Protein drinks designed to help you build muscle come in a multitude of different flavors and varieties. Most are either in powder form, which are then mixed with water or milk, or they are premixed and sealed in individual containers. There are benefits and potential risks associated with protein drinks that you should weigh before trying them out as part of your weightlifting regimen.
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The two most common protein sources used in protein drinks are whey and soy. Whey protein is derived from milk, and it’s a fast-absorbing protein source. According to McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois, it’s also the most efficient absorbing protein on the market, so you get more bang for your buck. An alternative to whey is soy protein. This protein source is derived from soybeans, making it an ideal choice for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. Soy protein is absorbed at a slower rate compared with whey protein.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that adult women and men consume 46 g and 56 g of protein per day, respectively. Some protein drinks contain as much as 50 g or more per serving, which puts you way above the recommended daily allowance. However, when you’re physically active every day, you can consume extra protein to compensate for calories burned and muscle tissue that has broken down during an intense weightlifting session. Bodybuilding.com generally suggests consuming about 1 g of protein per pound of body weight.
There are risks associated with consuming too much protein, including unwanted weight gain, kidney problems, osteoporosis and increased risk of heart disease. Whey protein contains more saturated fat than soy protein since it’s derived from a dairy source, so consuming too much whey protein may raise cholesterol and blood pressure in some people.
Consumer Reports conducted a study on protein drinks and found some of them contain levels of heavy metals exceeding the recommended daily allowance. These metals included arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. The study based these findings on three-serving samples, so it would be as if you consumed three protein drinks per day. Limiting your intake to one will help you avoid this risk.
It’s clear that protein drinks can help you build muscle as part of an all around weightlifting regimen, but only when used in moderation. McKinley Health Center suggests consuming 20 to 25 g of whey protein after a workout for optimal results. The CDC states that most Americans already get enough protein in the food they eat, so be careful when supplementing protein drinks. Too much protein can lead to unwanted weight gain rather than lean muscle mass.