There are at least a couple of highly-debated topics in the fitness community today.
One is the ideal timing for consuming protein supplements, specifically, whether it should be before or after you hit the gym.
The other is, can you drink protein shakes without working out?
We’ve discussed the first question in another blog post for those whose fitness goal is weight loss.
Here, we will talk more about the second one: Is it wrong to drink protein shakes if you don’t exercise?
Before we get to it, let us first cover the basics by highlighting what protein shakes are for in the first place.
- What Are Protein Shakes For?
- Can You Drink Protein Shakes Without Working Out?
- Side Effects of Protein Shakes If You Do Not Work Out
- Benefits of Protein Shakes
- Make the Healthy Choice
What Are Protein Shakes For?
Strictly speaking, protein shake is a broad term that applies to high-protein drinks made with various ingredients.
The most common component is one serving or scoop of protein powder. You could also use milk, cottage cheese, and other examples of high-protein foods.
There are many types of protein powders, but they generally come from two sources: dairy and some plants.
You have probably heard of whey, which is a by-product of the cheese production process.
It is a popular choice for fitness enthusiasts because it is a good source of complete protein.
What this means is that it has all the nine essential amino acids the body does not make on its own.
Another popular supplement is casein protein powder, which comes from the same source as whey.
The biggest difference between the two is that whey is very easy for the body to absorb, while casein requires more time.
If you are sensitive to dairy, a good alternative is to pick one of the many plant protein supplements available today.
The most common examples are hemp, pea, soy, and rice (usually brown rice).
Aside from being a primary source of extra proteins, protein powders can have an array of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
It varies from one brand to another, so this is something you have to look into carefully before buying any product.
In its most basic form, protein powders are designed to provide the amino acid building blocks that your body needs.
People drink it for various reasons, from muscle gain to healthy weight management.
It is also ideal for those with no time to get a proper, high-protein meal or who don’t have access to whole-protein solid foods.
The other ingredients that a protein powder might have are there to create a balance of calories and nutrients.
Can You Drink Protein Shakes Without Working Out?
At this point, you should already have a clearer idea of what a typical protein shake is and who it is for.
They are for active people who exercise vigorously or those who don’t have sufficient protein intake for some reason.
What if you do not fall into any of these categories? Can you drink protein shakes without working out?
The answer depends on how active (or inactive) you are, your weight, age, and gender, and if you have a well-planned diet.
In general, people need anywhere between 45 grams and 120 grams of protein per day. Where you are in this spectrum would vary depending on the factors enumerated above.
Now, an average protein shake contains around 30 grams of protein, although this value also varies from one brand to another.
On the other hand, you could get 27 grams of protein from three ounces of chicken.
So, if you had chicken for one meal and foods that are low in protein for the rest of the day, drinking one serving of protein shake is fine.
This is true even if you are in the lower range of dietary protein intake, which means you don’t exercise vigorously.
However, if you are on a high-protein diet but do not work out, you will have too much excess protein.
We will discuss the possible disadvantages and advantages of this scenario in the following sections.
Side Effects of Protein Shakes If You Do Not Work Out
One of the few things you need to keep in mind about protein is that your body cannot store it.
Therefore, if you drink protein shakes and do not work out, you might exceed your daily requirement.
Here are its possible side effects if you do it over a sustained period:
Unwanted Weight Gain
Gaining weight is perhaps the most common side effect of consuming more protein than your body needs.
That is because, like carbohydrates and all other nutrients, protein is also a source of calories.
If you have too much of it, your body will either use it for energy or store it as fat.
Since you do not work out, the second scenario is more likely to happen. Over time, you will gain weight without increasing your muscle mass.
Possible Kidney Problem
There are two organs in the body that play a crucial role in protein metabolism: the liver and, to a lesser extent, the kidneys.
The primary function of the kidneys is to remove the by-products of the process.
So, if you keep drinking protein shakes without going to the gym, you will put too much burden on these organs.
Over time, this could lead to more health issues, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Dairy-based protein powders can lower the pH level of your stomach and cause acid reflux.
This includes whey and casein since they are both by-products of cheese and yogurt production.
The good news is that you can always switch to plant-based supplements to prevent this from happening.
While many protein powder brands are safe to use, some contain unhealthy ingredients. You will find formulas with artificial flavorings, while others contain preservatives.
If you put too much of these substances into your body, this could lead to a wide range of health issues.
Benefits of Protein Shakes
Drinking protein shakes without working out carries risks, but it does come with a few advantages.
Here are some of the good things to look forward to if you up your protein intake using these dietary supplements:
Not many people know it, but protein shakes and powders are quite helpful if you want to lose weight.
That is because it takes the human body longer to digest protein compared to carbohydrates and fats.
As a result, you will feel full longer, making you less likely to crave snacks in between meals.
It will then help reduce your caloric intake, one of the requirements for weight loss.
Additional Source of Fiber
While fiber is not a nutrient, it helps the body digest food more effectively.
What’s more, it is similar to protein in that it makes you feel full and crave less food, so it also helps with weight loss.
Since most protein powder brands contain fiber, you will enjoy its beneficial effects if you drink protein shakes.
Higher Energy Levels
Complete proteins like whey and casein contain a wide spectrum of amino acids that can affect insulin production.
This phenomenon is known as an “insulin spike” and is characterized by an increase in energy levels.
Make the Healthy Choice
Drinking protein shakes without working out has both its advantages and disadvantages.
That said, you can get the same benefits from having a healthy diet, minus the risks and the costs.
So, make the right choice by following an exercise program if you decide to take these supplements.