If you don’t have time to meal prep, or you’re struggling to reach your protein target, you may be wondering whether you can drink 3 protein shakes a day, and if you do, whether there are any negative consequences.
So should you drink 3 protein shakes a day? If you are a larger male, a competitive athlete, or simply on a budget, drinking 3 protein shakes a day can support your workout recovery and help you achieve your protein goals. However, protein shakes lack the overall nutrient density of whole foods, so you shouldn’t replace protein sources entirely with shakes.
As a nutrition coach, my recommendation for most people is not to drink 3 protein shakes per day as a longer-term practice, even if it is convenient.
With that said, if you need to drink 3 protein shakes as a one-off (i.e. if you’re in a pinch), it’s better to do that than not reach your daily protein target.
Is It Bad To Have 3 Protein Shakes A Day?
If you have no dietary sensitivities to protein shakes, then 3 protein shakes a day is unlikely to cause any health issues. Your main priority is to ensure you’re getting sufficient vitamins and minerals from the food that you’re eating, as protein shakes have limited amounts of micronutrients.
According to Registered Dietitian, Brenda Peralta:
“While protein shakes can help you achieve your daily protein intake, they lack essential nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. If you manage to get all your essential nutrients in your other meals times, then there are no health concerns. However, if you are replacing your primary meals with protein shakes, you run the risk of developing nutritional deficiency in the long-term.”Brenda Peralta
Should you take whey protein? If so, when and how much?
Reasons To Drink 3 Protein Shakes A Day
Here are the 3 reasons to consider drinking 3 protein shakes per day:
1. You Have A High Daily Protein Goal
If you are a bodybuilder, or a competitive strength or physique athlete, you may have a very high daily protein goal. It can be difficult to hit your protein targets on whole foods alone, as it can be extremely filling.
Protein is the most filling of the 3 macronutrients and it takes the longest amount of time to digest, meaning if you are trying to hit your daily protein goal with whole food protein alone, it can be really difficult.
As such, if you are struggling to physically consume enough protein, this is where protein shakes make it a lot easier to hit a high daily protein goal.
2. Gram For Gram, Protein Shakes Cost Less
If you are on a budget, but still need to hit a moderate to high protein goal, it might be expensive to try and do so with whole food protein alone. Protein shakes, gram for gram, can be noticeably cheaper, depending on the brand and quality of the protein powder you purchase.
You may be finding that whole food protein, in particular animal-based protein such as beef, chicken and fish, is difficult to fit into your budget.
A serving of whey protein retails for between $0.60-$0.90 per serving, whereas a 4oz serving of animal protein costs between $1.20-$1.60, meaning that a protein powder can be as much as 50% cheaper per serving.
Related Article: Protein Bars vs Shakes. If you’re looking to save money on your protein consumption, then check out whether protein bars or shakes are more cost effective.
3. Protein Shakes Are Convenient And Portable
A protein shake requires no refrigeration, it’s very easy to transport the dry power, and mix in a shaker bottle with water, meaning that it’s the most convenient and readily available form of protein.
In the gym, on the road, or at home when you’re pressed for time, protein powder is simply unbeatable for convenience. Also, if you have limited kitchen facilities or are short on time when it comes to cooking, protein shakes can fill in the gaps.
Considerations When Drinking 3 Protein Shakes A Day
1. Do Not Neglect Whole Food Protein Sources
Protein is a crucial macronutrient in any healthy diet, but it’s important to recognize that whole food protein sources provide more than just amino acids. They are also rich in key micronutrients that aren’t found in protein powders.
If you are relying on 3 protein shakes a day to meet your protein needs, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies over time, and thus, it is important to keep whole food protein as a part of your diet as well.
Drinking 3 protein shakes a day a couple of times per week when you live a busy lifestyle isn’t a problem, but this shouldn’t be a daily strategy to meet your protein goals.
Related Article: 10 Foods Naturally Rich In Whey Protein. Learn more about which foods are high in whey protein so you don’t have to spend money on supplements.
2. The Type Of Protein Powder Might Matter For You
If you are on a strict cutting diet, and drinking 3 protein shakes a day, you might do better with a whey protein isolate that has a minimal amount of carbohydrates and fat.
If using a whey concentrate for your shakes, 3 shakes a day can add 20-30g of carbohydrates and 6-9g of fat to your daily intake, and those would be better coming from whole food sources.
On the other hand, if you’re bulking and looking to gain weight, you might be better served using a whey protein concentrate, which includes 10 grams of carbohydrate (40 calories) and 3g of fat (27 calories) per 30g of protein.
