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12 Protein Smoothies to Help Build Muscle

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Protein is one of the essential building blocks of our diets. It supports our immune system, transports oxygen to red blood cells, and repairs and builds muscle tissues. But before you go running for the whey protein powder drinks, there are a few important things to consider about protein.

12 Protein Smoothies to Help Build Muscle (Slideshow)

Consuming protein alone will not work to build muscle. Protein itself doesn’t add muscle mass to your body. Instead, it supports muscle growth and repair.

Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning coach who serves as spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, “even if you are eating a ton of protein, if you aren’t breaking down your muscles with weight lifting, you won’t build new muscle.

Protein helps to re-build muscle fibers after they have been broken down.” So unless you’ve already established a rigorous workout routine, abstain from adding extra protein boosts to your diet.

If you are a regular at the gym, keep in mind that adding protein to your diet shouldn’t mean adding more fat. “The best way to use a protein smoothie with the intention of dropping fat and building muscle is to avoid … sugars or sugar substitutes.

A banana or some berries should be the extent of your sugar intake in a smoothie, simply for the reason that when your body is looking for what to burn first, it burns sugar before fat. Load up with sugar, and you will not burn a thing,” recommends Stephanie Lauren, head of PLYOGA Fitness.

In fact, many health experts are advocates of “real food” protein boosts over powders and pre-made shakes for this reason. Cutting out added sugars and opting for natural proteins and good fats found in things such as nut butters, seeds, and all-natural powders pea powder are some of the recommended sources.

Still other experts suggest cutting out the middleman and simply adding amino acids to smoothies for muscle repair.

It is ultimately up to you to decide what kind of protein boost works best for you. Protein-heavy smoothies can make great meal replacements and help build muscle, but are best employed around your workout. Rumsey reminds us that “timing is key.

If your goal is to build muscle mass, pay special attention to what you eat before and after your weight training session. Ideally consume about 10-20 grams of protein before and after your workout.

” Armed with this information, go forth and bulk!

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Oat Smoothie

This recipe serves as a great pre-workout morning meal. Peanut butter is packed with proteins and chia seeds are considered a complete protein, as they contain all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made in the body. Say hello to the day with this healthy drink that tastes a milkshake!

Click here for the recipe!

Espresso Protein Shake

This shake is a real eye-opener! Lisa Wells at CookEatPaleo recommends a pure egg-white protein powder as a smoothie additive. “This way, I know I’m avoiding refined sugars and other additives. And I can control everything that goes into my smoothie,” she says.

Click here for the recipe!

See more protein smoothies that will help you build muscle.


Muscle Milk: 3 Major Side Effects

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Muscle Milk has become a ubiquitous nutritional supplement drink. It’s found not only in supplement stores, but also at most corner markets.

Its ingredients, according to its website, include calcium and sodium caseinate, milk protein isolate, maltodextrin, fructose, potassium citrate, and vitamin mineral blend, among others. But because you can’t pick “vitamin mineral blend” or some of the other ingredients from a tree, many people are wary of Muscle Milk and wonder if it’s safe for them.

Natalie Stephens, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, acknowledges the food label on Muscle Milk products can be a bit of a tongue twister for the average person.

But are there any known ingredients in Muscle Milk that people should be concerned about?

“While there aren’t any ingredients that are outright harmful, this question really depends on the individual consumer,” she says. “People with chronic diseases high blood pressure, kidney issues, or sensitivity to food dyes or sugar substitutes may want to read closely or even ask the advice of a qualified health professional before consuming.”

Other experts disagree with Stephens due to Muscle Milk containing acesulfame potassium and sucralose. These two artificial sweeteners are known to interact with gut bacteria and may promote weight gain and insulin resistance.

Felice Kosakavich, MS, RD, CDN, has a son who plays college basketball and uses Muscle Milk as his protein supplement of choice.

“With excessive weight training and practices he feels it is a good price, excellent taste, and meets his needs for additional protein,” she says. “He is comfortable using it and, after much research, feels it is reputable.”

Kosakavich says athletes her son could benefit from Muscle Milk. “The composition of high-protein, low-carbohydrates will provide the extra protein needed pre and post workout for recovery,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean the supplement drink comes without concerns for specific people.

