Sussex Performance Centre

6 Of The Most Common Protein Shake Mistakes

Make sure your protein shake is working for you, not against you!

If you’re looking to build muscle quickly, boost your macros and even shrink your recovery time, it’s hard to beat a decent protein shake – whether it’s whey or vegan.

With numerous studies proving that protein supplementation, as part of a resistance training programme, can maintain lean body mass and increase strength, adding protein shakes to your diet quickly becomes a no-brainer if you’re looking to build strength or athleticism.

Remember, as with any supplement, there are common pitfalls to be avoided if you want to make progress and not waste your hard-earned cash. Protein supplementation isn’t a catch-all solution. Rather, it’s a convenient way of increasing your protein intake day-to-day alongside a balanced diet. There are, however, certain hurdles you should overcome to truly become a master of the protein shake.

It’s not just average Joes tripping up, either. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Montreal found that three in four professional athletes failed to improve their performance or recovery with the help of protein shakes because they don’t know how to take them properly.

Are Protein Shakes Good For You?

It seems that if we weren’t to leave the gym shaker in hand, we’d be in the minority when it comes to post-workout nutrition, but is it actually good for you? Here are the benefits:

  • Convenient: Protein shakes are a quick and convenient way to increase your protein intake.
  • Low calorie: There are many low-calorie protein powderbrands available meaning you can hit your calorie goals easily.
  • Weight loss: Protein Shakes can contribute to higher protein intake during an energy deficit and can aid muscle retention when weight loss is your goal.
  • Muscle gain: Protein supplementation will support your resistance training and increase muscle mass when gaining muscle is your goal.
  • Appetite regulation: Protein Shakes can contribute to overall protein intake. Higher protein diets can increase satiety and reduce appetite.
  • Increased caloric output: The energy required to digest each macronutrient is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). Protein has a high thermic effect which could potentially aid during weight loss.

So, How Much Protein Do I Need? 

It depends on your training goals. The US Food and Nutrition Board’s current guidelines for the average adult is 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you’re looking to bulk up, you’ll need to increase this number, but that’s not as easy as simply stuffing your face.

Protein Shake Mistake #1: You’re Overcomplicating Things

Got milk? Plus dried fruit and a few big scoops of almond butter? If fat loss is your goal, you could be overdoing it. Load up your DIY shake with too many ingredients and you’re going to whack up the calorie count for no extra benefit.

The Fix: It’s simple: opt for some low-sugar ingredients that will help you bulk up your muscle, not your belly. 

Protein Shake Mistake #2: You’re Selling Yourself Short

When it comes to protein powder, there’s no such thing as cheap and cheerful. If your shake contains a concentrated powder with a suspiciously low price and a long shelf life then you’re forking out for something packed with fat and carbs. 

The Fix: Whey Isolate protein. It’s a touch more expensive, but when it comes to powder you get what you pay for. Due to its long refinement processing, isolate will give you a higher quality protein without the unnecessary additives.

Not sure your current shake packs the right punch? Check one scoop of your powder contains at least 20-25 grams of protein. Drop below that and you’ll soon notice your wallet shrinking and belly fat bulging.

Protein Shake Mistake #3: You’ve Gone Two Scoops Too Far

You really can have too much of a good thing. If you’re filling your shopping basket to the brim with chicken and powder tubs then we’ve got some bad news: you could just be increasing your waistline. In fact, trying to copy the diet of professional athletes with super high energy expenditures will only set you up for a career in one sport: sumo wrestling.

The Fix: Calculators at the ready: you need (as we have mentioned) 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day if you want to gain muscle mass. This means if you’re the UK average of 83kg, you need at least 133 grams of protein each day. Don’t be put off if this sounds like a lot, as one chicken breast contains around 30g of protein. ‘This means you can easily consume enough without resorting to supps. If you’ve already chowed down a protein-packed chicken salad for lunch and a burger for dinner, chances are you’ve already met your protein requirements. Anything beyond this, you could be going way over your calorie targets.

Protein Shake Mistake #4: Your Timing Is Off

Before? During? A lot of men are wrongly led to believe by the Bro Science community that, you must fit your protein into an ‘anabolic window’ However, when it comes to supps, it isn’t so complicated.

The Fix: When is the best time for a shake? According to the research, pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations, ‘The implications of these findings are that the trainee is free to choose, based on individual factors (i.e., preference, tolerance, convenience, and availability), whether to consume protein immediately pre- or post-exercise.’ So you do you, if that’s having a high protein breakfast before your workout or having a post workout shake, either could be beneficial.

Protein Shake Mistake #5: Trying to Fit Your Protein Intake into a ‘Window’

You don’t need to inhale a four-egg omelette with a side of whey protein as soon as you’ve completed your cooldown. According to a review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, your muscle groups are primed for protein for a larger ‘window’ than previously thought. So you don’t need to rush things as soon as you’re out of the showers.

The Fix: While everybody is different, it’s thought that timing your pre and post-exercise meals could be your greatest muscle-building ally if adding size is your primary goal. For example, if you start your day with a pre-gym snack at 7 AM, you don’t actually need another protein hit until your breakfast at 11 AM. Your gains won’t shrivel away and, if you’re chasing strength and size, work to 0.7g to 1g of protein per pound of your body weight — a figure that’s achievable if you split your macros across three to five meals in the day. Whether that’s a protein shake or an egg white omelette, we’ll leave that decision to you.

Protein Shake Mistake #6: Beware of Intolerance

A lot of protein powders will contain dairy, soy, corn starch, and additives your body may be unfamiliar with or allergic to. Whey is by far the most popular powdered protein and, if you have an issue with dairy, whey will have all the same problems being as it is, a milk derivative.

Reading the long and complex ingredients list can be tough going but may just save your workout when it can avoid unpleasant symptoms.

The Fix: While you’re trying new shakes, keep a record of what you’re taking and how you feel, so you can identify the culprit in the event of any unwanted side effects. Try to keep a food diary so you can monitor everything you’re consuming. Listen to your body. Allergies make themselves known quickly so be aware of any changes in digestion and complexion. 

There is still no substitute for hard work, a solid training plan and a proper nutrition routine. Supplements may make a little difference but unless you’ve nailed the first three, it’s likely to be an exercise in futility.

Sections of this article was taken from

How Many Times a Week Should You Exercise? A Comprehensive Guide
How to Lose Belly Fat: A Scientific Approach
Embracing Fitness After Your 20s: Unlocking Lifelong Energy and Strength
Why Strength Training Can Reduce Chances of Weight Gain During and Post Menopause