Image of a glass of homemade protein shake

Athletes and exercise junkies have gone mad for protein shakes and supplements over the past few years, with sales expected to reach £8bn over the next five years worldwide. The appeal of these products is that they claim to increase muscle strength, function and size, and although they’re largely consumed by 20-something men trying to bulk up for the summer before putting on a t-shirt a size too small to show off their hard work, they can definitely have a place in a active lifestyle.

Vanity aside, however, protein intake is an important factor to consider when exercising, especially if you are one of those who heads straight to the weights room to bench press your body weight. The science behind muscle gains after a workout is this: when you put a lot of pressure on your muscles, your muscle fibres tear and break. When they rebuild themselves, they rebuild bigger and stronger.

So, what does protein have to do with all this? Our muscles need protein to grow and repair so, to repair the damage done during exercise, we need protein. In the UK we easily get enough protein from our diets, and on average we exceed the recommended daily amount, which is 55g and 45g for men and women respectively – or more specifically around 0.8g per kg body weight every day. Exercise does not increase our protein requirements significantly enough to warrant drinking litres of protein shakes. Overloading on protein supplements will provide you with no extra benefits, nor will it speed up the bulking up process – your muscles can only utilise a certain amount of protein, so anything extra you take will go to waste. In fact, excess protein intake puts pressure on the kidneys and liver, which can have health implications.

More important than the amount of protein is the timing. You have a window of about two hours to aid muscle recovery, so this is the time to get the protein in! Most of us have our protein-heavy meal in the evening, so if you are a morning gym bunny rather than a post work gym-goer, switching this habit around would help you get the most from your workout and reduce muscle soreness.

Research shows that post-workout protein intake can affect these gains in a positive way, but it’s also important to remember that after a workout your muscle’s stores of glycogen – essentially energy – will be depleted, so including carbohydrate in your post-workout recovery fuel is equally as important. Hydration also goes without saying, but unless your workout exceeds an hour, water will suffice until you have finished your workout.

Because I do my exercise in the mornings, I have a couple of go-to smoothie recipes that I can quickly make up for a breakfast after a run. My favourite is this banana, peanut butter and chia seed smoothie, the recipe for which is below. Chia seeds have been dubbed “the runner’s food” because of their ability soak up to 10 times their weight in water, so they’re great for hydration, as well as being high in protein and packed with other nutrients. Peanut butter has a bad rep for being unhealthy because it is high in fat and calories, but it is also high in protein, so as long as your portion control/will-power is strong, then a tablespoon in your smoothie does no harm at all!

I have included non-dairy options for all the vegans out there too – happy exercising!

Homemade protein shake recipe

Image of a glass full of protein shake with a blue and while straw

  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 150g low-fat natural yoghurt or soya yoghurt
  • 100ml of semi-skimmed milk or dairy-free milk
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Simply whizz all the ingredients together in a blender and drink right away!

As ever, remember that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle will play a massive role in keeping your whole body in tip-top condition – these tips are specifically for all you super-sporty foodies who may require a little extra of the good stuff.

Check out our head nutritionist’s brilliant guide to alternative milks, complete with the perfect recipe for almond milk.


  • Eric

    It’s a sad article for someone with a degree in sports and exercise science. Research has consistently shown that athletes need from 1.3 – 1.7 grams of protein per kg of lean mass. There is not a single study that suggests excess protein is hard on the kidneys or liver in healthy people. Lastly, as another poster mentioned, nut butters and chia seeds contain significant amounts of phytic acid, which can reduce absorption of important minerals.

    Stick to making great food Jamie, good or bad for you. Leave the science stuff to science experts…or hire a few…

  • Will Sullivan

    I liked this recipe. Replaced the chia seeds with walnuts and added honey and it was also very nice

  • Maisie Cohen

    As an exercise enthusiast and PT, I looked at this recipe and thought “Oh my gosh yes!! Next breakfast will be this baby with almond milk or maybe even coconut water instead”. To all those saying how ridiculous this recipe is because it doesn’t have a huge amount of protein and it has too many carbs and blah blah blah are actually kidding themselves. I eat a VERY healthy diet and count these shakes as a treat. I don’t put on weight nor do I bloat from these type of shakes and I don’t drink them everyday but seriously, if I wanted then I certainly would. How this doesn’t fit into the “healthy” but “naughty” category then I don’t know. There is NOTHING wrong with eating bananas, natural yoghurt, chia seeds, cinnamon, peanut butter(in moderation) or consuming a non dairy milk substitute. It is actually a pretty well balanced drink= carbs, protein, fats and the cinnamon is a natural sweetener plus lowers blood sugar levels. For those of you who are saying that it doesn’t have enough protein, go eat your steak whilst drinking your synthetic protein shake. Jamie is promoting HEALTHY but REAL food that isn’t expensive, isn’t hard to make and is COMPLETE and WHOLESOME.

  • Dhruva Jain

    What can be a substitute for peanut butter

  • frits menezes

    can this help me gain more mass then I I drink this 3 times a week and exercise two times a week?

  • kryttle

    I just read this and must say I’m sad to see words like semi-fat and high in fat. I thought we were past this. Sugar is the problem, not fat. Always choose the regular fat option which usually has less sugar.

  • Abhishek Jain

    You can drink this shake plus some protein whole food like peanut butter and bread which will increase the total amount of protein intake post workout.

  • Srikar Mardi

    I’m 19 years old 5’6 feet tall ,and weigh 44 kilograms could you pls suggest me any change in ma diet or essential to include protein shakes or powder , I’m basically vegan so… Pls suggest a diet I’m worried about it


    really good

  • Sharon Thibodeau

    Actually making homemade protein powder is healthier. I use 1/4 of dry milk, organic oats, nuts and seeds. I use two scoops of pea protein powder. I also change it up each time I make it again by changing the nuts and seeds each time. Homemade is healthier and you know what is in it. Store bought no matter what is junk.

  • Qiyou Zheng

    there’s more protein in a carrrot raw than in 4 jugs of this shake

  • Shadowslip

    Used almond butter instead of peanut due to an allergy but still tastes great.

  • Shadowslip

    Almond butter tastes really good.