In 2013, CytoSport, Inc. — the maker of Muscle Milk — agreed to pay $5.3 million in a class action lawsuit about its marketing language using the word “healthy.”

Prior to the suit, Muscle Milk claimed to contain “healthy fats,” but the lawsuit alleged the drinks contained as much total and saturated fat as Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The artificial sweeteners contained in Muscle Milk are also of concern to some. The Center for Science in the Public Interest advises consumers to avoid these types of sweeteners, which can negatively alter gut bacteria, appear in breastmilk, and potentially increase the risk of certain diseases.

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to CytoSport about their claim that Muscle Milk “contains no milk.” While Muscle Milk doesn’t contain actual milk, it does contain whey and casein proteins, which are derivatives of milk that may trigger an allergic reaction in some people.

Kosakavich explains that many people are unaware that the digestive symptoms they are experiencing are related to a food allergy.

People with kidney disorders should talk with their doctor before they take Muscle Milk or any other type of protein supplement. A 10-oz. bottle of Muscle Milk contains 18 grams of protein.

Some people with kidney disease need high-protein diets, while others need low-protein, Stephens says. “In both cases, it’s best to monitor potassium, sodium, and phosphorus intake — and there are a lot of sources of those nutrients in a single serving [of Muscle Milk],” she notes.

Because excess protein is metabolized and flushed through the kidneys, Muscle Milk can overwork the kidneys of people with kidney insufficiency, Kosakavich says.

“It is also very important to consume adequate and additional water to help flush the kidneys with additional protein intake,” she adds.

If you have any food allergies, are concerned about artificial sweetener consumption, have a chronic kidney condition, or require prescription medication, use caution when drinking Muscle Milk.

Kosakavich recommends speaking to your doctor or dietitian before trying it.

“While it’s touted to be a source of nutrition for those missing nutrients in their diet, I’d continue to recommend seeking out advice from a registered dietitian to find ways to meet your needs with a whole-foods diet,” she says.


Muscle Milkshakes

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If you’re a bodybuilder, protein shakes aren’t just an option for your diet — they’re an essential component. They provide a quick, easy-to-prepare meal that you can have anytime, anywhere.

They are packed with muscle-building protein (and sometimes other key nutrients, as well, depending on what product you choose).

And they are especially advantageous before and after workouts, when your body needs those nutrients fast.

A problem with protein shakes, if you can call it that, is how easy it is to fall into a rut. The same shake time after time, day after day, can get boring in a hurry. With that in mind, we’ve created six interesting and tasty recipes, suitable for drinking either before workouts or as a snack, for you to sample and add to your nutritional repertoire.

Apple Cobbler
Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened apple juice ½ cup unsweetened applesauce 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

Place all ingredients into a shaker. Place the lid on tightly and shake for one minute. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 253 calories, 20 g protein, 0 g fat, 44 g carbs

Tip: Use an apple-juice box and a to-go cup of applesauce to make this recipe gym-bag-friendly.

Choco-Pomegranate Blend
Serves 1

1 cup pomegranate juice ¼ cup unsweetened soy milk

1 scoop chocolate soy protein powder

Place all ingredients into a shaker. Place the lid on tightly and shake for one minute. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 276 calories, 27 g protein, 34 g carbs, 2.5 g fat

Note: This shake is particularly good before workouts because pomegranate juice has been found to protect nitric oxide from being broken down. And since soy is high in arginine, you’ll be looking at a mega-pump in the gym.

Black Banana Forest
Serves 1

2 cups water 1 small banana ½ cup frozen cherries ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese

1 scoop chocolate whey-casein blend protein powder

Place all ingredients into a blender. Place the lid on tightly and blend for one minute or until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 334 calories, 37 g protein, 42 g carbs, 3 g fat

Blueberry Fields of Protein
Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened soy milk 1 cup frozen blueberries 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

Place all ingredients into a blender. Place the lid on tightly and blend for one minute or until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 285 calories, 29 g protein, 28 g carbs, 7 g fat

Note: You can substitute 1 cup of low-fat (1%) milk for the soy milk. The exchange will add a gram of protein and 8 grams of carbs and remove 2 grams of fat from the recipe totals.

