Protein shakes for weight loss: Do they really work?

Weight Loss
Coach Kannan
April 18,2023

Protein shakes or protein powders are high-protein supplements that can help in weight loss and building muscle. The most popular protein used is whey protein, which is an extract of milk. There is a long history of using whey, starting with whey being used for cheese a long time ago. Nowadays, protein is the most hyped supplement and you will see protein powders, ready made protein shakes and protein bars being marketed heavily.  It is good to see this as protein deficiency is a big problem in India. But it can be impossible to tell which protein powder, protein shake or supplement you should buy and how to use it. Or if you even need to take them at all. Can you have protein shakes for weight loss?

You should always aim to meet your protein requirements through whole foods. Protein supplements should only be considered as a supplement to help you fill any gaps in meeting your protein needs. They should not be your main source of protein.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about protein shakes, whether they are safe, how to have them and when to drink protein shakes for weight loss. 

What is a protein shake?

Protein shakes are high-protein drinks that supplement your diet with some extra protein. The amount of protein necessary for our body depends on many factors such as age, physical activity, and muscle mass.


A protein shake can be made by adding protein powder to any liquid like water, milk, curd. It can also be added to smoothies.


A simple example is 1 scoop of whey protein powder (25-30 grams) in 200 ml of water.

Usually, a scoop of protein powder contains 10-20 grams of protein depending on the type of protein and brand.

Protein derived from animal sources like eggs and milk or from plants such as soybeans, peas or rice is converted to powder in order to make the protein powder or ready made protein shake. Vitamins, minerals, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and thickeners are also commonly found in a protein powder and ready made protein shake. These are usually added for flavor and to make the powder easy to mix into liquids like water or milk.

Protein shakes have varying protein content and contain a small amount of some carbs and fat. They are available in a range of flavors and in powder form or in ready-to-drink form as a protein shake. The source of the protein and the way it is processed impacts how efficiently your body absorbs it. For example, whey protein will be available as whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate.

Protein shakes are not new

  • Whey protein discovery dates back to some 8,000 years ago when cheesemaking started. In 17th-century England, whey was a popular drink. Whey’s popularity grew to the point where individuals began taking whey baths. Whey as a therapeutic remedy was in use until World War II. 
  • In 1952, Hoffman, a prominent bodybuilder, introduced the first protein supplement, “Hi-Proteen”.
  • Rheo H. Blair began marketing Blair’s Protein Powder in the 1960s, which contained calcium and sodium caseinate made from skim milk, dried milk, and egg white. 
  • In 1970, with the invention of membrane filtration, cleaner protein particles were obtained through filtration. As a result, whey separation by ultrafiltration began in 1971, bringing with it increased protein flavor, texture, and quality.
  • Protein powder reached the general population in the 1980s. In 1986 Optimum Nutrition (ON) was founded, and in only a few years, it was the most well-known name in protein powders.

protein shake diet

  • Muscle Milk, a shelf-stable, lactose-free ready-to-drink protein made from milk protein isolate, calcium caseinate, and sodium caseinate, was introduced by CytoSport in 2001. The product was an instant hit and became the “gold standard” for flavor against which other protein products were measured. By 2014, CytoSport was producing over 50 million pounds of Muscle Milk each year.
  • Protein powder is now more popular than ever, with almost every demographic taking it. Celebrity endorsements and flashy advertising campaigns are widespread in the business, but now there is substantial evidence to back up the marketing hype. There are available guidelines about the content and when to drink a protein shake, when to take protein powder for weight loss, and when to drink a protein shake for weight loss.

Do protein shakes work for weight loss?

In short, yes. But to understand this better, let’s look at the various effects of having protein shakes on your body.

Protein may decrease hunger and appetite

Protein keeps you satisfied for an extended time, and you’re less likely to have snack cravings. Digestion of protein releases the satiety (fullness) hormones. So increasing your protein consumption helps decrease hunger throughout the day.

A study revealed that a high-protein breakfast reduced the calorie intake of women to 135 fewer calories, compared to a low-protein breakfast or missing breakfast. Furthermore, consuming more high amounts of protein in a meal is beneficial for decreased appetite, decreased desire to eat and increased sensations of fullness.

