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Protein shakes are an easy way to increase your protein intake, but if you’re having 4 protein shakes every day, then they could actually cause more issues than they solve.
Should you have 4 protein shakes a day? You should not plan to have 4 protein shakes in a day unless you’re on a liquid diet or about to step on stage for a bodybuilding competition. Protein shakes should account for less than a third of your daily protein intake, so that you’re consuming mostly whole food sources of protein.
Hitting your daily protein goals is important for your health and performance, but there are drawbacks to relying too heavily on protein powder rather than whole foods.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- If it’s bad to have 4 protein shakes per day
- When you should consider drinking 4 protein shakes a day
- The pros of having 4 protein shakes a day
- The cons of having 4 protein shakes a day
- What you need to consider if you drink 4 protein shakes per day
Is It Bad To Have 4 Protein Shakes A Day?
It’s not bad to have 4 protein shakes in a day every once in a while; but if you’re choosing protein shakes over whole foods too often, then you may become deficient in important nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
If you’re continuing to rely on a protein powder supplement for your daily protein requirements, then you will be missing out on the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are present in whole food sources of protein.
If you become deficient in vitamins and minerals then you may notice that your overall health begins to decline, because micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) that come from food are essential for many bodily functions.
Fiber is also essential for a healthy diet. It decreases your chance of constipation, helps to maintain bowel health, lowers cholesterol, and helps to control blood sugar levels.
Another concern with the long-term consumption of 4 protein shakes a day is that because protein powder is considered a dietary supplement and not a food, it is not subject to the same FDA (Food & Drug Administration) standards with respect to labeling, safety, and quality.
Therefore, there is a risk that the powder will not contain the ingredients on the label or will not match the nutrition information provided. This is why it’s important to ensure that your protein powder is third-party tested for product quality and label accuracy.
That being said, there is a time and a place when having 4 protein shakes a day may make more sense than consuming whole foods.
Related Article: 30 Ways To Increase Protein Intake Without Protein Powder
Should you take whey protein? If so, when and how much?
5 Reasons To Drink 4 Protein Shakes A Day
The main reason why you would want to consume 4 protein shakes a day is that you’re not consuming enough protein from whole foods to meet your daily protein target.
There are several reasons why you might not be getting enough protein from whole foods.
You may need 4 protein shakes per day to consume adequate protein if:
- You have a very high protein target (at least 300g per day)
- You have dietary restrictions
- You’re on a liquid diet
- You’re too busy to sit down and eat your meals
- You have a high caloric intake
You Have a Very High Protein Target
Consuming 4 protein shakes a day is a good option if you’re someone who has a very high protein target (300+ grams), because it may be too difficult to consume enough protein from whole food sources.
In general, we recommend that bodybuilders aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (or goal body weight in the case of cutting or bulking) to encourage muscle retention or growth.
Therefore, someone who has a current or goal body weight of 300lbs would have a daily protein target of 300g, which would be challenging and expensive to achieve with whole food sources by themselves.
Since each scoop of protein powder provides about 25g of protein, 4 scoops of protein would provide 100g of protein, which is one-third of 300g. This still meets my recommendation of a maximum of one-third of daily protein coming from protein powder.
You Have Dietary Restrictions
If you have allergies, intolerances, or dietary preferences that prevent you from getting enough protein from whole food sources, then you may need to rely on 4 protein shakes to meet your daily targets.
If you have allergies to or intolerances to these foods or if you are vegetarian or vegan it can be harder to meet your protein requirements.
Additionally, plant-based sources of protein such as black beans, kidney beans, and other legumes also tend to be high in carbohydrates, so it may not be possible to eat enough of these foods to meet your protein target without exceeding your calorie or carbohydrate totals for the day.
Buying protein powders that meet your dietary requirements (free of allergens and/or plant-based) and having them more frequently may be the only way that you can hit your daily protein goal while staying within your calorie and carbohydrate goals.