Good Morning Muscle
Serves 1

½ cup orange juice ½ cup acai juice

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder

Place all ingredients into a shaker cup. Place the lid on tightly and shake for one minute or until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 185 calories, 21 g protein, 25.5 g carbs, 1 g fat

Lean ’n’ Green
Serves 1

1 cup iced green tea ½ cup orange juice 1 cucumber, trimmed and peeled 1 cup sliced pineapple 2 mint leaves

1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder

Place all ingredients into a blender. Place the lid on tightly and blend for one minute or until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Serve.

Nutrition Info: 243 calories, 23 g protein, 38 g carbs, 1 g fat

Quality Ingredients
Here is a small selection of supplements we used to create these shakes.

BodyTech Whey Tech Pro 24 The Vitamin Shoppe Spiru-Soy Optimum Nutrition NitroCore 24 MHP Probolic-SR The Vitamin Shoppe Açai Juice

Ito En Sencha Shot Green Tea

Muscle Mix-ins

Choose a supplement to add to your shake to fuel your muscle growth.

Arginine: Take 3 to 5 grams 30 minutes before and after workouts to boost your nitric-oxide levels to promote muscle growth.

BCAAs: Most protein powders already include the amino acids found in BCAAs. But taking 5 grams before breakfast, preworkout and postworkout can help set up the perfect mass-gaining day.

Beta-Alanine: Adding 4 grams daily to your shake can help fight fatigue, improve endurance and set you up to build muscle.

Creatine: Adding 1 to 2 grams to a shake three times (before breakfast, preworkout and postworkout) a day can help you experience the ultimate muscle pump.

Glutamine: creatine, glutamine adds volume to muscle cells, which will increase their size. Taking 5 grams after your workout can help you recover.

Flaxseeds: These fibrous seeds will help you get omega fatty acids, which have been shown to fight inflammation and assist in weight-loss efforts, in your diet. Add one to two tablespoons daily to your shakes.

Oatmeal is hearty and healthy. These five oatmeal recipes are easy to make and may even help you get that lean physique.

Looking to get more your workouts? Be sure to fuel-up with this tasty mash before burning your fuel.

Putting on incredible mass requires a serious caloric intake, especially if you’re a hardgainer. This power shake puts you into calorie overload.

This apple-yogurt shake will give your muscles the building blocks they need to balloon up bigger than a Hollywood ego.

Bid adieu to the jiggle in the middle by whirling up this protein shake that's packed with serious fat burning ingredients!

Keep Thanksgiving physique-friendly with this easy and nutritious take on the traditional sweet potato/yam casserole.

This shake recipe will help you recover from a crazy night out and get your body ready for the gym!

This fresh spin on pizza packs in the protein and flavor without the fat and guilty conscience.

It may be hard to make unhealthy food on a grill, but it’s frighteningly easy to make bland barbecue. To avoid that ugly fate, we provide a slew of marinades, glazes and rubs for four different types of meat. Our only other tip: Use one at a time.


11 Best Protein Powders and How to Choose One

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  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Egg white
  • Collagen
  • Plant-based
  • How to use
  • How to choose
  • Safety
  • Takeaway

If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. How this works.

The vast amount of protein powders on the market can make the task of choosing one daunting, but it also means there are probably several that will be suitable for your needs.

Read on to learn about some of the top protein powders. your desired results and preferred ingredients, you can select the product that will work best for you.

Whey is a milk-based protein that’s quickly and easily digested and absorbed, which can help you feel full and energized. Whey protein can be a good choice to use when working out.

1. Protein Milkshake Organic Grass-Fed Protein Powder

This whey protein powder is a low-carb option marketed for people who want to lose weight, boost metabolism, and increase muscle tone. It contains no added sugar, and is designed to help reduce sugar cravings while satisfying your sweet tooth.

This protein powder gets high marks for flavor, with reviewers on Amazon noting that it lacks the bitter aftertaste common to other protein powders. The powder comes in several flavors, including:

  • cupcake batter
  • chocolate mousse cake
  • vanilla caramel

The mix has a creamy consistency and can be added to milk, yogurt, or smoothies for a quick and easy dessert or snack. Find more recipe ideas from Protein Milkshake.

2. SFH Pure Whey Protein

This vanilla-flavored whey protein powder is noted for its amazing taste, ease of absorption, and ingredients.

Sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows in Australia and New Zealand, this minimally processed whey powder doesn’t contain soy, gluten, or artificial ingredients, and has a low lactose content. No bovine growth hormones are used.

This may be a good choice if you’re looking to manage weight and increase muscle.

Casein is digested and absorbed slowly, which can help you feel satiated for longer, meaning it may help reduce appetite. The slower digestion and absorption rate may also help support muscle growth over longer periods.

3. BulkSupplements Casein Protein Powder

This unflavored casein protein powder can be used to build muscles. It may also aid in muscle recovery after workouts.

This powder contains no filler protein. It’s also a good source of calcium —484 milligrams or 48 percent of your daily recommended value per serving — which may help improve dental and bone health.

This powder may be a good choice for adding to smoothies or batters because it doesn’t clump. It can also be used to make protein fluff, which is a frozen protein ice cream.

Egg white protein is loaded with amino acids, which help to build lean muscle strength, and aid in muscle repair and recovery.

4. MRM Egg White Protein

This egg white protein powder is free of dairy, making it a good choice for people who are lactose-free. It’s also gluten-free and is extracted using a process that makes it easily digestible.

Additionally, the powder is free of GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones.

The powder isn’t chalky and mixes well in shakes, coconut milk, and juice. The vanilla or chocolate flavor makes it a delicious addition to oatmeal, especially when you want a dessert option. Get creative with recipe ideas from MRM.

Collagen is a component of muscles, and supplementing your body with collagen may help stimulate muscle growth after exercise. It can also help your muscles to function properly.

Additionally, a 2015 study of 53 men over age 65 found evidence that collagen supplementation may help reduce age-related muscle loss when used in combination with resistance training.Zdzieblik D, et al. (2015).

Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: A randomised controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.

gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594048/ This study only looked at men, so more research is needed to better understand this relationship.

5. Willis Nutrition Pure Collagen Peptides

This bovine collagen peptide protein powder is free of gluten and dairy, and is easy to digest and absorb. It’s a non-GMO product that’s sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows in Brazil.

This powder may help support healthy collagen production, which in turn, may support healthy muscles, bones, and joints.

The unflavored powder can be mixed into drinks, smoothies, and soups.

Plant-based proteins such as rice, pea, and hemp, are ideal for people who are vegan or have a lactose allergy. Each type of plant-based protein has its own unique benefits.

For example, pea protein, made from yellow split peas, may help increase muscle mass when used in combination with resistance training, according to a 2015 study of 161 men.Babault N, et al. (2015).

Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. whey protein. DOI: 10.



Pumped on protein: can a shake ever be as good as a plate of food?

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Protein is big business: as pumped-up as any ripped bodybuilder. The drinks, powders and bars that were once the preserve of top athletes have found their way into suburban kitchens and spawned an industry worth $96bn worldwide.

In the UK we spend more than £66m a year on sports nutrition products: recent research found nearly a quarter of us, and 42% of men aged 16-24, had consumed one in the past three months.

High street chains sell protein drinks and pots, and last year saw a rise in popularity among women.

But are they worth the hype? Protein supplements are pricey, usually heavily processed and, new research suggests, potentially unnecessary. And is a protein shake any better than a handful of nuts or a chicken breast?

The optimum amount of protein needed each day depends on your size and how active you are. The widely accepted dietary reference intake recommends around 0.75g protein per kg body weight – roughly 50g for an average sedentary person.

Nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam of the British Nutrition Foundation says most people eat much more than that. “As a population we’re consuming well above the level of protein needed for health.

There is evidence that 20g consumed after exercise can help with muscle growth and repair, but this can be provided by a small chicken breast, a can of tuna or three medium eggs.

” Unless you’re an elite athlete, she says, no one needs protein supplements.

Three medium eggs can provide 20g protein. Photograph: Getty

Danny Richards, a 23-year-old management consultant and keen gym-goer, got into protein shakes at university. “I was bodybuilding to bulk out,” he says. “I wanted to gain muscle and change from a skinny kid to a more manly shape. I had a protein shake after a workout to repair and build muscle.

” He was aiming to consume 2g protein a day for every kg body weight (eg 160g protein for an 80kg man) – but found it hard to eat that much. “It meant cereal and yoghurt for breakfast, five eggs with baked beans for lunch and 300g tuna with pasta for supper.” It takes a while to eat all those eggs – but, as Richards points out, only seconds to drink a shake.

