The difference between a protein shake and a smoothie is pretty straightforward: protein shakes have protein in them, smoothies generally have very little.
Smoothies are usually full of fruits and vegetables. And protein shakes usually have protein powder in them for about 20-30 grams of protein per shake. You can make a smoothie into a protein shake by simply adding protein powder to it.
“Well, that sounds healthy. Why don’t I just always drink protein shakes instead of smoothies?”
While it’s true that protein is important, it’s possible to get too much protein.
(Bet you never thought you’d hear a personal trainer say that, right?)
But there are health risks to eating too much protein; like weight gain. Simply adding protein to what a person is already eating can lead to more calories in vs. calories out, and protein being stored as fat. So if you aren’t planning on cutting other calories, then simply upping your protein is not necessarily the best solution.
To find out how much protein you need on a daily basis, here’s the basic formula:
Weight in kilos x .8 = lowest amount of protein in grams the body needs daily
Weight in kilos x 1.2 = average amount of protein in grams needed for most active people
Weight in kilos x 2.0 = protein levels in grams for athletes.
To find your weight in kilos, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2.
For example, a 150 pound non-athlete (150/2.2 = 68.2 kilos) would need between:
68.2 x .08 = 55.6 g of protein
68.2 x 1.2 = 81.9 g of protein
So a good range of protein for this person would be about 55-82 g of protein per day.
If protein shakes and bars typically have about 20-30 g of protein in them, and we add in the other sources of protein that a person eats throughout the day, (a chicken breast has 54 g of protein) we can see how it’s pretty easy to go over the recommended daily amount.
The exception here is for people who are vegetarians or eating plant-based diets.
Without animal proteins, it can be hard to get the recommended daily amount of protein. One option for people in this boat can be a protein shake. Vegan options are available too, usually made from soy, rice, peas, and hemp.
Protein shakes and smoothies can also be pre-made. Pre-made shakes usually come in their own single-serve bottles or you could grab a smoothie down at the local juice bar.
The pre-made protein drinks are typically well-balanced with vitamins, minerals, and of course, a good amount of protein. Just be mindful of the sugar content; try to keep it low. Added sugar is not healthy.
Similarly, if you go to your local juice bar and order a smoothie, be very careful about what they add to that. Red flags include adding ice cream, fro yo, or flavored syrups, or using a concentrated mix instead of actual fruit. These are a sign that you’re about to drink a sugary milk shake and not a healthy source of nutrients.
Smoothies and protein shakes can be a great way to get nutrition fast and for fewer calories than a typical meal. But be careful not to get too much protein or too much sugar. Making your own smoothies and protein shakes at home is a great way to make sure that the sugar content stays low while the nutritional value remains high.