Can you drink protein shakes without working out?

The timing of your protein shake is something that’s quite often discussed within the lifestyle and fitness communities, with ‘protein windows’ and timings often contested. Some people say it’s best to drink your protein shake before a workout, some say immediately after, and others say you have a longer window after exercise to make the most of your protein. We’ve written previously about when it’s best to have your shake, and why keeping up your protein intake through the day is important. 

The average sedentary person needs between 45-55 grams of protein per day with that number increasing to around 120g of protein for those at a professional athlete level. Your protein requirements are largely dependent on your weight, age, gender and goals, and you can discover more about how much protein you might need in this guide.

The one element that these debates nearly always have in common, however, is a workout. There is always a workout. Whether it’s cardio, resistance training or something entirely different, protein is essential for building healthy muscle through muscle protein synthesis, and for post stress recovery. 

So, what could happen if you drink protein shakes without working out? Let’s have a look. 

Can I have too much protein?

There is an upper limit for muscle protein synthesis, depending on your body mass and activity level. For example, a pro athlete needs a maximum of 1.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Those of us who aren’t professional athletes definitely need less protein than that, and for anyone drinking protein shakes without exercising, you might find that the extra calories lead to fat gain, as you won’t be building muscle tone.

Having too much protein in your diet which isn’t being used by the body in an effective manner can also cause a lack of energy, it can prevent the continued growth of muscle, and can make you feel a little bit sick at the thought of protein. You can find out the science behind all of this in our guide for signs that you’re eating too much protein

What about using protein shakes for weight loss?

It is possible to use protein shakes as an aid to weight loss, but protein powder still contains calories, so it’s necessary to do your research and strike the right balance. The very basic science is that if your intake of calories is lower than the energy you are expending, the deficit will help with weight loss. If your total number of calories consumed is higher than your energy expenditure, then your longer term result will be the opposite and you will find yourself gaining weight. 

So not having the balance of calories in versus energy out will not give you the weight loss that you might desire. Using protein as a tool for weight loss helps to boost metabolism and reduces appetite, so you might find yourself not reaching for the snacks! Therefore, replacing a meal with a protein shake occasionally will not have any adverse effects, but it’s also important to remember that protein shakes will often not contain the minerals, vitamins and other essential components of a healthy meal. Using a meal replacement or nutritional shake, such as Vivo Life’s WHOLE, will not only provide you with 20g of protein per serving, but also 22 essential vitamins and minerals from plant-based sources. 

What does this mean?

In short, if you drink a protein shake on a rest day, or a day when you’re doing less than you might usually do, there’s no need to worry about any adverse effects. However, if you’re drinking high protein shakes on their own and not to supplement your protein intake when working out, this could cause weight gain if you do not need the extra calories.

Remember, protein powder is not a miracle cure all - it is a easier way to get in your protein intake in order to achieve your nutritional goals, which is part of the right exercise, eat right and staying hydrated with good sleep.