There is no doubt and never will be about the importance of protein in your diet. It is an essential nutrient that helps the body to build, repair and maintain its organs, cells and tissues.
You can meet your daily protein requirements whether you drink shakes and/or eat whole foods, but nutrition from both is not equal.
Protein-rich whole foods are more nutritionally complex than shakes, so they offer a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. Chewing them takes a longer period of time and they satisfy your hunger, keeping you full for longer.
Protein powders were always present in the bodybuilding world but lately became popular with the general public as people realized the full potential of protein supplements in their everyday life.
“Before I start elaborating I want you to know that there is NO real substitute for real food!”
Protein powder is a supplement to your diet and should not be a replacement.
Protein quality has also been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes and most brands are full of sweeteners and other additives which your body may struggle with.
The variety is enormous : whey protein, beef, casein, plant, etc.
The most popular is Whey Isolate and is largely used in the bodybuilding world.
Even though whey has a higher BV (biological value) than beef, chicken, fish, or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume throughout the day is sufficient (best if you know your macros), then there is no need to substitute whey for food proteins as it won’t give you additional muscle gains.
Myself and most of my clients tend to use it as a post-workout drink only. There is no evidence that protein supplements digest more efficiently than whole foods but they definitely digested faster which is most important after training. There is still lots of debate amongst the experts as to post-workout nutrition. There is not much proof if a protein-carb drink will produce better muscular growth than whole foods, as long as complete whole foods are eaten within an hour or so post-workout.
No doubt protein powders are convenient and supplementing with a couple of scoops a day (especially post-workout) is not a bad idea.
If you are a very busy individual and you struggle with your protein intake try adding protein powders to your meals instead of replacing them.