You’re On A Liquid Diet
Another situation where 4 protein shakes a day would make more sense than whole foods is if you’re on a liquid diet following a medical incident and/or procedure.
A liquid diet is often required before and after medical procedures or while experiencing a digestion-related flare up, but during these times you still need to consume an adequate amount of protein and calories.
In fact, failing to consume enough calories and protein following a procedure could delay the healing process. So it would be best to consume 4 protein shakes a day to help facilitate recovery while on a liquid diet.
To make the most of your 4 protein shakes a day while on a liquid diet, you should make the protein shakes meal replacement shakes by blending in fruits and vegetables for fiber, carbohydrates like oatmeal for energy, and a healthy fat like peanut butter for additional calories.
You’re Too Busy To Sit Down And Eat Your Meals
If you have a busy schedule or an occupation that has you on the go all day, it can be challenging to sit down and eat meals made with whole foods, so 4 protein shakes a day may be your best option.
This is a common challenge for truck drivers, first responders, and delivery personnel, as they have limited amounts of time to stop and eat throughout the day, but they still require proper nutrition.
When you’re on the go, it’s much easier to consume calories in liquid form such as a protein shake and if you add in some carbs, fats, and fiber then you’re getting a perfectly balanced meal.
You Have a High Caloric Intake
If you are struggling with managing a high daily calorie intake to maintain your weight or gain weight, then it may be more feasible for you to drink 4 protein shakes a day than try to get enough calories from whole foods.
If your calorie intake is 5000 calories or more based on your goals, then you might feel physically uncomfortable trying to get enough protein from whole foods by themselves.
Thankfully, liquid calories are easier to digest than solid foods, and drinking your calories is less filling than chewing. Therefore, prioritizing liquid calories can help you to meet your calorie target without feeling ill.
Having 4 protein shakes a day may be the only way that you can reach your calorie/protein goals when you require a higher caloric intake.
Pros: 4 Daily Protein Shakes
Some of the benefits of 4 daily protein shakes are actually the benefit of the protein intake itself.
These same benefits can be achieved with the same protein content from whole foods. However, protein powder is the most convenient and easiest way to obtain these benefits.
The pros of 4 protein shakes per day are:
- Ease of Ingestion
- Higher Protein Intake
- Support for Muscle Gain
- Prevention of Muscle Loss
One of the main benefits of 4 protein shakes a day is that protein powder is a very convenient way to consume protein because it does not require refrigeration or cooking.
Preparation time for a protein shake is less than a minute, which is much faster than the time it takes to cook a whole food source of protein
Protein powder is also very lightweight and portable, which makes it easy for traveling, especially while flying.
The light weight is also good when hiking or camping. It’s easy to throw a scoop of protein powder in a small container in a gym bag.
Having 4 protein shakes in one day takes advantage of how portable protein powder is.
Ease of Ingestion
Calories consumed in liquid form are less filling and more quickly digested than calories from solid foods.
This is a major advantage of 4 protein shakes for someone who is struggling to eat enough protein from solid foods without feeling uncomfortably full.
It’s also easy to add carbohydrates such as carb powder to create shakes that provide energy from both carbs and protein during training. It’s much easier to sip a shake while running, cycling or doing other activities than it is to try to eat a sandwich or other food.
Higher Protein Intake
Consuming 4 protein shakes per day provides about 100g of protein.
If you were going to miss out on 100g of protein by not consuming 4 protein shakes, then you could be well short of your target. This would make it harder to reach your health and fitness goals.
Support for Muscle Gain
In order to repair and build new muscle tissue, you need adequate daily protein intake.
In general, we recommend that you consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight when maintaining your weight, or 1 gram of protein per pound of goal body weight in the case of cutting or bulking.
For example: if you want to weigh 300lbs then you should aim to consume 300 grams of protein per day.
This could be challenging if you’re only using whole food sources. 4 protein shakes providing 100g of protein would help you get closer to that goal.
