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Protein shakes are part and parcel of the bodybuilding lifestyle. You finish your workout and grab a shake, or quickly chug one down first thing in the morning on your way to work. While shakes may be incredibly convenient, you don't actually need them to build a great body. If you want to stop taking protein shakes for whatever reason, you can do so and still make progress, provided you make a few changes to your diet to compensate.
What Shakes Do
Protein shakes aren't a magic formula; they're simply protein in powder form. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which aid with cell structure, helping to rebuild and grow cells when they're damaged, such as after a workout. They are the building blocks of muscle tissue. In an article for 3D Muscle Journey, bodybuilder and nutritional scientist Eric Helms writes that bodybuilders need around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. Getting all your protein from whole foods isn't always easy, so shakes provide a quick, convenient alternative.
Eliminating shakes from your diet will reduce your daily protein intake. The amount it goes down by will depend on how many shakes you're currently drinking. A typical single serving of protein powder contains 20 to 25 grams of protein, depending on the brand, so if you're currently having three shakes per day, that means you need to find 60 to 75 grams of protein from another source.
Protein Shake Alternatives
Any high-protein food can be used to replace shakes. Protein powder is typically very low in fat, so lean protein sources make the best like-for-like replacements. This includes foods like chicken or turkey breast, extra-lean ground beef, egg whites, tuna or cod. If you're on a vegetarian bodybuilding diet, opt for cottage cheese, low-fat and low-sugar yogurt, or soy products.
Removing shakes from your diet could potentially help during a mass gain phase. Most bodybuilders are aware of the importance of protein, but many forget about carbohydrates, writes trainer John Hansen in "Natural Bodybuilding." By relying heavily on shakes, you could currently be over-consuming protein and under-consuming carbs. If you're eating more than 1 gram per pound of protein each day, replacing your shakes with carb sources such as bread, oats or sweet potatoes could be beneficial.