By Aria Beheshtaein, founder of B’liev

During the Covid lockdowns we all had much more time on our hands and, with heightened consciousness about the importance of being healthy, many of us used that time to work on a balanced diet and to take as much exercise as restrictions allowed at any given time. Although working from home and hybrid working is still available to some, many of us are back to old working patterns and life has returned to being busy, and that means we are short on time again, which can make it harder to get our nutrient levels right.

If you are someone who worries about getting enough protein in your diet (perhaps you are vegetarian or vegan, or you are someone who does a high level of exercise), a protein shake is a quick and easy way to boost your levels. But when should you drink it? Morning or evening? Before or after a workout?

Brief history of protein shakes
Protein supplementation as we know it today started in the 1950s, when competitive body builders started using egg protein to build muscle. At that point it was very niche, but things picked up in the 60s as more research was conducted, meaning an increase in both quantity and quality when it came to protein supplementation.

During the 70s, protein use within the bodybuilding industry continued to grow steadily and by the late 80s / early 90s protein was becoming mainstream and more and more protein powder supplements were available.

Fast forward to today and protein is no longer seen as the preserve of hardcore muscle men but is used by all sorts of athletes and also by non-athletes who have seen its benefits for weight loss and muscle health generally. Not only that, but you also no longer have to painstakingly make drinks from powder, you can buy ready-to-eat bars and ready-to-drink shakes, including vegan options, which is increasingly important as more people make the switch to a plant-based lifestyle.

How much protein do you need?
It is recommended that women consume around 45g of protein per day and men 55g but it does depend on other factors. Indeed, if you use an online calculator to calculate your protein needs, it will ask for gender, age, weight, height and activity level. Athletes are recommended to have a higher intake, as are people aged over 40, as this is when muscle mass begins to decrease.

When should you consume protein?
Protein is used for many important bodily functions (hormone regulation, blood sugar stability, energy creation and maintenance) but people tend to consider its inclusion in our diet in terms of optimal muscle mass, whether that is for athletic performance and muscle building / repair, or for older people worried about muscle loss. So, speaking in those terms, the body uses nutrients from your food to stimulate muscle growth for around four to five hours after eating. This means that, ideally, you should consume protein every four hours or so. Obviously, few of us want to set an alarm for halfway through the night, but ideally we should include a little protein at breakfast; we have gone all night without protein, so we really need to top levels up before starting our day.

How to get your protein intake – when do you need a protein shake?
If we aim to intake protein around four times per day, evenly-spaced throughout the day and that protein with breakfast is really important. For non-vegans, small portions of meat, eggs or certain dairy produce with each meal and at snack times will suffice. For vegetarians and vegans, it is not as hard as you might think to get vegan proteins – eat foods such as pulses, legumes, grains, seeds and vegetables.

Protein shakes have their place
Protein shakes are very useful, particularly for people who are busy and/or very active. Some people may have time for beans on toast at breakfast, some nuts with lunch, hummus in the afternoon, etc. But for many, life is hectic and protein intake is not always first on your mind as you are dashing out the door first thing or flopping on the sofa after a long, hard day, and this is where a high-quality, ready-made, plant-based protein shake can step up to fill a gap (for vegans and non-vegans alike).

If you have tried shakes in the past and found the taste to be a bit predictable, there are some great new flavours available from companies like B’liev. Look out for chocolate brownie, blueberry muffin, cookies & cream and, always seek out shakes without added processed sugar or artificial flavours.

Protein shakes definitely have their place in a varied and healthy diet and lifestyle, but I advise against relying on protein shakes exclusively for protein, and they should certainly not be used as a meal replacement.

Aria Beheshtaein is founder of B’liev, a new plant-based, protein shake available in three unusual, but utterly delicious flavours: Blueberry Muffin, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Brownie. Packed with protein and fibre, and fortified with vitamins and minerals, B’liev delivers much more than hydration and great taste, and encourages us all to believe that anything is possible, we just have to believe in ourselves.

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online protein calculator https://www.calculator.net/protein-calculator.html