What You Need to Know About Whey Protein and Weight Loss

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight are some of the most common fitness and health goals — and for good reason! Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being at a healthy weight offers copious health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and other illnesses. It can also have a positive impact on your mental health and happiness (check out some studies done on the subject here and here).

One of the most impactful weight-loss strategies is to implement small dietary changes. This can be anything from waking up early to eat a healthy breakfast, snacking on raw nuts instead of a chocolate bar, or introducing whey protein to your diet.

But wait, you say, those protein shakes are just for those muscled guys at the gym, aren’t they?
Nope! While whey protein does help build muscle, it can do so much more and is an easy, safe, and affordable way to help with weight loss. Intrigued? We thought you might be. Here are our answers to your most common questions about using whey protein for weight loss.

How can whey protein isolate help me lose weight?
As its name suggests, whey protein isolate introduces more protein into your diet. Protein is one of the most useful nutrients for weight loss. Not only does protein help build muscle, but it also can increase your metabolism and satiety to make it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Beyond that, though, protein powder is an incredibly easy way to add protein to your diet. Many protein-rich foods require cooking — and that can be hard to do if you have a busy schedule. Protein powders can be mixed with water, milk, or other liquids such as smoothies and consumed quickly. Your body can also absorb whey faster than other proteins so that you can feel the effects sooner.

Can whey protein reduce belly fat?
Some studies show that consuming proteins can directly affect belly fat, especially when combined with strength training.

Whey protein helps you feel full, suppressing the urge to eat large meals or snack all the time, thus helping you to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Additionally, most protein powders are not high in calories. One scoop contains approximately 100 calories and can be low in carbs, fats, and sugars (depending on the type of protein powder), making it an appealing alternative to foods and snacks that contain more calories, additives, carbohydrates, and fats.

Which is better for weight loss: whey concentrate or whey isolate?
Both whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate offer many similar benefits. The difference is that whey protein isolate goes through a more rigorous filtering process to make the end product purer.

As a result of the filtering process, whey protein isolate contains a higher percentage of protein (approximately 90%). Whey concentrates can be as low as 35% pure protein and contain more carbs, lactose, and fats than isolate powders. Additionally, isolates are often smoother and don’t have the gritty aftertaste of concentrates. Whey isolate is clearly the superior choice of the two when it comes to weight loss because it provides more protein.

However, whey concentrates are the cheaper option. If you can afford whey isolate, go for it! But if not, there’s no problem adding some high-quality whey concentrate to your diet so that you can still receive the benefits of whey protein powder.

Can I drink protein shakes without working out?
Most people can and do get the protein that they need from whole foods, so simply adding a protein shake to your day may actually make it harder to lose that extra weight if you aren’t physically active. Remember, the key here is to burn more calories than you take in, so increasing your protein intake without increasing your physical activity won’t be very beneficial.

So, no, you don’t have to work out in order to drink protein shakes. But if you want to receive the full range of benefits from your whey protein isolate, then you need to include exercise!

Can I replace a meal with a protein shake?
It is safe to replace a meal with a whey protein shake, but moderation is key. It’s still important to eat a range of whole foods to receive the nutrients you need, including protein (that means shakes shouldn’t be your only source of protein).

Whey protein powder is a supplement, so treat it as such! If you’re going to replace a meal with a protein shake, try to limit it to once per day to ensure you’re still getting the proper nutrition. Additionally, you can ask your nutritionist or dietician for assistance in finding the right balance for you.

Is a protein shake a good breakfast if I’m trying to lose weight?
If it’s a choice between skipping breakfast or chugging a protein shake, we say go with the shake. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did you also know that eating a healthy breakfast can help promote weight loss, too?

Not only does eating breakfast wake up your metabolism, kick-start your energy, and boost your brainpower, a protein-rich breakfast will also fill you up, decreasing the desire to snack or eat unhealthy meals. People who take the time to eat breakfast are also more inclined to be physically active throughout the day because they have more energy.

One of the biggest benefits of protein powder is the ease with which you can incorporate it into your day. So, if you find yourself skipping breakfast because you don’t have time to cook, whip up a protein shake instead.
When is the best time to drink a protein shake for weight loss?

There is no single “right” time to drink a protein shake, but there are times when it makes sense to do so, especially for weight loss. If you’re trying to eat less, drink a protein shake either before a meal or in place of a meal — this will help you to feel sated and less hungry so that you don’t eat as much.

You can also opt for protein shakes instead of your afternoon snack to avoid the temptation of easy, but unhealthy, snack foods. Drink one before going out to eat to help combat the desire to overindulge or have one as a post-workout snack to give your muscles the nutrients they need to rebuild themselves.

Whey protein: A safe, effective way to lose weight
Whey protein can be a great tool in your journey to lose weight, but be sure to consume it wisely! More protein does not necessarily offer bigger or better results — in fact, it could even mean the opposite. Stick to the daily recommended intake and be sure to incorporate healthy whole foods into your meal plan as well.
If you have any questions about adding whey protein to your diet, be sure to consult a licenced doctor, nutritionist, or dietician.