, protein shakes also can aid your weight management goals in a number of ways. Here are several potential benefits of protein shakes.

Appetite and Fullness

Protein is very satiating, meaning it helps you stay full for longer and reduces appetite. Compared to meals that do not contain protein, a protein shake may help you stay full longer.

Feeling full has been shown to aid in reduced calorie intake. It also may reduce the temptation to snack on less nutritious foods between meals.

Muscle Building and Metabolism

Protein helps with muscle building and repair. It also helps preserve muscle that may be lost during a weight loss diet. If you consume more protein, you may also increase your metabolism. This increase occurs in part because muscle is metabolically active tissue, but it also may be impacted because of the thermic effect of food.

Protein takes more energy than carbohydrates or fats to digest, meaning it burns more calories simply to process it. While this effect is slight in the overall picture of calorie balance and metabolism, it has an impact on your overall calorie expenditure.

Calorie Reduction

Because protein is filling, consuming it may result in a reduction of overall caloric intake. If you are focusing on calorie-balanced protein shakes you may find that adding shakes can result in overall reduced calorie intake throughout the day. Many times this translates into weight loss.

Protein Shake Cautions

Although there are benefits to protein shakes for weight loss, there are also some things you need to consider before trying this yourself. Here are several factors to be cautious about when using protein shakes as a weight management tool.

Sustainability

Any dietary change that relies on a single type of food or drink that you do not normally enjoy is not likely to be sustainable. Additionally, if you are using protein shakes to replace a meal, you are likely to become bored over time. Relying on one specific type of food is not likely a sustainable approach to weight loss or smart for your overall nutrition.

Lack of Whole Foods

When it comes to crafting a protein shake, there are many ways to increase the nutrient content. If you are relying on pre-made shakes or solely using protein powder and liquid to make your shakes, you will likely miss out on whole foods that contain the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your body needs. Plus, not consuming foods in their whole form may result in an unsatisfying meal or one that is not as filling, despite the protein content.

Nutrient Balance

Some protein shakes, especially the pre-made ones, may contain additives as well as added sugar, which should be consumed in moderation especially when trying to lose weight. They may also be missing key nutrients such as fiber and good fats.

Additionally, if you consume a lot of protein shakes, you may overdo it on protein, leaving less room for other nutrients when on a calorie-restricted diet. This can be particularly risky for people with certain health conditions.

For instance, those with kidney health concerns should consume less protein than other people. If you are considering making protein shakes a regular part of your weight-maintenance plan, it is vital to speak to a healthcare provider first.

Using Protein Shakes for Weight Management

If you decide to use protein shakes for weight management, begin by talking to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for advice. They can provide insight into what is best for your situation. In the meantime, here are some tips that may help.

Timing

Protein timing may be a worthwhile consideration, depending on your goals. For instance, you may benefit from using protein shakes to help you reach the desired amount of protein per day. If by the end of the day, you have not eaten enough protein, reaching for a shake could help you get the desired amount.

There is evidence that being sure to include protein at breakfast may help you reach your protein goals and keep you feeling full longer through the day. Consuming protein at every meal and spacing your intake through the day may lead to better results, including meeting protein intake goals.

Protein Shake Ingredients

When it comes to weight loss, you must create a calorie deficit to see results. This means you need to consume fewer calories than you burn throughout the day. To do this using protein shakes, it is wise to consider the other ingredients in your shakes.

For instance, if your shake is loaded with sugar or fat and ends up being a very high-calorie beverage, it may lead to a calorie surplus. Alternatively, if you fill your shake with nutrient-dense, high-volume but lower-calorie filing foods with healthy levels of carbohydrates, fiber, and fats, you will likely be able to reduce your calories.

Nutritious Protein Shake Ingredients

Try adding these ingredients to your shakes for increased nutrition and satiety:

Other Meals

For the best chance at consuming a nutritious, balanced diet, you should eat other meals in their whole form. Relying solely on shakes may mean you miss out on important nutrients such as fiber, and other aspects of meals.

For instance, you cannot sit down and enjoy a meal with your friends or family if you are only consuming liquid meals. Meal enjoyment is a crucial part of a balanced lifestyle.

It is also wise to consider what you are eating throughout the day. Aim for a mix of nutrient-dense foods and foods you eat for pleasure. As long as you maintain a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. You can use the below calculator to estimate your calorie goal for weight loss.

A Word From Verywell

Weight loss is not always the most optimal goal when it comes to health, but if you want to lose weight, protein shakes may be helpful. But, it is still essential that you consume other macronutrients and focus on incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

Adding other highly nutritious foods to your shakes can help you obtain more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It's also important to speak with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian before starting a new meal plan. They can help you make a plan that helps you meet your goals without taking any unnecessary risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I drink protein shakes for weight loss?

    You can drink protein shakes any time of day for weight loss. You can use them in conjunction with nutrient-dense foods to replace a regular meal, or you can add them to your day as a filling snack that takes the place of less nutritious calorie-dense snacks. Try using a shake at a time you typically might reach for a less nutritious snack.

  • What should I put in protein shakes for weight loss?

    Adding high-volume, nutrient-rich foods that provide fiber are excellent choices for protein shakes for weight loss. Foods to consider include vegetables like sweet potatoes and leafy greens, grains like oatmeal, and whole nuts and seeds. You can also use lower-calorie liquids such as almond milk or skim milk.

  • What is the best tasting protein powder for weight loss?

    The best-tasting protein powder for weight loss is highly individual. However, in our product testing, we discovered that Sprout Living Epic Protein was a tasty and nutritious choice. Other options include Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder and Primal Kitchen Primal Fuel Vanilla Coconut Whey Protein Powder.

  • How do I incorporate a healthy meal into a protein shake diet?

    If you are on a protein shake diet, adding a healthy meal or two is an excellent choice. Make sure you consume protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats at each meal to help with nutrient balance. Consume a wide variety of nutritious vegetables and fruits in your meals as well. Watch portion sizes if you are aiming to lose weight.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.