We all know protein is an essential macronutrient and that shakes are an easy way to get it in one go.

The real question is, can you drink protein shakes without working out? The short answer is yes. You can drink protein shakes without working out, and it won't harm you, on the contrary.

That being said, there is much more behind that short answer.

Yes, you can drink protein shakes even if you don't work out, but let me answer this question by asking you another question.

Are there any reasons to suggest you should not drink protein shakes if you are physically inactive? If you are a healthy adult, the answer is no.

Protein powder is safe and can even be beneficial for most people. It has been a popular supplement among fitness enthusiasts for decades to increase protein intake.

Protein shakes typically contain whey, casein, soy, or plant-based protein powders mixed with water or milk. They're designed to be a quick and easy way to support muscle growth and recovery after exposing muscles to stress.

Still, protein is a macronutrient, and you can imagine the powder/liquid form of it as dehydrated chicken breast or milk (figuratively, not literally.) 

This is precisely why anyone can use and reap benefits from drinking protein shakes. You will eat meat, eggs, milk, and fish anyway, whether you exercise or not, right?

What Protein Shakes Do For You

Suppose you are new to the dietary supplements industry and wonder what this concentrated protein source does for you.

In that case, read the following paragraphs carefully to learn why whey protein is paramount in bodybuilding and athlete supplementation.[1]

Help In Muscle Recovery and Growth

Since you are not working out, muscle growth might not be something you pay attention to. Hence, it is enough to tell you that protein is the key to gain muscle mass because proteins are muscle-building blocks.

What should interest all those who are not physically active, as well as athletes, is recovery.

Everyday activities (walking, climbing stairs, and picking up your baby from the crib) are physical efforts, although they may not seem demanding.

Increased protein intake will make regular activities much easier.

You will prevent injuries because the recovery from microtrauma is faster and more effective when you consume enough proteins.[2]

Provide A Fitting Source of Protein for People with Busy Lifestyles

In today's fast-paced world, many people struggle to get enough macros, including protein. There is no doubt that protein shakes provide a tasty and portable source of protein. They're perfect for busy individuals who don't have time to prepare a snack.

There are whey protein shakes for people who consume dairy and plant-based protein shakes for vegetarians and vegans, so they can be tailored to fit individual dietary needs and preferences.

However, they should not be a substitute for protein-rich meals.

Can Improve Athletic Performance

People drink protein shakes because they may also improve athletic performance in many ways, mostly indirectly.[3]

Superior muscle protein synthesis and faster recovery of muscle fibers will directly translate into better performance because chronic fatigue and frequent injuries are the most common obstacles for athletes to reach their full potential.

Reports show that it can directly improve your performance too. A protein shake can help improve endurance and reduce muscle damage, leading to better overall performance during workouts or athletic events.

Support Overall Health by Providing Essential Amino Acids and Other Nutrients

Overall health is essential, much more than athletic performance. And you can't be healthy if you don't consume enough protein.

The whole body suffers when it does not get enough protein (macros) and amino acids, which combine to form proteins.

Some main signs of protein deficiency are poor immune system, mood changes, muscle weakness, lethargy, bones prone to fractures, hunger, and slow healing.

Once you up your protein intake, you will notice that you feel better. Additionally, protein supplements often contain dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.

Close Up View Of A Blended Protein Drink

7 Effects of Taking Protein Shakes Without Exercise

Consuming protein powder without physical activity may lead to some unexpected consequences.

Don't worry, nothing terrible will happen, but there may be differences compared to the experiences of physically active people.

Sometimes, the body (metabolism) reacts differently to more proteins if your lifestyle is predominantly sedentary, even if you have a balanced diet.

1. Increases Weight Gain

Protein shakes might be a double-edged sword for those who don't work out. While powder unquestionably offers many benefits, it will add to your total calorie intake.

Those extra 200, 300, or more calories, if you are drinking protein shakes with whole milk, can affect weight gain since you are creating a calorie surplus.

Consuming shakes without burning those extra calories through exercise can cause body fat gain, which can negatively impact your overall health, not just your appearance.

2. Increase Of Energy

Although protein is not a macronutrient whose primary purpose is to provide energy, shakes can be a quick energy source due to the high amount of carbohydrates it often contains.

That will increase your energy levels; therefore, consuming shakes as a snack makes sense.

However, it can also lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash, leaving you tired and sluggish.

That's why a shake shouldn't be your only option for breakfast. Instead, use solid foods for breakfast as a basis for stable energy throughout the day, and have a protein shake as a supplement later.

3. Digestive Discomfort or Bloating

Digestive discomfort is not closely related to working out, even though physical activity makes the GI tract work more quickly and effectively.

Many regular gym-goers also have difficulty digesting most protein shakes, especially dairy ones, due to lactose intolerance.[4]

Consider whether dairy products bother you, and then choose the type of protein powder accordingly. Also, check the ingredients of the protein powder you buy to choose the one with the least artificial additives.

Pea protein might be a good alternative even though pea is considered hard-to-digest food, but pea protein is different.

4. Reduced Appetite for Other Essential Nutrients

A protein shake can give you a feeling of satiety, preventing food cravings and metabolic syndrome later.

