What does a protein shake do?

Protein shakes are typically thought of as tools for those trying to gain muscle, bulk up or compete in powerlifting competitions. Protein shakes can however, have benefits for most people even if they don't fit into one of the above categories. Protein shakes give the body the nutrients it needs to recover quickly and help you reach your fitness goals.

Your body prefers to use glucose and glycogen for energy. When you workout, your body burns through a good amount of its glucose and glycogen stores. Once you're done working out, your body's main priority is to replenish those stores.

Breaking Down Muscle Tissue

Without any post workout nutrition, the body's only way to raise its glucose levels is by breaking down muscle protein and converting it to glucose in a process known as gluconeogenesis. Over time, this process causes a loss of muscle tissue.

Simple Sugars

The main function of a protein shake is to give your body an adequate supply of simple sugars to aid in replenishing its glucose and glycogen stores. Since these simple are digested and absorbed very quickly, it will facilitate the process of replenishing the body's sugar (glucose and glycogen) stores. This will help to keep your body in an anabolic state which will prevent muscle breakdown for energy (read more: World's Best Post Workout Chocolate Protein Shake Recipe).

Protein

The secondary (but also very important) function of a post workout shake is to provide your body with an adequate amount of protein to begin the recovery process. When you workout, you create tiny tears in your muscle tissue. This damage is fixed during the recovery process with protein. There are two main types of protein that you should incorporate into a post workout shake. Whey protein is characterized by its quick digestion time while casein protein takes longer to digest. Mixing the two together will yield the best results.

The Bottom Line

Protein shakes can benefit anyone regardless of weight goals. Remember that weight is controlled entirely by your calorie deficit or surplus. To avoid unwanted weight gain, ensure that your protein shake fits into your daily caloric needs.