Prevention of Muscle Loss
The goal is to keep as much lean body mass as possible while losing body fat, for both aesthetics and performance. During a calorie deficit to lose weight or cut body fat, up to 25% of weight loss can be lean body mass.
To minimize muscle loss, it is important to increase protein intake and resistance exercise. Having 4 protein shakes a day helps to minimize muscle loss while dieting by helping you to meet your protein goals.
Consuming 4 protein shakes per day is also helpful for athletes with intense training schedules, especially if there are multiple sessions per day.
Protein shakes are the easiest way to ingest protein during and immediately after exercise to enhance recovery, immune function, and growth and maintenance of lean body mass.
Having 4 protein shakes can help to ensure that you feel recovered and stay healthy to stick to a demanding training schedule. This will allow you to experience improvements in strength and muscle size to meet your performance and physique goals.
Protein is a slow-digesting macronutrient that is very satiating.
Eating protein actually suppresses your hunger hormones. Feeling fuller for longer can help with managing appetite and cravings when dieting.
Having 4 protein shakes per day can provide enough protein to help you feel satisfied and stick to your diet.
Cons: 4 Daily Protein Shakes
Relying on 4 protein shakes per day can cause issues when that means that most of your daily protein intake is coming from shakes rather than from whole foods.
The cons of 4 protein shake per day are:
- Fewer Micronutrients
- Increased Risk of Ingesting A Banned Substance
- Increased Potential For Digestive Issues
One major drawback of consuming 4 protein shakes per day is that supplementing with protein shakes reduces the number of nutrients that you get from whole foods.
Whole foods contain more naturally-occurring micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) than supplements, which is why getting these nutrients in whole food form is actually better for your health than getting the same nutrients in supplement form.
For this reason, it’s best to consume whole foods as often as possible rather than always reaching for a protein shake.
If a protein shake is your only option, then consider combining it with whole foods so that you’re increasing the micronutrient content of the meal.
Related Article: 1 or 2 Scoops of Protein Powder: How Much Is Right For You?
Risk Of Unwanted Additives
Since protein powder is a dietary supplement that is not regulated to the same standards as food products, 4 protein shakes a day increases the risk of consuming unwanted additives.
It’s not uncommon for protein powder manufacturers to add low-cost fillers or a lower grade of protein powder than is advertised to cut their costs and increase their profits.
Having a higher number of protein shakes per day increases your chances of consuming ingredients that you hadn’t planned to, so make sure that the protein powder you’re using is third-party certified so that you know exactly what and how much you are ingesting.
The final drawback of having 4 protein shakes per day is that some of the added ingredients in protein powder can cause digestive distress, especially when consumed in large amounts.
Common culprits in a protein powder that trigger digestive issues are sugar alcohols (erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, and maltitol), and thickeners like xanthan gum.
Those who are sensitive to these ingredients can experience bloating, gas, and constipation or diarrhea upon ingestion of these ingredients, especially in larger quantities.
It’s not worth having 4 protein shakes per day if it’s causing digestive issues. However, you could look for a protein powder that is free of these common triggers to see if it relieves your symptoms.
Will Drinking 4 Protein Shakes A Day Help Me Build Muscle?
Drinking 4 protein shakes a day can help you to build more muscle because consuming enough protein is necessary for building muscle. If having 4 protein shakes a day is the only way for you to consume enough protein, then it could be the difference between you building muscle or not.
If you struggle to ingest enough protein in other forms, adding protein shakes can allow you to realize your potential when it comes to building muscle, as long as you are training hard enough to push your muscles to adapt and you’re consuming enough calories.
Without an adequate strength training stimulus, muscle growth isn’t likely to occur even if you’re having 4 protein shakes a day and reaching your daily protein goal.
Additionally, a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body needs to maintain weight) is recommended for muscle building so that your body has calories available to use for the muscle-building process.
