Should You Drink Protein Shakes On Rest Days?

People drink protein shakes for multiple reasons, including muscle gain, weight loss, and injury recovery. While many foods provide a lot of protein, protein shakes/powders have become a popular, high-quality source of this nutrient.

Do you ever wonder if you should be sipping on protein shakes even on your rest days? After all, you’re not hitting the gym and lifting weights, so do you really need that extra boost of protein?

Should You Drink Protein Shakes On Rest Days?

The answer is yes. You should definitely consider drinking protein shakes on rest days.

Imagine your muscle fibers as little construction workers, tirelessly building and repairing themselves day in and day out. But, just like any construction worker, they need the right tools to get the job done. And protein is the tool they need to build and repair muscle tissue.
Just because you’re not hitting the gym, doesn’t mean your muscles aren’t working. In fact, they’re working harder than ever to recover and grow stronger. And a steady supply of protein is crucial to support this process.

Drinking protein shakes on rest days ensures that your muscles have the fuel they need to repair and grow, even when you’re not lifting weights. And that’s not the only benefit. Consuming protein throughout the day can also help to keep you feeling full and satisfied, preventing overeating and weight gain.

So, next time you’re tempted to skip the protein shake on your rest day, remember that your muscles are still working hard, and they need the right tools to get the job done.

How Protein Is Essential For The Body

Proteins are considered the building blocks of life, given that every cell in the human body contains them. They play many critical roles in the body, do most of the work in cells, and are required to structure, function, and regulate the body’s tissues and organs. Most people drink protein shakes for muscle gain, weight loss, and injury recovery. 

Individuals need to consume protein every day. An adequate protein intake creates a huge difference in one’s overall health, yielding the following health benefits:

  • Promotes bone growth and development – Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein, so it’s important to take proteins regularly for proper nail and hair growth.
  • Repairs connective tissues – One of the primary functions of protein consumed in the diet is building and repairing cells, including the muscle cells damaged when exercising to momentary fatigue.  
  • Carries oxygen throughout the body – Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body, which in turn, helps supply your entire body with the important nutrients it needs.
  • Speeds up recovery from injuries –  Eating a protein-rich diet is often recommended to speed up recovery from muscle injuries. Inadequate protein intake will impair wound healing and exacerbate muscle loss.
  • Lowers your blood pressureStudies show that an increased intake of protein, especially plant protein, can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Regulates hormones – Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.
  • Provides energy – In the absence of fats and carbohydrates, the body also uses proteins to produce energy for muscle contractions.
  • Builds muscle mass – Since protein is the building block of your muscles, eating adequate amounts of it helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you do strength training. 
  • Reduces appetite and hunger levels – Protein helps reduces the hunger hormone called ghrelin and increases levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full.
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight Eating a healthy amount of protein can boost metabolism, reduces appetite, and changes several weight-regulating hormones.
  • Facilitates good hair and nail growth – Besides building healthy tissue, protein is essential for healthy skin and hair and nail growth. One study found that protein supplements reduced hair loss and boosted hair growth among people losing their hair.

Protein powder is quite a popular form of protein supplementation used to help build muscle, fill nutritional gaps, repair tissue, and even aid in weight loss. A 2018 study published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal found that taking protein (powder) can efficiently supply protein needs, especially for athletes, bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans who tend to lack protein from their diets.

However, the benefits of including protein powder in your diet go beyond physical gains. With the right protein supplement, you can also get important nutrients and vitamins to function well that you don’t normally get from eating alone.

Should You Take Protein On Rest Days?

The muscles need protein, even on rest days, and with other tissues, will actively recover on days spent not doing exercises/workouts, which can take up to 24-48 hours. Therefore, it’s not likely that your protein needs will remain the same, even on rest days.

Protein is essential for muscle recovery, especially on rest days, so it’s important to continuously take protein-rich sources on non-workout days to maximize recovery. Drinking protein shakes, in particular, is a good and convenient way to keep your protein levels high daily. 

So, how much protein does the body need daily? Each individual’s protein needs may vary depending on factors such as age, sex, weight, and how active they are – active people may need more, while less-active people can do with less. 

Most nutritionists recommend that 10% to 35% of calories should come from protein sources.

A sedentary (doesn’t exercise) person who weighs 140 pounds may need about 53 grams of protein a day, while people who exercise regularly need about up to 2.0 grams per kilogram (Those who regularly lift weights would need 1.2–1.7 grams per kilogram.)

Simply multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 to get your recommended daily protein intake.

Benefits Of Taking Protein On Rest Days

Aside from protein-rich foods, protein powder supplements are a great way to achieve muscle gains by combining amino acids, nutrients, and whey or plant protein. They support improved stamina, endurance, and strength so you can gain more during higher-intensity workouts, but at the same time, they also help prevent muscle mass loss on sedentary/rest days.

Of all protein supplements, whey protein powder shakes are considered the most popular, with the highest essential amino acid content of 43% and all 9 essential amino acids and more BCAA’s (branch-chain amino acids), which are all vital in muscle recovery and synthesis. Collagen protein, on the other hand, is also effective in building muscle mass and provides additional important health benefits.

Whey Protein Vs Collagen Protein

A person with an active lifestyle would require more protein, about 2.0 grams per kilogram of their body weight daily, while the recommended protein intake to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of their body weight.

Do You Need More Protein on the Days You Workout?

It is generally recommended to consume more protein on days when you are exercising, especially if you are engaging in activities that involve resistance training, such as weightlifting. This is because protein is important for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can help to optimize muscle recovery and support muscle growth.

Are Protein Shakes A Must-Have For All?

While protein shakes are a rich and effective source of protein for the body, they may only be necessary for some and are more recommended for those who need more. A well-balanced diet can provide sufficient protein for those who tend to absorb nutrients better. Foods rich in protein include:

  • Fish (E.g., salmon, sardines, tuna, etc.)
  • Skinless, white-meat poultry.
  • Lean beef (including tenderloin, sirloin, and eye of round) 
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables (e.g., green peas, artichokes, sweet corn, asparagus, brussels sprouts. etc.) 
  • Skim or low-fat milk.
  • Skim or low-fat yogurt.
  • Fat-free or low-fat cheese.
  • Eggs.

Seeking protein from food sources is often a more affordable option than taking them via supplements. It poses less risk of additives and harmful ingredients and naturally includes important nutrients, whereas depending primarily on protein shakes for the body’s protein needs may result in health problems (depending on the person’s health needs).

Cons Of Protein Shake Overusage

Excessive or improper intake of protein shakes or other protein-based supplements may lead to health problems such as:

  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Dehydration 
  • Kidney problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Imbalanced nutrition

Many protein shake products contain added oils, high sugar content, and other additive ingredients, which could yield more calories, potentially leading to weight gain. Some products may have unverified health claims. 

Certain protein supplements like whey protein powders can also interact with anti-platelet medications, anti-coagulant drugs, and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and increase the risk of bleeding and other side effects.

Conclusion

Protein-based shakes are ideal pre-workout beverages to help athletes and bodybuilders build muscle mass, improve physical performance, and facilitate muscle recovery. Taking them during rest days can help prevent muscle loss and continue recovery. 

Determining the right balance of protein in the diet helps meet the body’s ideal protein needs and helps attain one’s health goals. Protein shakes, however effective they may be, may sometimes cause certain health problems when taken without caution. Ultimately, getting protein from protein-rich food sources is always a safe and recommendable option. 

But before taking any protein-based supplements, it’s best to consult your trusted healthcare provider or a nutritionist to thoroughly discuss the benefits of protein supplementation and if it meets your health needs. 

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