He also found shakes cheaper and more convenient than shopping for the equivalent foods.

But now he’s switched to cross-training and wants to maintain rather than increase muscle mass, he’s ditched the shakes and sticks to a balanced diet.

“There’s a lot of hype around shakes; some people seem to think they have supernatural properties, but really it started as a clever way for farmers to offload waste products from milk.

They don’t do any harm, but there’s no real difference between food and a shake.”

Does Benelam agree? “Getting protein from foods has the benefit that other essential nutrients will also be provided and a healthy eating pattern encouraged,” she says, adding that many shakes contain hidden additives. “Protein supplements are typically whey from milk, but other proteins, such as soy, pea or egg, are used, too. They may also contain sugars, sweeteners, flavourings and colours.”

Nor are all supplements equal. Take whey and caesin, says sports nutrition specialist Dr Mayur Ranchordas, of Sheffield Hallam University. While whey “is rapidly absorbed and increases muscle mass, casein releases more slowly and, if taken at night, encourages protein synthesis during sleep”.

Protein might make you feel full for longer than high-carbohydrate foods, but overdoing it and leaving out other food groups can lead to imbalances in the diet, such as a lack of fibre. Ranchordas says most people can get enough protein from food but it depends on your goals and diet.

Vegans may find supplements useful, especially if they do a lot of exercise; professional footballers will benefit from taking in protein soon after a match to help muscle recovery; a 30-year-old who starts training for a marathon would do well to consume 20-25g of protein every three to four hours – but this is achievable with lean fish and meat.

Walnuts are another great source of protein. Photograph: Alamy

You can’t stockpile protein, Ranchordas says. “There’s an upper limit to how much you can take in at any one time. Once you’ve eaten a 30g serving, you won’t absorb any more.” What happens if you overeat protein? “It just comes out in your wee. There’s no evidence that too much protein causes harm in healthy individuals.”

Nutrition scientist Ruth Ash disagrees, warning that overeating protein can lead to weight gain. “It has four calories per gram – the same as carbohydrate. If you take in more than you burn, you gain weight and excess is stored as fat.” She also fears too much protein can put pressure on the kidneys.

The key is to eat enough protein without excess calories, unhealthy additives or crowding out other essential nutrients. Food can be as bad as shakes – processed and red meat are full of protein but unhealthy in excess. The meat-free products I buy for my vegetarian children, while low in fat and sugar, are full of salt and chemicals to make them palatable.

Investment analyst Max Stein, 26, has had at least one protein shake a day for the past seven years. He feels – and looks – great, though he had stomach issues at first. “Shakes are cheaper and more convenient than chicken breasts,” he says. “I have one after a workout. Most of my male friends and a growing number of female friends use them. It’s not a big deal.”

Experts may be reassuring about the safety of protein drinks – but that doesn’t make them any more appetising. I’ve done a couple of marathons and a week-long charity bike ride, and tried some drinks during my training. They tasted horrendous and I struggled to keep them down.There’s no way I’ll be swapping real food for a tub of powder; give me a stir-fry and a bag of nuts any day.

Food maths: what does 50g protein look ?

1 grilled steak (200g)
310 calories

200g cheddar cheese
800 calories

7 boiled eggs (350g)
500 calories

350g Quorn chicken-style pieces
336 calories

350g whole walnuts
2,412 calories

2 grilled chicken breasts (200g)
215 calories

1 tin tuna in water (200g)
226 calories

3.5 scoops diluted protein powder
280 calories

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The Protein Shake That Helps You Build Muscle Faster

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Putting on muscle is simple in theory: lift weights and take in more calories than you burn.

But in reality, it’s an arduous process. You have to diligently follow a well-designed training routine, and also eat a significant amount of healthy food. (Here’s your well-designed training routine: The Skinny Man’s Muscle Plan.)

The latter is where most guys mess up, says Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., sports dietitian and nutrition coach at Precision Nutrition. “A lot of guys just don’t realize just how much they have to eat if they’re trying to add lean mass,” he says.

Your move: Drink a daily super shake—a healthy, muscle-building meal that’s easy to make and quick to put down.

(Building your best body requires drive, sweat, and the right food. Fuel Your Fat-Burners With 101 Muscle Meals from Men’s Health.) 

