Protein Shakes, explained

Two thirds of UK adults admit they often eat ‘badly’ because they don’t have the time to prepare nutritious food and 75% skip meals, according to research by mindful Chef.

If you are busy but want to avoid the ‘3pm dip’ and running on empty, quick and nutritious meals are essential. Perhaps that is why protein shakes are are such a hot topic of conversation in the workplace and in 1-1 Consultations.

But what are they?

  • Are they a supplement or meal replacement? 

  • Do I drink them to build muscle or lose weight? 

  • Are they even real food? 

Most importantly, could they help you?

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Your nutritional plan depends on physiological variables such as your body type, age, medical condition and gender. It should also take into account your schedule, lifestyle and fitness goals. It’s also really important to keep personal preference in mind: if you hate shakes, this isn’t for you! 

Despite all these variables, it really boils down to this: protein shakes can be great if you want to reliably and easily increase your daily protein intake. 


Protein is essential for human health. It helps with the digestion of food, the production of hormones and the growth, maintenance and repair of body tissue. Your body will also use it for energy if you are low on carbs. 

Your body also has an amazing ability to synthesise protein from food, so the average daily requirement is actually quite small: about 10-15% of your food. For a 10 stone woman who’s not exercising, that’s about 51g a day. 


Studies have shown conclusively that protein helps athletes and bodybuilders tone up, and can be beneficial for strength training. Protein can really help women looking to build muscle and lose fat. If the same 10-stone woman started training regularly with a mix of strength and endurance workouts, she’d optimise her results by increasing her protein intake to 100g a day, or about 400 calories of protein a day. To find out how to calculate your own protein intake, use our handy guide below. 

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Protein shakes can never replace solid meals, but cooking, transporting and storing protein-heavy foods can be a hassle. As you can see from the table below, even protein-rich foods such as eggs and yogurt might not have enough to help you hit your goal. This is when shakes come in: they’re a time-efficient and often tasty way to increase protein intake, especially if consumed in lieu of an unhealthy mid-afternoon snack. 

Many protein powders today are made from high-quality, natural ingredients and can save money and cooking time. Because they can be prepared pretty much anywhere, they’re also great to stash at your desk at work. 

Some Examples - Food - Protein (grams)

  • 150g chicken breast - 45g

  • 150g salmon steak - 30g

  • 200g baked beans (½ tin) - 20g

  • 100g quinoa - 13g

  • 50g roasted peanuts (1 handful) - 12g

  • 100g tofu - 8g

  • 1 medium egg - 8g

  • 150g low fat plain yogurt - 8g

  • 200ml skimmed milk - 7g

  • 25g sesame seeds (2 tbsp.) - 4g

  • 100g brown rice - 3g

As a short introduction to protein shakes, this post is designed to get you thinking about shakes. It doesn’t address the sheer variety of products out there and their varying quality. For recommendations really tailored to you, we recommend contacting a dietician or nutritionist.

Our content is general advice only! 

Want to learn more about healthy habits and eating well in the workplace?