Can You Drink Protein Shakes Without Working Out?

In a way, protein shakes are like wonder substances for people who want to bulk up. After all, bodybuilders require a lot of protein, and getting it through food alone can be challenging. But what if you didn’t want to gain muscle? Or even precisely, what if you don’t work out? Are they still good?

What is a Protein Shake?

You first need to know exactly what the food is and its purpose.

Protein shakes are powdered proteins that can be mixed in a liquid. They are generally sourced from dairy and eggs, while vegan options derived from soy, hemp and peas are also available.

Protein shakes are supposed to be easily consumable food for individuals who require more protein than normal people. Eating only food to get enough protein to build muscles can cause problems that arise from ‘too much food.’ This can include dietary issues, increased weight, throwing up, etc.

So, Do I Need It?

While anyone can drink protein shakes, the real question is if your body actually needs it. 

According to the Dietary Reference Intake, a sedentary adult requires 0.8 grams of protein for a kilogram of protein weight.

But remember, the above recommendation is for a ‘sedentary’ person that spends most of the time seated and is generally physically inactive.

For building weight, the minimum protein requirement is between 1.6 grams and 2.2 grams. Most protein shakes have been made for people who need to reach these numbers.

Only Buy a Protein Powder If You Feel You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein

Before making protein shakes a part of your diet, you need to assess your physical activity levels and decide if you are consuming adequate protein. This is even when you aren’t working out.

For example, even if you don’t go to the gym, you may not be exactly sedentary. Say you play some sports. And if you don’t think you are eating enough protein, then you can consider going for a shake.

Signs of Protein Deficiency

High Protein Cravings

The human body tends to crave nutrients that it doesn’t have. Thus, urges for food such as meat, eggs, and pulses can indicate protein deficiency. But again, be careful about the craving; wanting to eat healthy food isn’t the same as wanting junk.

Weakness and Fatigue

While carbohydrate gives you a sudden surge of energy, protein is important to maintain healthy energy levels. So, if you find yourself eating much energy-rich food but still being tired, you may require a good source of protein.


Protein releases hormones such as GLP-1 and PYY, which are responsible for your hunger fangs to be satisfied. Thus, even if you are eating a lot but feel yourself craving more food, it may mean that you need to supplement on protein. Oatmeal is a healthy option if you are feeling hungry.

Skin, Hair and Nail Problems

Hair fall, brittle nails, and fast-ageing skin are all symptoms of protein deficiency. When you don’t eat sufficient protein, your body will need to pause the growth of hair, nail, and skin tissues, prioritizing the muscles and other tissues.

The Benefits of Protein Shake

Muscle Gain

Even if you don’t work out, protein shakes help you reach the maximum muscle weight from your current levels of physical activity.

In addition, your muscles will become healthier as protein is an essential nutrient in tissue healing. Hence, you get injured less, and even if you do get hurt, your wounds heal up faster.

Weight Loss

Studies have shown that protein shakes are beneficial for people who are on a weight loss diet. There are several reasons for this:

Increased Feeling of Being Full

Study shows that protein shake decreases hunger. This is mainly because your body takes a lot of time to digest it than other food. Furthermore, protein is seen to make people feel fuller for a longer time than other nutrients. Hence, it also helps you to control your appetite. 

Decreased Carbohydrate Intake

For many people, the primary source of calories is carbohydrates. Hence, we tend to overindulge in it. As protein shakes make you full, they also help you to decrease your daily carb intake. Furthermore, as long as you eat healthy amounts of carbohydrates, protein can also help with boosting energy in the long term. 

Burns Fat

Increased muscle mass means decreased fat. According to research, protein can be great for fat oxidation and reduction in both children and adults. Furthermore, study shows that high-quality protein shakes are better for fat reduction than other sources of protein.

Faster Metabolism

For every food you eat, some of its calories are used in digesting the food, while the other is used for energy. And when you don’t use up all the energy that was available from the food, it converts to fat and you gain weight.

As per a study, 30% of protein’s calorie is used to digest the food. In contrast, only 5 to 10% of carbohydrates are used for digesting. 

Hence, protein shakes can result in fast metabolism and more energy for the long term, as it is digested slowly.

Lower Cravings

Having enough protein regulates a hormone known as peptide YY (PYY), which helps to regulate the appetite. Due to this, protein also helps to reduce cravings for unhealthy food which is especially great for those on a weight-loss plan.

Research even suggests that increasing protein helps to increase the cravings for healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. 

Stronger Immunity

Protein shakes are made from why protein which is rich in two amino acids- cysteine and methionine. These amino acids are used by the body to fight against disease-carrying germs and bacteria.

Some immunity-based benefits of whey protein include better bone growth, wound-healing, anti-inflammation, anti-microbial and anti-diabetic properties. Hence, as you consume more protein, you will find yourself becoming less sick.

Risks of Abnormally High Protein Levels

Owing to the high protein content in protein shakes, it is always likely you will eat more protein than needed. Hence, you may need to face some repercussions.

Weight Gain

Even if protein supports weight loss in many ways, too much of it still can cause you to gain weight. As we read above, some parts of protein will still be used as energy, and if you don’t use this, it will be converted into fat.

These days, protein shakes come in different flavors. These may be particularly problematic since they’re made with high concentrations of sugar and artificial sweeteners that may increase the amount of fat in your body.

Related: How to avoid stretch marks from working out

Side Effects

Even people who exercise a lot report some side effects of protein shakes. You are more likely to have them with limited physical activities.

  • Increased Bowel Movements
  • Nausea
  • Thirst 
  • Tiredness
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Headache
  • Bloating


Especially if you are drinking protein shakes and not working out, you will be unwilling to eat other high-protein food, say meat, peas or pulses. Now, these food don’t only provide proteins, but also have nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, etc. Thus, as are only focused on improving your protein levels, you may struggle to balance other essential compounds.

Also, when you feel full, you will find yourself eating less food than usual. Again, this smells trouble for your general well-being.

Lack of the Quality

Protein powders are classed as supplements. Thus, even in the USA, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t monitor it. The same goes for many other countries, where most of these products are unregulated.

Many protein powders may not contain what they claim. In addition, they may have additives such as caffeine, creatine. In a report released by a non-profit organization called Clean Label, various products consisted of high levels of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead. Furthermore, 55% of protein shakes had higher levels of BPA, which is seen to have cancerous effects.

Especially due to extensive marketing, you can easily be misguided. Hence, it always pays to look at the actual ingredients and some studies before buying a supplement, instead of the packaging.

Protein Shakes vs Protein Bars

If you don’t work out, it may be better for you to experiment with protein bars.

Protein bars generally have less protein, but also consist of other macronutrients. Protein powder is generally straight up protein.

Furthermore, protein bars are solid, and research shows that chewing whole food offers more satiety than liquid. Thus, they can be helpful with your weight management goals.

But as always, before putting anything inside your body, you should look at its ingredients. There are unhealthy protein bars, and there are healthy ones.

Key Takeaway

Protein shakes are made for those who work out. Furthermore, they can be highly beneficial for people who are experiencing deficiencies. And for everyone else, they are more of a want than a need. 

If you really want to drink these shakes, you should make sure that you have at least some levels of physical involvement throughout the day. Also, you have to be careful regarding how much you take them- at the end of the day, you need to balance nutrients, and too much of anything isn’t good.