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The Pros and Cons of Protein Shakes and Clear Protein

Today I’m going to see what’s true and what’s myth – basically the pros and cons of protein shakes, especially when it comes to sporting performance.

We’ll also look at clear protein shakes, and how they differ from the shakes we’re used to.

A big white jar with protein powder, some banana, two eggs, a glass with milk  and a bottle of protein shake are on table | Hurry The Food Up

Each of the points below are science-backed, as well as being tested in the real world through myself and the athletes I train.

Some of the advantages of protein shakes include:

  • Muscle growth
  • Easy to consume
  • Helps maintain muscle mass

Some of the disadvantages include:

  • Easy to become over-reliant on them
  • Not as nutrient dense as real food
  • Could be risky with anti-doping legislature

💪Muscle building with protein shakes

Protein shakes are highly effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is a crucial process for athletic adaptation and performance.

Whether the goal is muscle growth for strength or size, or enhancing endurance performance, MPS plays a fundamental role.

Protein shakes provide a concentrated source of high-quality protein, essential for triggering MPS.
This makes them an invaluable tool for athletes looking to optimize their training adaptations and recovery.

🍽️Consistent protein intake throughout the day

The concept of an ‘anabolic window’ has evolved.

Current understanding emphasizes the importance of maintaining a high protein intake throughout a 24-hour period for optimal muscle recovery and adaptation.

Protein shakes offer a convenient and effective way to achieve this, especially immediately post-exercise when access to high-quality protein foods might be limited due to time or cooking facilities.

This approach ensures that the body has a steady supply of protein to facilitate ongoing muscle repair and growth.

🥊Advantageous for weight-class sports

The plant based sources of vegan protein | Hurry The Food Up

In sports where weight management is essential, protein shakes are particularly beneficial.

They can provide a high protein content with minimal carbohydrates and fats, allowing athletes to maintain muscle mass while adhering to specific weight-class requirements.

This helps athletes to continue performing optimally, even when engaged in weight manipulation strategies. Protein shakes, therefore, support both muscle maintenance and overall performance in weight-sensitive sports.

Many sports use weight classes, especially fighting or contact sports such as:

  • Boxing
  • MMA
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Taekwondo

Ok, on to some of the cons.

🚫Over-reliance on protein shakes

One of the primary concerns with protein shakes is the risk that athletes may become overly reliant on them, neglecting the importance of a well-rounded diet.

Whole foods provide essential micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that are crucial for overall health and athletic performance.

An overemphasis on protein shakes might lead to a deficiency in these micronutrients and affect the gut microbiome, impacting long-term health and performance.

Athlete education is key in understanding the importance of a balanced diet, especially for those who may not have regular access to a nutrition professional.

From an anecdotal point of view from working with amateur and professional athletes, this is an essential teaching point for athletes to ensure optimal performance over the long term.

🥦The ‘Food First’ approach may be more beneficial

There’s a growing perspective in sports nutrition that prioritizes whole foods over supplements.

This approach is based on the idea that whole foods offer a more complex array of nutrients that work synergistically, potentially offering benefits that isolated nutrients in shakes cannot.

While the research is ongoing, this holistic approach to nutrition emphasizes the importance of real food for meeting not just protein needs but also other dietary requirements for optimal athletic performance.

⚠️Risk of contamination and anti-doping concerns

Athletes, particularly those in high-performance sports with strict anti-doping regulations, need to be cautious about the protein shakes they use.

There is a risk of contamination with substances that could lead to a positive doping test. Athletes may want to choose products that have been batch-tested and certified by reputable programs lik Informed Sport.

This reduces the risk of protein supplements containing banned substances. However, even with these precautions, there is still a residual risk, making it necessary to weigh the benefits against the potential consequences in competitive sports.

🤔Is clear protein different?

Clear protein is essentially a variation of the classic protein shake, designed to appeal to individuals who prefer a lighter, more refreshing drink over the typically thick and creamy texture of traditional protein shakes.

This variation maintains the core function of providing protein but in a form that resembles a fruit juice or flavored water in texture and taste.

🧪What are the different types of clear protein?

Sporty young man with protein shake and thumbs up | Hurry The Food Up

Whey-Based Clear Protein: One common type of clear protein is derived from whey, which is a byproduct of cheese production and a high-quality protein source.

Whey-based clear protein powders are processed to remove the milk solids and fats, resulting in a clear, light liquid that still delivers the same high-quality protein.

Vegan Clear Protein: For those who follow a plant-based diet, vegan clear proteins are available. These are typically made from sources like pea protein, rice protein, or a blend of plant proteins.

Similar to whey-based clear proteins, these are processed to achieve a clear and light consistency while providing a complete amino acid profile.

Mass Gainer Clear Protein: This type of clear protein is designed for athletes looking to increase muscle mass and caloric intake. While maintaining a lighter texture, these shakes can include additional carbohydrates or other nutrients to support weight gain and muscle growth.

Protein with Electrolytes: Some clear protein drinks also incorporate electrolytes, making them particularly suitable for endurance athletes or those training in hot climates.

These electrolytes help in maintaining hydration and replenishing minerals lost through sweat during prolonged exercise, promoting optimal recovery.

✨Are there any benefits to clear protein shakes over regular protein shakes?

Clear protein shakes offer a lighter, more refreshing alternative to traditional protein shakes, appealing to those who prefer a juice-like texture and taste.

They often have lower fat and carbohydrate content, providing a higher concentration of protein with fewer calories.

This is typically in the range of 30 calories so is not large, but may be important for those following strict dietary protocols.

⚠️Are there any disadvantages to clear protein shakes?

The main drawback of clear protein shakes is their unique taste, which might not suit everyone’s preference due to their thinner, juice-like consistency.

Additionally, clear protein shakes can be more expensive than traditional protein shakes but this is dependent on the manufacturer.


Ultimately, protein shakes (clear or otherwise) can have a positive effect on a sports person’s diet, but the shakes should not be used to replace real food.


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