Protein Shakes – Do We Really Need Them?
Protein is the most popular form of nutrient used in bodybuilding circles, there is hardly a bodybuilder out there who doesn’t take protein shakes in one form or another.
Its become so ingrained into the process of muscle building that its more of a ritual than anything else.
But the question that I want to ask is this –
“Do we REALLY need protein shakes, and furthermore are the rumours true that they can actually harm our testosterone levels”
In the article I try to answer the following questions:
- Why do we need protein?
- Do we really need protein shakes?
- Can these affect our testosterone production?
Table Of Contents
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is basically a macronutrient that pays a number of key roles in our body. Its main role is in the growth, maintenance and repair of bodily tissues.
It’s also key to the regulation of certain hormones, enzymes, the movement and storage of various molecules and the production of key antibodies too.
It is crucial to make sure that you do get sufficient protein daily. the recommended amount for anyone who is largely sedentary is in the region of 0.8g per lb of body weight.
Athletes, bodybuilders and anybody who is extremely active should be looking at taking more – upwards of 1.5g per lb of bodyweight is considered a good level, I have read reports where even more is recommended.
Although these amounts can usually be met by the food we eat, many guys like to supplement with a protein shake either pre or post workout.
But do you actually need them – are there any benefits to be had?
Do We Really Need Protein Shakes?
Protein shakes are made using protein sourced from a number of sources, the most popular is from Whey – a type found in dairy products, other sources including soy and pea protein.
There are some studies out there that highlight the benefits of these products but these studies are commonly cherry picked by manufacturers who want to sell their own products.
There are only a handful of independent studies (many are paid for by the manufacturers) that look into the effectiveness of proven shakes, and the majority (it has to be said) do not back up the manufacturers claims.
One example is this study, featured in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementing with 20g of protein after weight training programs over a 12 week period saw no further growth in muscle size.
What these studies tell us is that you do not NEED to take protein shakes as long as you eat a well balanced diet.
You might see benefits if your diet is poor or you struggle to get the desired amount of protein from your food for various reasons.
One thing that you may not be aware of is the fact that while protein is crucial to building muscle it has been shown in one key study that 25g of protein taken before exercise can actually reduce testosterone and growth hormone levels.
These are two of the most crucial hormones required for optimum muscle growth.
So Can Protein Shakes Actually Reduce Our Testosterone Production?
Here I decided to take a look at the research into this point
The link between Testosterone and Protein.
A large amount of the testosterone in our blood is bound to one of two compounds, both SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) and Albumin grab hold of a large percentage of the testosterone in our blood and render it ineffective.
The more SHBG in the blood the lower the levels of free (available) testosterone. Research has shown that low protein diets can actually increase the levels of SHBG which as a direct result lowers the availability of testosterone in our blood.
You would think that to counteract this, you need to increase protein intake
Some studies have also shown that high protein diets actually reduce testosterone in male athletes.
One study featuring in the journal of applied physiology followed 12 test subjects over a 17 day period where they participated in a strict diet and weight training program.
The results showed that the higher the protein levels, the lower the testosterone levels both pre and post workout.
Similar results were recorded in another study that saw a group of older men take 15g of protein before and after weight training session. The results recorded reduced levels of both free and total testosterone levels.
Another point that these studies have also seen is the fact that high protein diets can also increase cortisol – the stress hormone known to be highly detrimental to testosterone production.
A study published in life sciences followed a small group volunteers for 20 days. First they eat a high carb, low protein diet (10% of total calories consumed) for 10 days. They saw testosterone levels increase.
The second ten days were spent eating a high protein diet (44% of all calories consumed) when checked it was found that testosterone levels had dropped by a staggering 36% and their cortisol levels had increased.
Its not just dairy protein either. this study looked at the effects of soy protein on test subjects. after taking soy protein for 14 days, the researchers reported reduced testosterone levels in all subjects although on this occasion the levels of SHBG dd not change.
“The Bottom Line From All These Studies Is That Protein Does NOT Boost Testosterone Levels, and May Actually Decrease It When Taken In Excess Quantities”
These studies highlight that overloading on protein through supplementation such as shakes can have a detrimental effect on your testosterone levels.
I would recommend that instead of spending your money on protein supplements that you maximise the intake of protein in your general daily diet, and also ensure optimum hormone production by using a good T-boosting supplement
MEET THE AUTHOR: My name is Paul Gardner – I am the editor, main researcher and writer for testojunction.com.
I am 59 years old and currently live in the outskirts of London.
Sport and fitness has been a massive part of my life, as a younger man I used to swim competitively. Representing the county at events both home and abroad.
I have also been an avid squash and tennis player too, and have been a keen gym goer all through my life.
I have a CPD accreditation in Sports Nutrition, and have studied and have been writing about nutrition, hormones, natural ingredients and sports supplements for over 12 years and have had articles published in many popular publications.
One area that I have a particular interest in is how hormones play a massive part in our development, fitness, muscularity, strength and of course our sexual development.