Are Protein Shakes More Important Than Real Food In a Bodybuilding Diet?

Real food is by far the most important component of a bodybuilding diet. There are so many nutrients that real food contains, many of which have not even been discovered yet, that you would be doing yourself a disservice by limiting the amount of real food that you are eating.

In addition, real food has what is called a “thermic effect”. A “thermic effect” is the impact that real food has in your metabolism. Because real food requires digestion, your body burns more calories in processing it; as opposed to shakes which are already pre-digested.

Regardless of what the ads tell you, protein shakes do not offer any muscle building benefit, nor “secret muscle building ingredient”, above and beyond what real food offers you. Yes, I have read the ads too with all sorts of speedy muscle building promises but I can assure you through experience that most of the ingredients advertised as miraculous have not been proven to work neither by science (even though most ads of this nature usually talk about research studies that usually do not exist) nor by actual results at the gym. These products however have been proven beyond the shadow of any scientific doubt to shrink the size of your wallet and bank account.

What protein shakes do offer the bodybuilder and fitness enthusiast is a convenient way to ingest your protein, thus allowing you to have your five to six meals every day without having to ingest real food in all of them. In addition, the best protein shakes in the market offer a protein blend of different sources of protein, something that introduces amino acid variety into your bodybuilding diet, thus making your diet more complete. However, do not ever think that protein shakes are superior to food.

How Much To Consume

I recommend that you always have a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner consisting of real food items. A breakfast may consist of egg whites and oatmeal, lunch of chicken, some brown rice and green beans, while dinner can be some salmon, with a baked potatoe and some broccoli. In between meals, then you can have your protein shakes so that you can have fulfill your every 2-3 hour meal requirement. Depending upon what your bodybuilding goals are, you may choose to just use a protein powder and mix it with either water or skim milk (assuming that you are not competing), or a weight gainer that has more carbohydrate calories to help fuel the metabolism of hardgainers. You may also have an MRP (Meal Replacement Powder) or an RTD (Ready to Drink) for the convenience that they offer. For more information on this subject, please take a look at my article on Protein Supplements.



Never take in more than half of your meals in the form of protein shakes. So if you consume 5 meals a day, make sure that 3 of those are real meals. If you consume 6, then up to 3 can be shakes. If you are wondering what I do, I personally have 4 real meals and two shakes.

Which Brands to Choose?

As far as a brand, stick to reputable brands, like Labrada Nutrition, which ensure that each batch of their products contains exactly what the label claims. Beware of brands that sell your 5-lbs of protein powder for less than $30 dollars. Good grade proteins are expensive to manufacture, reason why you will see good companies like Labrada Nutrition pricing their products accordingly. Cheap grade proteins will cause gas and bloating as they are hard for the body to assimilate. In addition, some products that are very cheap may not even contain what the label claims.

Related Video On Protein Shake Quality: Are There Steroids In Your Protein?


About the Author

hugoHugo Rivera is an International best selling fitness author certified in personal training and nutrition with a computer engineering degree from the University of South Florida. Hugo is owner of, an informational, free fitness and nutrition website. He is author of over 10 fitness books (with over a million copies sold) including his best sellers: Body Re-Engineering, The Body Sculpting Bible for Men, The Body Sculpting Bible for Women, the Weight Training Diary, and the Hardgainers Handbook of Bodybuilding. Today via his website, numerous articles, book publications, TV and radio appearances Hugo continues to educate the public on how to achieve the body of their dreams via the use of weight training exercise, good nutrition and correct supplementation. You can follow Hugo via:

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  1. I have been working out for about 11 years now and been eating very well especially over the last 5-6 years and always used protein shakes, but never more than once a day and that is straight after the workout when the impact is apparently huge. I think that although protein shakes are convenient for protein intake without going into trouble of preparing protein rich meals all the time, a balanced diet of different nutrients is more important. I have been off protein shakes for a few months now and will start observing the differences soon, curious actually.

  2. Hi. Any body know if you need to add extra aminos to a good whey protein powder? I mean like BCAA and glutamine?

  3. I simply wished to say thanks all over again. I’m not certain the things that I would’ve accomplished without the type of tips provided by you relating to that topic. Certainly was an absolute terrifying case in my circumstances, but finding out the very skilled way you dealt with the issue forced me to jump with gladness. I will be thankful for the guidance and sincerely hope you recognize what a powerful job you’re getting into teaching people today with the aid of a blog. Most likely you’ve never come across any of us.

  4. Excellent article Hugo………and so very true. Liquid nutrition has its place but can never replace the benefits/nutrients of real food. Always appreciative of your sound, straightforward advice and experience. Thanks so much for sharing!

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