That is great, but you may end up neglecting other essential nutrients that your body needs if you consume a protein shake too often or shortly before meals.

Without exercise, you may not feel as hungry or have as much appetite for other nutrient-dense foods, leading to a lack of overall nutrition.

5. Potential Kidney and Liver Problems

Allegations that too much protein can lead to kidney and liver problems over time are valid only in theory.

The amount you would have to consume to be labeled as “too much protein” is enormous. Higher protein intake does not have a detrimental effect on kidney function in healthy persons.[5]

If you have existing kidney disease, then the approach must be different. Your doctor and nutritionist will probably recommend limiting your extra protein consumption.

6. Disruption Of Blood Sugar Balance

Consuming a protein drink can disrupt your body's blood sugar balance.

The body has the ability to break down protein into glucose and use it for energy, when necessary, but this is not the most common reason for spikes in blood sugar levels. The body generally tends to use healthy fats and carbs as energy.

The main problem is added sugar and lactose (if you mix protein powders with cow's milk.)

They trigger a spike, and without exercise to help utilize this glucose for energy, the body may struggle to maintain a stable blood glucose level.

Man Taking A Blood Sugar Reading

7. Provides a Good Source of Fiber to The Body

Many people do not consume enough fiber, which primarily causes digestive problems. Protein shakes are not the same as fiber-rich foods but can supply you with a certain amount of fiber.

Keep in mind that the average protein shake might not contain fiber. Check before buying if you count on the shake as a source of fiber.

Adjust Your Consumption Based on Activity Levels

You will often find recommendations for daily protein intake divided into two groups: sedentary and active.

I prefer to divide my clients into even more groups - sedentary, light activities, and high-intensity/heavy activities.

Also, three additional categories are based on BMI - undernourished, regular, and overweight. Pregnant and lactating women should seek the advice of a registered dietitian and obstetrician.

Sedentary individuals do not need more than 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Up to 1 gram per pound is fine if you are moderately active.

For all those who are very active and want to trigger muscle gain, at least 1 gram per pound is needed, and 1.1 to 1.3 grams per pound of body weight is desired.

For losing weight and fat, recommendations are between 0.5 and 0.8 grams. I recommend the higher end of this range.

These are all general recommendations, and it is necessary to consider age, gender, underlying medical conditions, and many other factors for exact numbers.

Adjust your protein shake consumption to this amount. Calculate how much protein you ate that day, and then decide if you need a boost in the form of a shake.

Can I Drink Protein Shakes If I Don’t Eat Enough Protein?

Yes, drinking protein shakes is a good choice, but you must focus on whole foods.

Whole foods contain other essential nutrients your body needs, such as fiber, fats, and vitamins, that may not be present in every protein shake.

Choose a protein shake that is high-quality and free from added sugars and artificial ingredients.

Look for protein shakes that contain at least 15 grams of protein per serving and are made from high-quality protein sources such as whey or plant-based protein.

That, together with food, can help you raise your protein intake to a satisfactory level.

Protein Drink Recipe With Blueberries

Taking Protein Shake Without Working Out Questions

Do protein shakes make you lose weight without working out?

Drinking protein shakes can help with weight loss without resistance training, but it is not a magic solution. Everyone responds differently, and while consuming protein shakes without exercising may result in weight loss initially, it's not sustainable in the long run. To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit - the best approach is a combination of a suitable eating plan (standard protein diet) for calorie count and regular physical activity.

Does protein make you gain weight without working out?

Protein powder can make you gain weight if you are in a caloric surplus and not working out. Many find it helpful for weight loss as protein shakes increase feelings of fullness and reduce hunger. However, consuming excessive amounts of protein without balancing it with other nutrients can lead to gaining weight.

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

Yes, drinking a protein shake for breakfast is good because it is a satiating nutrient. It's certainly a better option compared to unhealthy breakfast alternatives, but it shouldn't be something you rely on. Eat a well-planned diet, and use a protein shake moderately in the morning.

Does consuming protein build muscle even when you don’t work out?

No, consuming casein protein and whey powder won't build muscle fibers alone. Not even anabolic steroids will do that when you don't work out. Protein will aid muscle protein synthesis and muscle repair, which are everyday processes. To build muscle mass, you must stimulate them by exercising and consuming enough (but not excess protein).

What are some natural food sources of high protein?

Some of the best natural protein-rich foods are beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. The bioavailability and anabolic potential of animal-based proteins are incomparably higher compared to plant-based protein sources due to complete protein chain of amino acids.[6] If you are vegan and prefer a plant-based diet, go with tofu, lentils, beans, nuts and nut butter, and seeds.

The Final Verdict

While it's true that you can drink protein shakes without hitting the gym, it's important to remember that the real benefits of protein shakes come only when you fit them properly into your high-protein diet.

If you drink protein shake just because you like the taste or someone told you it is helpful, you may gain unwanted weight instead of benefiting.

The key takeaway is that protein powder should always be used as a supplement, not a meal replacement in a healthy diet. Whole foods are the best source of essential macros, vitamins, and minerals.


  1. https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/abs/10.1139/apnm-2017-0412
  2. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-021-00420-w
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083/full
  4. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/9/5380
  5. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-2-25
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723444/
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.