How to Lose Weight With Whey Protein Shakes

Weight loss is a complex process involving calorie intake, physical activity, hormones and genetics. You need all the help you can get when you're trying to lose weight. Using whey protein powder for your protein shakes can be a handy tool in your quest to become slimmer.

Whey protein shakes make a convenient meal replacement. (Image: MartinPrescott/iStock/GettyImages)

Protein’s Weight-loss Power

Protein is a macronutrient that helps with growth and development. It's present in every cell in the body and plays an important role in metabolism, feelings of satiation and lean body mass retention as you lose fat.

Research published in a 2015 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed through analysis of data on protein and weight loss that higher protein diets containing between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight daily decrease appetite and help with body-weight management. A kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds, so that's 0.55 to 0.73 grams of protein per pound of your weight daily; a 150-pound person, for example, would aim for 82.5 to 109.5 grams of protein daily.

About Whey Protein Shakes

Whey protein, a derivative of milk, makes it easy to work more protein into your diet. Whey is the protein left over during the cheese-making process that's purified and dehydrated into a mixable powder and sold as a supplement. While you can add the protein to puddings, baked goods, coffee or oatmeal, mixing whey into a shake is convenient and satisfying.

A scoop of whey protein contains about 100 calories, as long as it has no added fillers or refined sugar. Mix the whey into water for a super low-calorie whey protein meal replacement. Some people prefer to mix whey into juice, milk or a smoothie with fresh fruit and ice.

If you're including the protein shake as part of a weight-loss meal plan, remember to calculate the calories of anything you add to the recipe along with the whey. Adding lots of honey, full-fat yogurt, bananas and nut butter pushes your smoothie heavily toward high-calorie.

Premixed whey protein drinks may contain more calories than those you make yourself. Check labels carefully and include them in your calculations so you don't exceed your daily calorie goals for weight loss.

Protein shakes can be convenient, especially when access to whole, high-protein foods is limited. But, a comprehensive analysis published in the_ Journal of Dietary Supplements_ in 2018 stresses the use of whole foods as your primary source of protein because they contain a variety of vital nutrients. Most people don't need whey protein shakes to meet their daily protein requirements.

Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

Because whey protein curbs your appetite, it can help you stick to a low-calorie diet for weight loss. The journal Appetite published a small study in 2015 that evaluated the hunger of 10 male athletes who performed both endurance and resistance training and drank whey protein one hour after a standard breakfast. Compared to the days when they went without the protein, the participants had a significant decrease in hunger sensations at subsequent meals after drinking the whey.

In 2018, the European Journal of Nutrition published research showing similar findings. Among 15 males who regularly participated in resistance training, those who consumed whey protein following their workout as compared to a carbohydrate-based drink experienced reduced energy intake later in the day. Although they were getting fewer calories as a result, their muscle growth was not impaired.

Whey Protein Shake Recommendations

The study in Appetite determined that 20 grams of whey protein seemed the optimal amount to stifle appetite. When the athletes were fed more protein powder in addition to their training, it didn't measurably reduce appetite further.

A 2015 study in the_ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition_ further confirmed that moderate servings of protein are best when it comes to weight loss. This research suggested that meal-specific servings of 25 to 30 grams of protein are adequate. When you eat more, you likely store the calories and may undermine your weight-loss efforts. The participants who saw results in the European Journal of Nutrition study consumed about 23 grams of whey protein per shake.

If you create your own shake, stick to a serving of whey that provides about 20 to 25 grams of protein for best results. This amount notably decreases appetite and promotes improved metabolism without adding too many calories to your eating plan.

Do More Than Drink Whey

While whey protein shakes can help you lose weight, it's not a good idea to make them your sole strategy. You should still work out with weights and do aerobic activity to burn calories and encourage lean muscle mass retention. Whey protein is a complement to exercise, not a replacement for it.

Whey protein weight loss also occurs when you carefully calculate your overall food intake and remember to include the calories from your shake in your total daily caloric plan.

Although weight loss is a complicated process, eating fewer calories than you burn usually leads to a loss of pounds. Generally, cutting 500 to 1,000 calories from your overall intake results in a 1- to 2-pound-per-week loss. Standard weight-loss calorie intake is between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day, according to Endotext in 2015.

If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater, you may benefit from medically-supervised weight loss that reduces your calorie intake even further. If you do choose such a plan, ask your physician if whey protein shakes fit into your regimen.

Optimally, create a calorie deficit by burning extra calories and eating less. For example, do a workout that burns about 250 calories per day and cut 250 calories from your diet to lose approximately 1 pound per week.

Keep a Varied Diet

Whey protein shakes make a convenient post-workout snack when whole foods just aren't palatable or easy to use. You can also elect to have a whey protein shake as a quick, on-the-go breakfast on occasion. At other meals, use whole food protein sources, such as grilled chicken, tuna, low-fat yogurt, tofu and lean steak. Remember that these foods contain more nutrients that will improve the overall quality of your diet.

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