“Adding a super shake to your diet is one of the habits we drill into people trying to gain muscle,” St. Pierre says. The shakes blend milk, protein powder, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and ice, creating a delicious, nutritionally balanced, 400 to 700 calorie meal in a glass.

“They’re packed with tons of the stuff you need to build muscle: protein, carbs and fats, and vitamins and minerals,” he says.

Perhaps most important, super shakes are incredibly convenient, requiring little prep, no cooking, and zero culinary skills. “All you have to do is throw stuff in a blender and hit blend,” says St. Pierre.

Related: 32 Ultimate High-Protein Recipes

And that fact that you control exactly what goes into the blender is another benefit. “Most store-bought shakes are full of sugar and have less than ideal protein,” says St. Pierre. “You control the nutritional numbers of your shake.”

In short: they deliver nutrition similar to a classic muscle meal meat, rice, and vegetables in a fraction of the time it takes to cook and eat a meal that.

If you’re trying to bulk up, add a super shake to what you already eat daily. Here’s the magic formula to make your own. And check out three of St. Pierre’s favorite muscle-builders below, which he singled out from our list of 20 Healthy, Protein-Packed Smoothie Recipes.

Make Your Own Super Shake

Step 1: Pour in 12 ounces of water or milk (cow, almond, hemp)

If you have an especially hard time gaining mass, use whole milk—it packs in more calories and protein.

Step 2: Add 1 or 2 scoops of protein powder
Animal-based protein powders contain more of the muscle-building amino acid leucine compared to plant-based powders soy, hemp and rice proteins.

So try to use whey, casein, or a blend of the two. Go for two scoops if your goal is to add muscle.

(For a great protein powder that tastes good in shakes but isn’t loaded with sugar, check out the Organic Whey Protein from the Men’s Health store.)

Step 3: Toss in 1 or 2 handfuls of vegetables
There’s no better way to sneak in your much-needed vegetables. Spinach and kale add hardly any flavor to your shake, but packs in crucial vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and build muscle.

And don’t hesitate to experiment with pumpkin (goes great with vanilla) and beet (excellent with chocolate).

Step 4: Include 1 or 2 fistfuls of fruit
Bananas and berries are popular, but branch out and try fruits apples, cherries, dates, pineapple, and mango.

Step 5: .5 to 1 serving of a healthy fat
Walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters not only make your shake delicious and bump up its calories, but they also deliver healthy fats.

Use the fat’s nutrition label to figure out how much you should use. 

Related Content:

Try These Muscle Builders

Very Berry Super Shake
Blend This 12 oz. water 1 fistful of spinach 2 cups frozen mixed berries ½ cup plain low-fat yogurt

2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder

1 tbsp walnuts

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

Stats: 500 Calories, 57 g protein, 54 carbs, 14 g fiber, 11 g fat

Chocolate Cherry Awesomeness Super Shake
Blend This 12 oz. water 2 scoops chocolate whey protein 2 cups of sweet dark cherries, pits removed 1 fistful spinach 1 tbsp walnuts 1tbsp ground flax

1 tbsp dark cocoa powder

Stats: 530 calories, 56 g protein, 13 g fat, 47 carbs, 9 g fiber 

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Shake
Blend This 12 oz water 2 scoops chocolate whey protein 1 banana 1 fistful spinach 2 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Stats: 585 calories, 59 g protein, 22 g fat, 38 carbs, 8 g fiber

(For more ideas on building strength beyond the gym, try these 18 Ways to Build Muscle All Day.)


Improve Muscle Synthesis While You Sleep With a Protein Shake

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Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Protein shakes remain one of the most popular health supplements among active adults, athletes, and bodybuilders. Many Americans believe they can help with weight loss, building muscle, and overall health improvement. Shakes using protein powder have become a convenient breakfast drink and often consumed after a hard workout for muscle repair.

The American diet can easily meet protein requirements without including protein shakes, but we live in a society that believes more is better. Certain medical conditions may require protein supplementation but this represents only a small percentage. Calculating individual protein needs is recommended for optimal health and fitness.

If you’re going to drink protein shakes, it makes sense to consume them when they may provide the greatest potential benefits. Post-workout protein supplementation has been considered the most common and best method to refuel and optimize muscle growth. However, current research indicates drinking a protein shake before bed may provide additional health benefits.

