Can You Drink Protein Shakes During Intermittent Fasting?

By Sophia Smith – March 9, 2021

The health and fitness world continues to brim with dietary fads and workout hacks that, sometimes, seem too good to be true. Then there are the scientifically-backed approaches to eating and training that are proven to deliver on their promises and help people accomplish their fitness goals — and one such strategy that has proven perks for all of us is intermittent fasting, and it has been around for a long time. 

Maybe you’ve done it yourself without realizing it! Since our previous article covers this diet approach in detail, we’ll merely glance back at the core ideas of intermittent fasting and move on to the question at hand: can you, and should you, drink protein shakes when you’re taking on this dietary approach?

It all depends on the type of fast you choose and the kind of goals you have in mind. Let’s dive right in and find out how you can incorporate protein shakes within your fasting regimen without deterring any of the perks of this healthy process.

A quick overview of intermittent fasting

  • The 16:8 method: The most typical type of IF includes not consuming any calories for 16 hours, while having an eight-hour window to eat all your daily calories. It still leaves room for consuming tea, plain coffee (so no sugar, milk, or cream, let alone the famous spiced orange coffee), and water during those non-eating hours, allowing you to sustain your energy.
  • The 20:4 method: Fasting for 20 hours with a four-hour eating window.
  • The 5:2 method: This strategy helps you eat at your regular pace for five days per week, while you avoid food for two whole days – however, not in a row. 

The main question people ask themselves when it comes to shakes is: do they count as liquids you can consume during your non-eating hours, or not? Also, if you are a woman and you’re on your period, you’re low on energy, or you’re having a hard time eating enough protein as it is – does a shake substitute a meal, or not? 

It’s all about balancing your protein intake

Whether you’re aiming to lose a few pounds or build muscle, or you simply want to boost your metabolism with IF, you always need to be mindful of your protein intake. If you feel full quickly into your meal, then perhaps you cannot “cram” all those necessary calories into your eating period. Many women tend to eat less protein than they actually need and focus on healthy carbs, since protein is particularly filling. 

For starters, calculate your protein needs. If you find out that this means consuming much more food than you can possibly digest in your eating window, then a protein shake makes perfect sense. Still, you shouldn’t consume it during your fast – these non-eating hours are still off limits!

The quality and content of your shakes matter

Not all protein shakes are created equal. That is why consuming a subpar, sugar-laden shake can do more harm than good, and undo all those perks of your fast. This is especially vital for women who are just starting out with intermittent fasting, as quality protein shakes for women need to be rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. That helps balance your overall nutrient intake, boost your digestive health and keep your immune system strong. 

Yes, opting for different flavors such as chocolate or vanilla will help you keep things interesting and your taste buds happy. However, you need to focus on the quality content of your shakes if you want to shed fat and build lean muscle. So, if you choose to consume protein shakes during your IF, make sure to choose high-quality shakes without sweeteners, and based on versatile, nutritious ingredients. 

When to include shakes in your eating window

Remember, protein shakes might be in liquid form, but they are definitely calorie-dense. That means that, even though they might not replace an entire meal in your plan, they still cannot be consumed during those periods when you fast. If you include more ingredients and turn an ordinary shake into a smoothie, then perhaps it can even replace an entire meal, provided that it’s both satiating and rich in micro and macronutrients! 

Reserve your protein shakes for your eating windows, be it alternate day fasting or consuming all your calories in eight hours of the day. It’s a good idea to consume your shake as a dinner, to keep those cravings away from waking you up in the middle of the night. Then again, you can time your workouts to match your eating period and consume your protein shake immediately after training.

While intermittent fasting has already become one of the most effective ways for people to shed extra pounds and stay healthy in a number of ways, diversifying your nutrition and ensuring proper protein intake is vital. If you enjoy protein shakes and you like to incorporate them in your diet for their flavor, convenience and effectiveness, by all means! Just make sure to stick to your schedule and pair the right meals to the right times of day, your shake included, and you’ll be ready to start your health journey.


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