Do Protein Shakes Make You Fat if You Aren't Working Out?

Scoop of Powder for a Protein Drink
A protein shake after a workout can help with recovery. (Image: Brian Balster/iStock/Getty Images)

Protein shakes often appear in ads with muscular, toned athletes, implying that by simply consuming the drink you can achieve the same physique. While consuming a protein shake as part of a regular fitness routine and healthy, calorie-controlled diet may help you achieve the body you desire, drinking protein shakes without working out may have the opposite effect. Adding a daily protein shake to a sedentary lifestyle may cause weight gain.

About Protein Shakes

Fresh vivid smoothie
You can make a homemade protein shake with any combination of milk, juice, fruit and protein powder. (Image: Tannjuska/iStock/Getty Images)

You can make homemade protein shakes with any combination of milk, juice, fruit, nut butters and protein powder — usually whey or soy. Pre-packaged protein shakes containing similar ingredients along with preservatives and additional supplements are often available in refrigerated cases at gyms or health food stores. Homemade or commercial shakes pack anywhere from 14 to 40 grams of protein per serving and 200 to 400 calories each.


whey protein powder scoop
Protein shakes are a good way to fit more protein into your diet. (Image: marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images)

Protein shakes are a convenient way to fit more protein into your diet, especially if you are exercising. Consuming 15 to 20 grams of protein around the time of a workout enhances muscle growth and repair, notes the International Society of Sports Nutrition. While whole food sources of protein are superior, sometimes you cannot just down a salmon steak after a workout. Whey protein, in particular, digests quickly so the amino acids are available to worked muscles right away. You might also consume shakes made with protein powder when trying to lose weight. Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates alone and may help squelch cravings, causing you to eat less.

Fat Gain

Aerobics class working out with dumbbells
Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you burn. (Image: Andrey Popov/iStock/Getty Images)

Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you burn. Consuming 3,500 excess calories will make you gain one pound, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. If you add protein shakes but do not burn off the extra calories or trim your daily intake to reflect the added calories, you will gain weight. If your daily protein shake contains just 200 calories, it could result in a gain of 21 pounds in a year. Protein shakes may help you gain healthy muscle weight, if you combine them with weight training. The weight you gain with protein shakes without working out will most likely be mostly fat.


Student Working On Laptop
Use an online calculator to determine your daily calorie needs. (Image: Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images)

If you want to add a protein shake, a homemade option may be a better option than commercial versions. You can control the ingredients in homemade shakes and keep added sugars and fats to a minimum. To prevent weight gain, whether exercising or not, be sure that your daily intake for all calories does not exceed what you burn. Use an online calculator to estimate your daily calorie burn based on your size, age, gender and activity level.

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