Several studies indicate a positive benefit in consuming protein supplements before bed, especially for increased muscle protein synthesis. Some athletes have adopted a nutritional strategy of consuming a protein shake before sleep to help prevent muscle breakdown.

One study examined how protein consumed before bed is better absorbed in older men who exercise at night. The participants included 23 older, healthy men who exercised at night and later consumed 40 grams of protein before bed.

Muscle protein synthesis (growth) was increased and more dietary amino acids were reported in the muscle tissue.

 It was suggested dietary protein ingestion before sleep could be used as a nutritional strategy to compensate for anabolic resistance.

Other research examined how protein ingestion before sleep may increase muscle growth in healthy older men. Loss of skeletal muscle mass with aging has been attributed to the blunted anabolic response to protein intake.

Study participants included 48 healthy, older men who consumed either 40 grams of protein, 20 grams of protein, or a placebo before bed. Those men taking 40 grams of protein showed the best results of increased muscle protein synthesis rates and amino acids.

 These findings provide the scientific basis for a novel nutritional strategy to support muscle mass preservation in aging and disease.

Another study assessed how protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Participants included 16 healthy young males who performed a single b resistance-type exercise in the evening.

The men consumed either 40g protein or placebo before going to bed. The protein was shown to be effectively digested, absorbed, and increased whole-body protein synthesis rates compared to placebo.

 Results also indicated a positive protein balance essential for muscle growth.

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition assessed the impact of dietary protein supplementation before sleep on muscle mass and strength gains during resistance-type exercise training.

Participants included 44 young, healthy men who performed resistance training three times per week for a 12-week period. The volunteers consumed a supplement drink containing 27.

5 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrate or placebo before bed.

Protein supplementation before bed increased gains in muscle mass and strength better than a placebo.

Other research showed protein consumption before bed may improve skeletal muscle following resistance-type exercise.

The study suggested at least 40 grams of dietary protein should be consumed prior to sleep to elicit a robust stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates throughout the night.

Research findings indicated pre-sleep protein supplementation as an effective nutritional strategy to further increase gains in muscle mass and strength.

Having a protein shake before bed could promote weight loss, but total caloric intake should be considered. Your body sees food as calories and eating over the amount you require daily can lead to weight gain. This means how you supplement with protein shakes is important.

Protein shakes will add calories to your normal daily total. If you want to supplement with protein as a way to help you lose weight, be sure to adjust your calorie intake for the rest of the day.

If you’re on track with your caloric intake including a protein shake, drinking it at night could have advantages. Protein is shown to boost your metabolism and stimulate muscle growth. Increasing your metabolism speeds up the rate you burn calories and is shown to help with weight loss.

It appears the amount of protein consumed at night can make a difference. Recent studies suggest consuming 40 grams of protein before bed is recommended to best stimulate muscle protein synthesis (growth) rates during sleep. That’s a lot of protein and potentially added calories.

Drinking 40 grams of protein at night equals 160 calories (4 calories per gram of protein) if mixed with water. Protein shakes blended with fruits, nut butter, and milk could easily equate to 300 calories or more.

If you’re consuming 1800 calories daily, for example, subtracting between 160 to 300 calories from that total may be necessary if you plan to drink a protein shake before bed. This would enable you to stay on track with daily caloric intake while promoting weight loss and muscle growth.

According to Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN, CPT, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Media Spokesperson, consuming a protein shake at night may have a positive benefit for athletes a small study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Unfortunately, this study is very small with 11 participants and results can’t be compared to the general population. Young, healthy men have higher energy needs than the general population and adding a 140-150 calorie protein shake in addition to a meal for the average person could result in weight gain, says Majumdar.

Protein shakes are shown to be beneficial for individuals trying to lose weight when used as a meal replacement , but not necessarily at night. They help control the portion of the meal and are convenient and can even help individuals prevent skipping a meal.

Majumdar recommends someone drink a protein shake before bed when they didn't have dinner or find they are hungry after dinner. Using a shake in place of another type of meal or snack in that situation may help prevent grazing or overeating before bed.

Although protein shakes could help with weight loss, the bottom line is to watch your total caloric intake if planning to consume them before bed.

