effects of drinking protein shakes without exercise

7 Effects of Drinking Protein Shakes Without Exercise

Protein shakes and muscles go together. The equation is simple; workout, take a protein shake, build muscle. But what happens when you take the workout out of the equation? Will you still make muscle gains in the absence of resistance exercise training or will it all go to fat? In this article, we investigate the effects of drinking protein shakes without exercise.

What Do Protein Shakes Do?

Protein shakes are designed to be taken as a workout supplement to supply your muscles with the essential amino acids which form the building block of protein. These are needed to build lean muscle tissue. When you work out with resistance-type exercise, you cause stress to the muscles. This causes micro-tears within the muscle fiber. Protein synthesis is the process by which the muscle is repaired so that it can build back better.

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People who work out with weights need to have a greater protein intake than those who do not. A typical protein powder will provide between 25 and 30 grams of protein per serve and a couple of hundred extra calories. Most people take their protein shakes after their workout routine in order to switch the body from a catabolic to an anabolic state to promote muscle gain.

Will You Gain Muscle?

If you are taking a whey protein shake without working out, you will not be able to build lean muscle tissue. Muscle mass gains result as a part of a process that starts with stress being placed on the muscle by working out. This causes damage to the muscle fibers.

Then, after the workout, you need to supply high-quality protein to start the protein synthesis process by which the muscle is repaired. This, combined with rest, will allow the muscle to rebuild a little bigger and a little bit stronger. If you take protein powder without working out it is a bit like taking medicine when you’re not sick – there’s no point and it may actually cause damage!

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How Much Protein Do You Need?

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If you are not working out, your protein needs are much lower than a person who is a regular gym-goer. There is a range of numbers that are thrown around regarding protein intake. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Medicine, men should consume 56 grams of protein per day, while women should consume 46 grams each day.

You will easily achieve those protein consumption targets without taking a whey or casein protein shake just by concentrating on protein-rich foods.

7 Effects of Taking a Protein Shake Without Exercise

1. Weight Gain

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Protein supplements are usually quite high in calories. A typical protein shake is likely to have between 200 and 350 calories. If you add extras like a banana or nut butter to your shake that calorie intake will go up even further. That high-calorie count can lead to excess weight gain when you are not exercising.

The average protein shake represents a comparatively high-calorie method of getting protein. You can get the same 30 grams of protein serving that comes in a 350 calorie protein shake in a 3.5 ounce serving of chicken breast at a calorie count of just 165 calories. Your body will also operate better on solid foods than protein shakes. Focus on eating such protein-rich foods as chicken, fish, egg, and egg-derived foods.

2. Fills You Up

A positive effect of having a whey protein shake without exercising is that it will fill you up so that you won’t feel like snacking or grazing between meals and you won’t have food cravings. That is because protein is a very satiating nutrient. A high protein diet has a high level of satiety. So, if you are sure to stick to a low-calorie protein powder and take it as a meal replacement rather than as an additional meal, protein shakes can actually help with weight loss. 

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3. Provides Fiber

A protein powder provides a good source of fiber to the body. Fiber is essential for digestive health and weight loss, yet many people do not get enough fiber in their diet. So, having a protein drink as part of a healthy diet can add necessary fiber in order to improve digestive health. Choosing a plant protein powder is the best way to get more fiber through your protein shake. 

4. Potential Kidney Problems

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If you consume too much protein, you may cause problems to your kidneys. Protein metabolism takes place in the kidneys. So, when you take in excess protein, you will be taxing those organs.

The process of protein metabolism results in a number of waste products being released, including uric acid and creatinine. These waste products are filtered through the kidneys before they are released from the body through our urine. A high protein diet can cause stress on the kidneys.

5. Energy Increase

When you take a protein shake in the morning as the first meal of the day, you will increase your insulin spike. This, in turn, increases your energy levels. As a result, you will have more energy throughout the morning. Research, however, indicates that you do not get the same insulin spike when you take a protein shake later in the day as you do with morning protein.

6. Unhealthy Ingredients

Protein shakes are promoted as healthy food supplements. However, many of them contain ingredients that are unhealthy to the body. These include sugar, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and flavorings. The build-up of these ingredients can have detrimental effects on your body, contributing to ill health and unhealthy weight gain.

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7. Increased Acidity

For optimum health, your blood’s pH level should be between 7.3 and 7.45, which is slightly on the alkaline side. Most people’s pH levels are nowhere near that, being way too acidic. Many of the unhealthy foods that are part of the modern diet are highly acidic. Although it is not unhealthy in itself, it is also acidic. So, if you take a protein shake without working out you will be contributing to the acidic environment of the body.

An acidic body is more prone to illness and disease. It can also lead to tissue and organ damage. 


Taking a protein shake without resistance exercise training will not help in building muscle. It can, in fact, cause you to unwanted weight. There really is no reason to take a protein powder if you’re not following an exercise program. So long as you are following a healthy diet you will get all the protein and essential nutrients you need from eating whole food sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a good idea to drink a protein shake for breakfast?

Yes, taking a protein shake for breakfast can be a good idea. It will provide you with the amino acids to switch your body into an anabolic, muscle-building state, while also spiking your insulin levels so that you have more energy throughout the morning. It is also an easy meal to digest.

Many people find it hard to digest food first thing in the morning. A protein shake is also a good choice as a pre-workout drink if you are heading to the gym first thing in the morning when you don’t have time for breakfast foods.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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