Also Read: High Protein Indian Food Chart for Weight Loss

Protein maintains metabolism and muscle

Protein helps retain and build muscle which is excellent to maintain the metabolism healthy as muscles boost metabolism and enhance energy use.

This is particularly the case if you are trying to lose weight by following a calorie-restricted regimen because calorie restriction can result in muscle loss along with fat loss. The loss of muscle mass may slow your metabolism, paving the way for an easy weight regain once you’ve finished the restricted diet. Consuming enough protein and doing strength exercises will help prevent such muscle loss and the consequent metabolic slowdown. 

For these reasons, including protein powder or protein shakes while reducing overall intake is helpful with maintaining your metabolism and muscle.

Thermic effect of protein

Your body uses more energy to digest protein than it does for digesting fat or carbohydrates. This means that while protein does have calories, you burn more calories to digest it than to digest the same calories from carbs or fat. 

This is known as the thermic effect of protein which helps boost metabolism.

Protein helps with weight management

Protein’s effects on metabolic activity, appetite, and muscle helps you avoid regaining weight after you’ve lost it. This means that having sufficient protein in your daily diet is necessary.


What happens if you do not get enough protein? You gain weight.


The body requires a certain amount of protein to function optimally. When people consume diets low in protein, they tend to overeat foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fat until they satisfy their protein demand. Most highly processed and refined foods are low in protein and high in carbs and fat, so this is one reason why people tend to overeat these foods.

The solution? Stick to nutrient-dense, whole foods, and make sure you’re eating enough protein.

According to studies, eating 25-30 grams of protein in each meal enhances weight loss and weight control.

When to drink protein shakes for weight loss?

Protein shakes may be consumed at any time of the day to aid with weight loss. You may combine them with meals or add them into your day as a snack that replaces less healthy and high calorie snacks.


There is evidence that having protein at breakfast could help to meet your protein targets and feel fuller throughout the day.


This helps reduce overall food intake and helps with weight loss. Another option is eating protein at each meal and spacing it out throughout the day.

To boost energy, mix high-volume, nutrient-rich foods containing fiber with protein powder for losing weight. Vegetables such as leafy greens, cereals like oats, fruits, small amounts of whole nuts and seeds, and low-calorie drinks like skim milk are good choices to combine with a protein powder for a protein shake.

protein shake diet
Whey protein shake, with banana

Aiming for roughly 30% of your daily calorie consumption from protein is ideal for weight loss. It helps boost your metabolism since studies show that a greater protein rate enables you to burn more calories and reduces hunger.

Also Read:Is Banana Good for Weight Loss?

Does a protein shake diet work for weight loss?

Taking protein shakes instead of meals can be helpful to you to reduce your daily calorie intake, which may aid in weight loss. This is how most protein shake diets work. They use protein shakes as a replacement for a meal. Because of the filling effect of protein shakes, this can work and help with weight loss.

However, you will eventually need to resume eating solid foods. The wrong choices about solid food and going back to old habits will lead to regaining weight.


A better approach is to focus on better diet habits, a balanced diet and get a little extra help from protein shakes.


Another disadvantage of relying too heavily on protein drinks to substitute regular meals is you won’t receive the health advantages of regular whole foods. For example, vegetables, fruits & healthy fats.

Proper shake diets for weight loss often involve replacing one or two meals daily with a protein shake, and your third meal should be small and low in calories. But for effective weight management that lasts for a longer time, you should combine the shake with other long-term lifestyle adjustments.


Protein is necessary for good health, maintaining muscle and has been shown to help with weight loss and weight maintenance.

Protein powder derived from milk, egg, soy, or other sources can be used as a supplement for weight loss. Protein shakes help you stay full for longer, reduce appetite and this reduces your overall food intake. You may have protein shakes with a meal or as a snack option with milk or curd. Remember that protein is an important requirement of your body and protein shakes are only one way of meeting it. Your preference should always be to get most of your protein from whole foods which come with many nutrients in addition to protein.

About the Author

Coach Kannan
Kannan is a Precision Nutrition & ISSA Certified Nutrition Coach and a ACE-Certified Behavior Change Specialist. Kannan focuses on ideas that are scientific and also work in the real world. He is allergic to advice that is unscientific or not practical.

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