Do protein shakes make you fat? It’s a question a lot of new gym goers have.
Probably because there is a lot of misinformation about protein shakes and “bulking up”
After spending over 15 years training in gyms, I can honestly say one of the most common questions I get asked from women is “will protein shakes make me fat”.
In fact – that is probably the second most common question. Women saying they don’t drink protein shakes because they don’t want to get too muscular is the most common thing I hear.
Believe me, if adding muscle was as simple as drinking protein shakes, there would be a lot more jacked guys walking round my gym.
If you’re wanting to bulk up, there is a fine line between adding muscle and getting fat.
You probably know by now you need protein to build muscle. And protein shakes are an easy way to help you hit your protein intake. But you might be wondering if using protein powder can make you fat.
Im going to debunk some myths in this article for you.
What You Need To Know
Protein shakes alone do not make you fat
You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight
Too much of a calorie surplus will make you gain fat instead of muscle
You can drink protein shakes to gain weight (without getting fat)
Protein Shakes do not make you fat
Protein shakes alone will not make you fat.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is spreading misinformation.
However, protein shakes can contribute to making you gain weight (fat and muscle).
A calorie surplus is the only thing that makes you gain weight.
What is a calorie surplus?
A calorie surplus is when you consume more calories than your body burns off.
The NHS states that a male needs 2500 calories a day, and a female needs 2000 calories to maintain their body weight.
This changes based on height, weight, activity level and age. But it is a good “average” starting point.
Let’s assume you need 2500 calories to maintain your current body weight.
A calorie surplus would be when you consume more calories.
This could be 2600, or 3000.
The higher your calorie surplus, the quicker you will gain weight. But the more of this weight will be fat.
A surplus of 10%-20% is ample to gain lean muscle according to bodybuilding.com.
Can protein powder make you fat
Protein powder can contribute to weight gain – but protein shakes alone will not make you fat.
No single supplement, or food type, will make you fat. Some foods or supplements are naturally higher in calories than others. Therefore, overeating these foods means you’re going to gain weight.
Even eating too much of a “healthy food” can lead to weight gain – if it puts you into a calorie surplus.
Do protein shakes make you gain belly fat
Protein shakes will not make you gain belly fat. Where your body holds fat is genetic. There are many different kinds of body types;
Some people will hold fat around their belly, some will hold it around their back and sides (also known as love handles).
You can avoid gaining belly fat when bulking by consuming no more than 20% more than your maintenance calorie requirements.
Protein shakes alone do not cause weight gain
By now, you hopefully realise that protein shakes or protein powder do not make you gain weight.
The only way to gain weight is by being in a caloric surplus.
Protein powders can help contribute to a caloric intake – far quicker than you might realise.
Let’s take a look at different ways protein can contribute to fat gain.
Too much protein can make you fat
Notice I said too much protein can make you fat. I did not say too much protein powder makes you fat.
If you need 200 grams of protein to maintain your current body weight (as part of macro split and total caloric intake) but you’re consuming 250grams of protein – you’re going to be in a 200 calorie surplus.
(1 gram of protein = 4 calories. 50 grams of protein = 200 calories)
If you’re wondering how many protein shakes a day you should be having, then drinking 2 protein shakes a day is a good number to aim for. If you’re having more shakes than this as well as meals, you’re going to be in a calorie surplus very quickly.
You’re Not Measuring Your Protein Powder Properly
Sometimes one scoop does not equal one serving. A “heaped scoop” could easily be 5-10grams of protein more than what you actually need.
If you’re drinking 2 or 3 protein shakes a day, then these extra calories will quickly add up.
In a wold where everyone loves to double scoop everything, understand that more is not always better.
Your Protein Powder is Full Of Carbs and Fats
You may not know this (and that’s ok, because you’re about to find out), but protein powder contains more than just protein. A whey protein concentrate will contain carbohydrate and fats.
If you’re buying a cheap, low quality protein powder, you might be surprised to find that 100grams of protein powder might only contain as low as 60% protein. The rest could be made up of cabs, fats and filler ingredients.
A lot of people who use protein powders do not realise this. That means if you’re having 2 or 3 shakes a day, you may also be consuming an extra 20-30 grams of carbs and fats.
This will quickly add up and cause your protein shakes to make you fat.
This is why I’m very careful with the brands I use. As I mentioned in my Impact Whey Protein Review, for casual gym goers a whey protein concentrate will be fine. This contains only a small amount of carbs and fats – and is very cost effective.
If you’re very precise with your macros and want to minimise your carbohydrate and fat intake, then you may want to opt for an isolate protein instead. Check out my Impact Whey Isolate review to see how low calorie an isolate protein can be, and if it’s worth paying the extra money for.
Note: Unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder or physique athlete, save your money and use a whey protein concentrate.
Do Protein Shakes Make You Gain Weight Without Working Out
Working out burns calories. The more calories you burn, the more you can eat or drink before you gain weight. If you are currently maintaining your body weight, and began drinking protein shakes without working out, it is very likely that you’ll start to gain weight.
This is because a single scoop of whey protein mixed with water can be over 100 calories.
If you mix it with milk, this could easily be 170calories. Just one of these a day may be enough to put you into a caloric surplus, and make you gain weight.
Even if you don’t workout a protein shake can be useful to maintain muscle mass, prevent snacking and keep you feeling energised.
How Not To Get Fat Drinking Protein Shakes
If you exercise to lose weight, you may be wondering if you should be drinking protein shakes.
They’re liquid calories, and can stack up pretty quickly.
However protein is vital for maintaining and building muscle mass.
So what should you do, if your goal is to lose weight?
The answer is simple.
How many calories do I need to lose weight
- Take your body weight and multiple it by 12-15. Eat this number of calories a day to lose weight.
- Track your food and calorie intake every day for a week. Have you gained weight, lost weight or maintained weight? If you have gained or maintained weight, reduce your calorie intake by 10-20% a day.
You can also follow this guide from Healthline.
Other ways to not get fat using protein powder
- Weigh your food portions
- Track your calorie intake
- Limit your liquid calories
- Plan your meals in advance
- Exercise regularly
Can protein powder make you fat? Yes. But only if you’re in a calorie surplus.
If you swap low protein snacks for a protein shake, then it is unlikely you will be in a calorie surplus and get fat from your protein powder consumption.
If you are worried about gaining weight with protein shakes, follow the above steps to track your calorie and food intake.
Also, remember – you do not need protein shakes.
Protein powders are a really useful, and convenient way to help supplement your protein intake. They are particularly useful for bodybuilders or athletes who follow a high protein diet.
As a bodybuilder myself, I eat around 300grams of protein a day. So drinking protein shakes helps me hit my protein intake.
You do not need a protein powder however. If you are going to be using protein powders, I personally would recommend Myprotetin. It’s the brand I’ve used for over 15 years and I have a ton of Myprotein discount codes to save you money.
What is important is to find a brand you like, offers value for money, and helps you achieve your fitness goals.