Therefore, strength training, a calorie surplus, and 4 protein shakes a day is the recipe for success when it comes to muscle growth for those who struggle to eat enough protein from whole foods.
Will Drinking 4 Protein Shakes A Day Help Me Lose Weight?
Drinking 4 protein shakes a day won’t necessarily result in weight loss because calories are the most important factor for weight loss; however, 4 protein shakes a day can certainly be helpful for weight loss.
Protein is the most satiating nutrient so if you’re having 4 protein shakes a day then they can help you to feel satisfied for longer periods, which can help you to consume fewer calories throughout the day by reducing snacking in between meals.
Additionally, the protein that comes from 4 protein shakes a day can help you to retain your muscle mass as you lose weight.
That being said, with the hundreds of clients we’ve worked with I’ve never had a weight loss client that needed to have 4 protein shakes a day to reach their protein requirements.
It’s also not something that I would recommend unless it was absolutely necessary because whole foods are more beneficial.
If you’re struggling to get enough protein from whole food sources, reach out to one of our coaches for a complimentary consultation, where they can suggest convenient ways to increase your protein intake with whole foods.
5 Considerations When Drinking 4 Protein Shakes A Day
1. Prioritize Whole Foods
Outside of 4 protein shakes per day, be sure to prioritize whole foods in your other meals and snacks. This will ensure that you are getting the micronutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
You can also incorporate whole foods into your protein shakes by adding fresh or frozen fruit and/or vegetables.
Your other meals and snacks should be balanced with a whole food source of protein (such as chicken thighs), a whole food source of complex carbohydrates (like a potato), one or more vegetables (broccoli & carrots), and a healthful source of fat (such as olive oil).
Related Article: 10 Foods Naturally High In Whey Protein
2. Pick the Right Brand of Protein Powder
The right brand of protein powder will have a flavor and texture that you enjoy, and it will be free of ingredients that don’t work for your allergies or preferences.
Make sure to choose a third-party certified brand of protein powder that is free of undisclosed additives or banned substances, especially if you’re competing in a drug-tested sport.
If you’re having a hard time with the taste of your current protein powder, check out the following articles:
- How To Make Chocolate Protein Shakes Taste Better (5 Tips)
- Why Is Protein Powder So Sweet? How to Make It Less Sweet
3. Change Up What You Mix Protein With
Protein powder is very versatile and can be mixed with many different foods/liquids, which can increase the nutrient profile of your protein shake and keep you from getting tired of the same old protein shake.
Having lots of options can make hitting your protein target easier and more enjoyable. My favorite ways to consume protein powder outside of a protein shake are:
- Mixed into cooked quinoa with dates, cinnamon, and coconut butter
- Stirred with Greek yogurt and topped with granola and blueberries
- Turned into protein ice cream in my ice cream maker
- Baked into protein cookies or protein cake
4. Determine the Number of Scoops Per Shake
Another consideration for your 4 protein shakes a day is how many scoops of protein you’re putting into each protein shake, which should be based on your daily protein goal.
To stick to my recommendation of having less than a ⅓ of your total daily protein intake from protein powder, it’s best to only have 1 scoop of protein per protein shake.
This is because a 300lb individual should have a protein intake of 300g per day, and ¼ of this is 100 grams of protein.
However, this would mean that there are still 200 grams of protein that would need to come from whole foods.
5. Consider the Frequency
Another consideration when having 4 protein shakes per day is how often you’re doing it because as you now know, it’s better to get these nutrients from whole foods.
I suggest limiting 4 protein shakes a day to 2-3 times per month if possible; if it’s not possible for the reasons discussed above, then at least try not to do it every single day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 4 Protein Shakes A Day Too Much?
Having 4 protein shakes every day is too much because you’ll miss out on important nutrients that come from whole food protein sources, but if it’s only happening every once in a while then it’s okay.
What To Read Next
- 2 Protein Shakes A Day: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It
- 3 Protein Shakes a Day: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It
Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?
About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.