Can you just drink protein shakes and not eat?
In this brief article we will address the query “Can you just drink protein shakes and not eat?” Additionally, we will present relevant information such as the importance of a complete diet, as well as the role of protein and protein supplements in a diet; moreover, we present a brief guide of when you should consider protein shakes and the potential drawbacks of eating only protein shakes.
Can you just drink protein shakes and not eat?
No, you have to eat all food groups to ensure a complete nutrition, protein shakes are supplements, not a replacement for food. A healthy diet includes all food groups to provide you with all macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) and micronutrients (minerals, vitamins, antioxidants) (1).
What is the importance of a complete diet?
A complete diet is important because it could reduce the risks of several diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, hypercholesterolemia, and cancer (1).
A complete diet is the one that ensures the appropriate intake of macronutrients, micronutrients, and hydration (1).
Macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbs will provide your body with energy and building blocks to create structures like organs, hair, or even molecules like immune cells or hormones (1).
On the other hand, micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, have a role in regulating metabolic processes like absorption and conversion of nutrients into energy, elimination of oxidative molecules, and promoting the correct growth and development (1).
To ensure an appropriate intake of all macro and micronutrients, you will need to eat all food groups because there is no single food with all nutrients. For example, meats lack vitamin C but have plenty of iron and B 12 vitamins; in contrast, fruits have a lot of vitamin C but lack iron and B 12 vitamins (1).
What are the potential drawbacks of a protein shake-only diet?
Most protein powders are added with some vitamins and minerals. However, protein powders do not have all the micronutrients you need. Therefore, the main drawbacks of a protein shake only diet is a deficiency in:
- Minerals like selenium, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals have a role in antioxidant pathways of your body, they improve your immune system, and zinc is important for a correct growth and development (as well as muscle hypertrophy) (2).
- Vitamin D which is crucial for good bone health and recently was related to the prevention of infectious diseases (2).
- B vitamins: despite most protein powders being supplemented with vitamin B6, thiamine, and folate, you can get a deficiency of vitamin B12, which is essential to prevent megaloblastic anemia (2).
- Unsaturated fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for its cardio protective, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties. Having only protein shakes you will be missing these valuable nutrients found in fish meat, avocado, and vegetable oil (3).
What is the role of protein in a diet?
Protein is the only macronutrient with amino acids, which play a crucial role in different ways in your body (4), for example:
- Create structures like organs
- Regulate function like immunological and digestion (through enzymes)
- Restoration of tissues
- Transport, such as transferrin, the protein which transport iron within your red blood cells
What is the role of protein shakes in a diet?
Protein shakes were created mainly for two types of subjects (5):
- People with physiological conditions that compromise their ability to meet their protein requirements
- Athletes who cannot meet their daily protein intake due to a high volume of food needed, or experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms
Nowadays, protein shakes have become very popular for everyone, and approximately % of the population consume protein shakes. Moreover, protein powders are also added to some foods like cereal bars, smoothies, ice creams, and desserts to improve the protein content (6).
When should you consider protein shakes?
You should consider protein shakes if you cannot meet your daily protein requirements. A healthy diet should include between 0.8 and 1.0 g protein/kg of weight. Therefore, if you weigh 80 kg, you should consume around 64 to 80 g of protein daily (5).
However, if you have difficulties eating 0.8 – 1.0 g protein/kg of weight, or you are an athlete with increased protein requirements (1.2 – 2.2 g/kg), and you cannot fulfill your intake, you can consider a protein shake (5).
Please take into account that you should ask for professional advice from a nutrition specialist before using a protein shake.
How to incorporate protein shakes into a healthy eating plan?
The best way to incorporate protein shakes into a healthy eating plan is to consume 1 or 2 servings of protein shake a day, alongside with all food groups like whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, legumes, dairy, and meat products (1,5).
Remember that you always should look for professional advice from a nutrition expert; he or she will adjust all your macro and micronutrients requirements, as well as your servings of protein shakes a day.
In this brief article we addressed the query “Can you just drink protein shakes and not eat?” Additionally, we presented relevant information such as the importance of a complete diet, as well as the role of protein and protein supplements in a diet; moreover, we presented a brief guide of when you should consider protein shakes and the potential drawbacks of eating only protein shakes.
- Cena H, Calder PC. Defining a healthy diet: Evidence for the role of contemporary dietary patterns in health and disease. Nutrients, 2020;12(2):334.
- Godswill AG, Somtochukwu IV, Ikechukwu AO, Kate EC. Health benefits of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and their associated deficiency diseases: A systematic review. International Journal of Food Sciences, 2020;3(1):1–32.
- Sun L, Goh HJ, Govindharajulu P, Leow MK-S, Henry CJ. Differential effects of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats on satiety and gut hormone responses in healthy subjects. Foods, 2019;8(12):634.
- Coelho-Junior HJ, Marzetti E, Picca A, Cesari M, Uchida MC, Calvani R. Protein intake and frailty: A matter of quantity, quality, and timing. Nutrients, 2020;12(10):2915.
- Huecker M, Sarav M, Pearlman M, Laster J. Protein supplementation in sport: Source, timing, and intended benefits. Curr Nutr Rep, 2019;8(4):382–96
- Baltazar-Martins G, Brito de Souza D, Aguilar-Navarro M, Muñoz-Guerra J, Plata MDM, Del Coso J. Prevalence and patterns of dietary supplement use in elite Spanish athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2019;16(1):30.