While protein drinks don't go straight to your hips, consuming too many of them will lead to weight gain -- as is the case with any food you overeat. In addition, protein drinks don't provide the wide range of nutrients that come with whole food. The bottom line is that no food or drink will make you get fat if you use it in moderation. Fat develops if you eat an excess of calories, no matter what you put in your mouth. Good nutrition still matters for optimal body function.
About Protein Drinks
Protein drinks may include protein from whey, casein, soy and peas. Manufacturers of such supplements tout benefits such as weight loss or muscle building, although the Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate these supplements for effectiveness. Supplements may be used to provide dietary protein, which should make up between 10 and 35 percent of your total daily calorie intake. That's roughly 46 grams of protein a day for most women. The majority of Americans exceed their daily protein maximum, however, so for this reason, protein supplementation is unnecessary according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Effect on Weight
Protein drinks are all over the calorie charts, ranging from 100 to 600 calories a serving. When they are used as part of a balanced diet that doesn't exceed calorie needs, these drinks won't make you gain weight. However, a 600-calorie shake doesn't leave enough room for calories from other significant sources of whole nutrition, such as fruits, vegetables and grains. The lower-calorie drinks might help you lose weight if you use them to replace normal meals, but this may also lead to poor nutrition.
Preventing Weight Gain
To fight fat gain, first determine the number of calories you use in a day by multiplying your weight in pounds times 15. The result is a rough estimate of the amount you should eat daily to maintain your current weight. So if you weigh 145 pounds, you need 2,175 calories per day. To lose weight, multiply your weight times 12 and eat that number of calories per day; to gain weight, multiply your weight times 18.
Protein Shake Warnings
Even if you don't get fat, you might suffer some health consequences from protein drinks. "Consumer Reports" studied 15 varieties in 2010, and found that all of them contained at least one toxic metal, such as arsenic, mercury and lead. Plus, getting more than the recommended amount of protein can dehydrate your body as it uses extra water to process it. Protein also elevates levels of calcium in the urine, so consuming too much protein for an extended period of time could contribute to osteoporosis.
- MayoClinic.com: Protein Shakes - Good for Weight Loss?
- MusleandStrength.com: Expert Guide - Protein Supplements
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: Nutritional Supplements - How to Order Them
- ShapeFit.com: Basal Metabolic Rate - Learn How To Calculate & Find Your BMR
- Consumer Reports: Alert: Protein drinks
- American Council on Exercise: Are There Health Risks Concerning Eating Too Much Protein?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.