The Truth About Protein Shakes

This is a guest post from GameChanger coach Rob Riccobono

Athletes often ask me if it’s okay to drink protein shakes and powders. They want to know if these supplements are safe, or if they present health risks. There is plenty of misleading information on this topic, particularly among young athletes and parents.

The truth is protein shakes are no different from the protein in whole foods. They are simply protein in powdered or liquid form. They aren’t harmful supplements that will make athletes “too bulky” or put a strain on the body. In fact, the two most popular sources of protein shakes, casein and whey, are derived from milk! One of the most common questions parents ask is “when is the right time to start using protein powder?” Protein shakes are suitable for most teenagers, and can be safely part of a balanced diet. They’re healthy alternatives to chips, candies, and other low-protein, nutrient devoid snacks.

So protein supplements are safe, but will they help build muscle, or are they just a waste of money? Protein shakes are not superior to food protein sources for body composition and athletic performance, but they are certainly beneficial. Protein shakes provide a convenient way for someone to consume enough protein and calories throughout the day. They make for great snacks between meals and can serve as a meal “on-the-go” if you’re pressed for time. Protein shakes and powders are great for athletes who are at sporting events for hours on end such as baseball doubleheaders, day-long track and field meets, and other occasions when they’ll be without meals for a prolonged period.

The issue we have with younger athletes is HOW they use these shakes. We don’t want our athletes to think their is a shortcut to getting results. Too often young athletes think that taking protein powder alone will help them build muscle. Even worse, they use protein shakes as a meal replacement & an excuse to avoid whole foods.  As I mentioned, protein shakes can be part of a balanced diet. Before an athlete even think about supplementing with protein shakes, their nutrition needs to be solid. Nothing beats real food like chicken, beef, steak & fish that not only is high in protein but has other vitamins, minerals & nutrients that you don’t get from protein powder.

Since protein shakes are a safe, valuable piece to almost any athlete’s diet, how much should he or she have? A typical shake or scoop of protein powder contains about 25 grams of protein. One shake each day is a great compliment to a diet with 3 or 4 existing, balanced whole food meals. A second shake may benefit larger athletes with higher protein needs.

I encourage athletes to consume about one gram of protein for each pound of their bodyweight, and I like to apply the 80/20 rule for their whole food protein vs. their protein shake intake. For example, if a 150lb male consumes 150g of protein each day, 120g of protein should come from whole food sources like chicken, steak, eggs, fish & only (30-40g a meal) and 30g from shakes.

Adequate protein intake will help an athlete achieve the best results, and protein shakes are a convenient means to that end. Don’t buy into the fear that protein shakes are dangerous, nor the hype from supplement companies who promise they have supreme muscle-building properties. Protein shakes are simply a convenient, tasty, and healthy addition to an active lifestyle.

P.S I know that choosing a strength & conditioning program isn’t easy. There are a lot of factors that go into it like price, time & results. In my book, The Parents Guide To Strength Training For Baseball, you’ll have all the information you need to give your son the best chance to succeed. Just CLICK HERE to download it for FREE today.

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