Protein intake is essential for stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and growth. Performing hard workouts may require even more protein in your diet. Drinking protein shakes remains a popular way for active adults and athletes to get their protein and refuel muscles after exercise.

Consuming protein helps keep your body in muscle protein balance. Protein contains essential amino acids important for this process. When your body is lacking amino acids from periods of not eating or oxidative stress caused by exercise, it causes a negative shift. Drinking a protein shake can help bring your body back into a positive balance necessary for optimal muscle growth.

The body is in a constant cycle of amino acid depletion and feeding and depends on nutrient availability to remain in balance. This means it’s up to you to consume the right amount of protein to maintain a balanced environment for building muscle.

If an athlete doesn’t consume enough energy for the day, muscle growth and repair will not occur and the body will break down muscle tissue as fuel.

Nutrition expert Melissa Majumdar indicates taking protein supplements is one way active individuals can meet energy and protein requirements. Consuming an additional 30 grams of protein or carbohydrate is shown to be helpful to avoid that catabolic state.

Post-workout shakes are commonplace to maintain positive muscle protein balance and shown to be helpful. Majumdar suggests protein sources can also come from food instead of supplementation. For example, 30 grams of protein could also be a four-ounce piece of chicken or fish , 1.5 cups of cottage cheese, or a 10-ounce serving of Greek yogurt.

Consuming a protein shake at night may improve athletic performance. Research is discovering ways to regulate muscle protein metabolism during sleep by consuming protein before bed.

According to studies, protein supplementation before sleep further enhances muscle growth and strength. Results also indicated an improved skeletal muscle adaptive response to exercise training.

The following clinical findings have been reported:

  • Enhanced overnight muscle reconditioning
  • Improved strength during workouts
  • Increased lean mass
  • Ability to exercise longer
  • Improved muscle adaption to exercise training

Protein sources differ in how they stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This means the type of protein consumed before bed is important for best results. Most of the research has used casein protein for participants. Casein is a slowly digested protein source allowing for a slow release and increase of amino acids throughout the night.

Drinking a protein shake before bed may disturb your sleep, depending on the protein type. The simple sugars in a liquid protein supplement could cause a surge of energy (as well as weight gain and increased fat stores). Most of the research cited above used a slowly digested protein. Consuming the right protein source stimulated muscle protein synthesis without impairing sleep cycles.

Whey protein is a more rapidly digested protein. It has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis rates better, but for a shorter period of time compared to casein. This is why whey protein is used most often post-workout vs. pre-sleep.

Research also indicates a variety of high-quality animal-based protein sources can also increase overnight muscle protein synthesis rates. Some people prefer to eat their protein and it’s nice to have the option of both. The following are considered quality animal protein sources:

  • Cooked eggs
  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean steak

According to Majumdar, athletes who find it difficult to eat solid foods after a workout may benefit from a liquid supplement, especially if that falls at night. If a long or difficult workout changes the athlete's appetite, drinking a liquid supplement would help with recovery, especially compared to not eating.

Majumdar recommends a balanced supplement in a 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein. Protein shakes differ a lot in macronutrient composition and should be chosen an individual's needs.

  • If you're trying to gain weight, look for a higher calorie shake.
  • If you're an athlete, look for a mid-calorie shake with a balance of carbohydrates and protein.
  • If you're trying to lose weight, you may want a lower-calorie, lower-sugar protein shake.

It's often beneficial for athletes to use a combination of protein and carbohydrates for recovery, glycogen repletion, and repair. The protein is used for muscle repair and the carbohydrate is used to restore glycogen, so they work together. This combination of macronutrients is usually more satisfying as well.

Majumdar suggests solid foods can often be more satiating than a liquid supplement because they digest slower. Also, adding additional fiber sources such as fruits, vegetables, and/or beans can be satisfying and slow digestion even more.

There is enough evidence to support the importance of protein intake for muscle growth. Honestly, most of us satisfy our daily requirement through our diet. Drinking a protein supplement at night can be helpful to promote weight loss if total calories are taken into consideration.

Using protein shakes as a nutritional strategy to increase muscle growth and strength could be beneficial with the right type of protein source. There is also the option to eat your protein before bed with quality animal-based protein sources. Whatever you decide about protein shakes remains a personal choice but it’s important to supplement smart if using them before bed.