Looking to lose weight? Try our FREE Calorie Counter »  |  Log In
Articles Fitness Nutrition

Whey Protein Shakes: Do They Help You Lose Weight?

Q: Will whey protein shakes help me lose weight? Should I incorporate them into my weight loss plan?

A: Some people believe that extra protein will help with weight loss and muscle gain.
Whey protein is a popular ingredient in weight loss and meal replacement products. Whey is a protein in cow's milk and is considered an excellent source of high quality protein.

Protein is an important nutrient needed on a daily basis. Good sources of proteins come from soy, quinoa (a grain) and animal-based products such as meat, chicken, turkey, dairy foods, eggs, and fish.

Here are examples of high quality protein foods:

•    1 egg - 12.6g (90 calories)
•    1 cup of quinoa -  9g (255 calories)
•    1 cup of milk - 8g (90 calories)
•    3/4 oz. chicken breast  - 27g (150 calories)
•    3 ounces of tofu - 14g (125 calories)
•    1/2 cup of 1% cottage cheese - 14g (82 calories)
•    1 scoop of whey protein powder - 25g (100-120 calories).  A shake however is typically made with milk, fruit or other ingredients that adds calories.

How much protein do you actually need?  The RDA for women ages 19-70 is 70 grams.
In the NHANES 2007-2008 Survey, researchers found that most women age 40-49 ate 71g of protein per day and are achieving the RDA. Supplementing additional protein from shakes is not necessary.  Protein intake above what we need to build and repair muscle tissue is converted to energy or stored as fat. Adequate protein intake can be achieved with regular food. And the more variety in your diet the better. Each food contributes a different nutrient profile. So I feel it is best to eat a variety of protein sources.  Adding whey protein powder in the form of shakes to your diet can jump start a weight loss program as whey protein has been found to reduce short-term food intake and may help in reducing appetite, but I don't think this is optimal as part of your overall lifestyle.

It's important to note that appetite is reduced with any protein. "Moderately elevated protein intake may represent an effective and practical weight-loss strategy. Potential beneficial outcomes associated with protein ingestion include the following: Increased satiety - protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may facilitate a reduction in energy consumption under (not restricted) dietary conditions."

To successfully lose weight, one needs to be committed to significant long-term lifestyle changes for the long haul. Two reasons we gain weight are poor eating habits and bad food choices. Too often, these habits are unhealthy and lead to eating too many calories. Recognizing these habits and replacing them with positive behaviors are key to successful weight control.

When implementing lifestyle changes by replacing unhealthy foods and behaviors with healthier ones, it is helpful to focus on changes that you can sustain. Do you really want to rely on shakes, bars and packaged foods for the rest of your life? Sometimes these products are fine, but keep in mind that commercial foods and beverages are more about convenience than necessity. You can enjoyably meet your protein requirements with a snack or meal containing any protein item.

So if you want to limit the choices of foods you have, strictly control portion sizes and get a jump start on your weight loss plan for a couple weeks, use whey protein products for short term only. Occasional use thereafter is okay. I encourage you to find real-life, real-food solutions that you can live with forever when improving your lifestyle.

Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and freelance writer based out of Sammamish, WA. Maria is considered to be one of Western Washington's premier fitness and nutrition experts. As the owner of Active Nutrition Fitness & Consulting, Maria provides highly personalized nutrition services, personal training and preventative and post-rehabilitative fitness programming in her private training studio. She also provides Skype, phone and online nutrition counseling and training for remote clients. Maria leads the industry in the development of cutting edge fitness and nutrition techniques as well as innovative and unique fitness programming. Maria expertly designs every workout, nutrition plan and provides the personal attention, extra motivation, support and accountability that helps her clients achieve optimal performance and health. Contact or read more about Maria at www.myactivenutrition.com.

Article Comments