The History of Protein Shakes, Fully Explained

Talk to anyone who’s been in the fitness game for a while, and it’s much ado about protein shakes. People spend a ton of time talking about the ins and outs of protein shakes, from how you should take your shake to how many you should drink per day to what you should toss into it.

Protein shakes provide an invaluable way for trainees — particularly those looking to build lean muscle mass — to consume the requisite amount of protein for optimal performance. Whether you’re male or female, protein shakes can and should play a prominent role in your supplement routine. But it doesn’t have to be nearly so complex, particularly when you consider that this gym staple has been around since the 1950s!

That’s right, protein shakes, Marilyn Monroe, sock hops, and drive-in movie theaters all date back to the same era. Back then bodybuilding was still a very small subculture, and the first protein powder on the market was a product called Hi-Proteen. Made from soy flour, Hi-Proteen had a pretty rank taste that its maker attempted to mask with heaps of sweeteners. At this time virtually no research had been done on proteins and amino acids, but protein shakes were sold as a cheap source of raw, natural nutrients. Because the bodybuilding culture was still in its nascent stages and people weren’t hip to the marketing tactics, it was easy for retailers to gain profits without generating negative consumer feedback or skepticism.

In the 1960s, as the research picked up in quality and quantity, Rheo H. Blair released his famous Blair Protein Powder. This product was much better than earlier iterations, containing both egg and casein proteins that produced powerful results for bodybuilders who tried it. Although the bodybuilding industry continued to pick up steam in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that protein powder as a product really hit its stride.

This was around the time Met RX came onto the scene. Its products were based on specific powder species and the amino acid profile of baby’s milk. Met RX came out with a super aggressive marketing campaign and quickly grew to become the largest industry player, pumping out a wide range of products capable of being consumed multiple times per day. While whey protein’s use dates all the way back to 6000 B.C., it wasn’t until the early 1990s that researchers conducted extensive scientific research revealing the health benefits of whey. And the rest is history, with all manner of meat-based, monohydrate creatine, and ready-to-drink beverages flooding the market today.

(I’ve covered it thoroughly on an episode of Supplement Saturday).

Now that we’ve covered the history of protein shakes, what should a decent shake contain? And what the heck is up with the supposed “anabolic window” — will you really lose your gains if you don’t down your shake within 30 minutes of training?! Tap below to find out all that and more:

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