At 3 shakes a day, this can easily add 200 calories to your intake, without being too filling. As a bonus, whey protein concentrate is typically less expensive.
3. You Don’t Need To Only Use Water To Mix
This can also be a way to bring additional micronutrients into your protein shake to combat the nutrient deficiencies that could occur from relying on 3 protein shakes a day to meet your protein goal.
4. How Many Scoops Per Shake Matters
Keep in mind your overall protein goal when adding protein shakes to your diet, if you are adding 2 scoops of protein per shake, your shake will likely contain between 40-50 grams of protein.
With 3 shakes per day, that adds up to 120-150 grams of protein, and could be making up a significant percentage of your overall protein.
Rather than simply doing 2 scoops to increase the amount of protein per shake, you may want to include egg whites or greek yogurt to your protein shakes.
This is so you get a more varied amino acid profile, along with having a more sustained release of protein, as egg whites and greek yogurt are slower digesting than whey protein.
A good rule of thumb is to include 1 serving of whole food protein for every scoop of protein you take in a day.
- 1 or 2 Scoops of Protein Powder: How Much Is Right For You?
- 4 Protein Shakes A Day: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It?
Sensitivities or Intolerances To 3 Protein Shakes A Day
If you’ve got an intolerance to lactose or dairy, you might find that whey protein isn’t right for you. You may need to consider an alternate protein source such as pea protein, or collagen protein.
Plant-based proteins, gram for gram, can be as much as double the price of whey protein, and this adds up quickly when drinking 3 shakes a day.
In addition, if you are not used to drinking a plant-based protein, particularly pea protein, you may find that you have rather strong smelling gas, while your digestion adjusts to an increased intake.
As a result, 3 shakes a day could leave you feeling quite uncomfortable.
Summary: Pros & Cons of Drinking 3 Protein Shakes Per Day
- Easier to hit your protein target: portable, easily digestible and no cooking required
- High-protein, low-carb, low-fat: An easy way to top up your protein macros without additional carbs or fats
- Can be mixed with a variety of liquids: Water isn’t the only option here. Milk, juice, coffee, there’s some more flavorful options available.
- Great amino acid profile: Protein powders are “complete” meaning that they contain all of the essential amino acids that our body cannot manufacture internally
- Most protein powders contain BCAAs: If you’re consuming protein powder, particularly around the time you work out, you don’t need to use additional BCAAs
- Can get monotonous and boring: There’s only so many flavors out there, and eventually you get tired of them
- Only a limited amount of micronutrition: Protein powders lack the vitamins and minerals commonly found in whole-food protein sources
- Lack of fiber could lead to deficiency overall: Protein shakes consumed in lieu of meals don’t have accompanying fiber to go with them
- Can cause bloating and digestive discomfort: Not everyone tolerates protein powder, and large quantities can upset your digestive tract
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is 3 Protein Shakes A Day Too Much?
For an individual that requires 150g of protein or less per day, 3 shakes a day is too much. 3 protein shakes a day supplies between 65-75g of protein if each shake contains a single scoop of protein powder. Protein powder should not make up more than 50% of daily protein intake due to the lack of nutrient density.
2. Will Drinking 3 Protein Shakes A Day Help Me Build Muscle?
Drinking 3 protein shakes per day will help you build muscle if you struggle to hit your daily protein requirements. To build muscle, you need to consume 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. 3 shakes will provide between 65-75g of protein, making it easier to meet your overall daily protein requirement.
3. Will Drinking 3 Protein Shakes A Day Help Me Lose Weight?
3 protein shakes a day will help with weight loss as protein helps you stay full for longer. When calories are restricted, consuming filling foods is crucial to your success. If weight loss is your goal, it is best to mix your protein powder with water so that you aren’t consuming unnecessary liquid calories.
Additional Protein Resources
- Can You Dry Scoop Protein? (A Registered Dietician Answers)
- Are Ready-Made Protein Shakes Good For You? (Ask A Dietician)
- How Many Calories Are In A Protein Shake? (9 Examples)
Have a FeastGood Nutrition Coach help you get results faster than trying to stick it out alone
About The Author
Jon McLernon (aka Coach Jon) is a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Master Coach. With a background in chemistry and psychology, Coach Jon has a passion for supplement/nutrition science and behavioral psychology. When he’s not helping his clients crush their nutrition goals, he’s usually trying to wrangle a busy toddler (and get him to eat more veggies), or he and his Aussie wife are off on another globetrotting adventure!