Can protein shake affect anxiety?

This article will discuss if the ingestion of protein shakes can impact your anxiety. For that, the article will explain what anxiety is, how it can affect a person, and how the ingestion of protein shakes can be related to that.

Can protein shake affect anxiety?

Protein shakes are thought to be something to improve in the building of muscles. But they are not just that, in its composition, there is not only protein and lactose but also minerals and some types of fat that are found in cow’s milk. 

The protein part of it is made by 65% of beta-lactoglobulin, 25% of alpha-lactalbumin, and many other albumins and immunoglobulins. The alpha-lactalbumin is usually rich in amino acids, tryptophan, and cysteine. Those are used to build many hormones, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

Studies have been trying to show how the use of whey, especially due to the alpha-lactalbumin, can help in lowering cortisol levels and improve the serotonin ones, which can directly impact people’s anxiety, causing it to be less intense.

But let’s discuss what anxiety, cortisol, and serotonin are before explaining the benefits protein shake has on their level.

 What is anxiety? 

Anxiety is a normal condition. Everyone will feel anxious at some moment in their lives. It can be that you feel it as you deal with an unknown situation, such as a job interview, or a first date. 

Anxiety can also be a way to protect yourself. It can be that fear you feel when you expose yourself to a dangerous situation. But to some people anxiety, nervousness, and fear that comes with it, can be constant, and impact negatively in their lives.

When that happens, it is said that a person is experiencing an anxiety disorder. When that is the case, people may be constantly worried, even when there is no reason for them to be worried about. 

They may be always fearing that the worst will happen, what is called the fear of impending doom. And it may cause them to avoid doing certain things.

Anxiety not only causes all those emotional effects on people. It has many physical symptoms. The most common symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fast breathing or loss of breath
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Numbness or tingling of extremities

Some factors are believed to cause anxiety. It seems to have a genetic impact, but it also has an environmental root. Meaning that the person’s life story and the way they live can cause them to become anxious.

What is cortisol? 

Cortisol is an important steroid hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands, which are located on the top of the kidney. It is responsible for regulating blood pressure, the release of insulin to maintain the blood sugar level, among other things.

When a person is going through a stressful situation, their body secrets a higher dose of cortisol. This causes many of the body’s changes due to stress, first, it induces your body to the fight-or-flight process. But it also makes your digestion slower, since it may assume your body is in danger and needs to save energy by storing fat.

It may also make your heart rate increase, makes you lose sleep, and it causes your blood sugar to rise. Elevated levels of cortisol are associated with depression and anxiety.

What is serotonin? 

As cortisol is seen as something that can make your stress level, and overall well-being decrease, serotonin has the opposite effect. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can improve a person’s mood and cognition. And when a person has a low level of serotonin is usually related to depression.

Serotonin is made through the amino acid tryptophan. And its high level is also related to lower stress levels. When a person consumes protein in their diet, it usually has a low concentration of tryptophan, but once one is using protein shakes, they can get a higher dosage of it, improving their serotonin levels.

How does the use of protein shakes improve anxiety?

There was research done to discover how the ingestion of protein shakes can impact the levels of cortisol and serotonin, thus decreasing the level of anxiety a person can experience.

In the study done by Markus, 23 people who were prone to high stress had their saliva observed, which had high cortisol levels. Along with them, other 29 people, with a low chance of developing stress, and that had a low cortisol level in their saliva were observed.

The participants that had a higher stress level were given a diet with a protein shake, as for the low-stress level received casein-protein. This tries to observe if the ingestion of protein shakes would have a beneficial effect on people dealing with anxiety and stress.

This theory was confirmed, and it was noticed that people with high-stress levels, when taking protein shakes can experience, through the alpha-lactalbumin, a lower level of cortisol, and a higher level of serotonin. 

Through this research, and understanding how protein shakes work on people’s bodies, it is safe to say that consuming protein shakes can improve your anxiety. But if you are experiencing anxiety disorder you shouldn’t just start taking those without any indication.

Although it can improve your sense of well-being, and decrease the symptoms of anxiety, it is not a long-term treatment. When going through an anxiety disorder, you should look for professional help. 

That can be a psychiatrist and a therapist. They can help you understand what sort of anxiety disorder you have, what is causing it, and what are forms of treatment can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Can protein shake affect anxiety? 

Does anxiety have a cure? 

No, anxiety doesn’t have a cure. Because it has a genetic factor to it, and that is impossible to change, it is impossible to cure depression. What is possible is to treat anxiety, you may reduce your symptoms, understand what triggers them, and even the root of your anxiety.

Through all of that, you can regain control of your life and feelings. Always keep in mind how important it is to take care of your mental health to prevent your anxiety to take control over you again.

What are the forms of anxiety disorder? 

There are many forms of anxiety disorder. There is Generalized anxiety disorder, in which the person feels worried and tense for no reason. There is a panic attack, which is when a person starts to feel intensely the symptoms of anxiety.

There is a social anxiety disorder that is when a person is constantly worried about how other people may perceive her. Another form of anxiety is the different forms of phobias, which is a fear beyond appropriate manner about one specific thing.

Separation anxiety is a form of anxiety in which the person is scared that something bad might happen to their loved ones, or that they will be abandoned. There is also medication-induced anxiety, in which a person can experience anxiety due to the medication they are taking.

What are foods make your serotonin levels higher? 

If you are feeling anxious or depressed, you can improve your condition by eating some food that has a high level of serotonin. For example, salmon is a rich source of tryptophan that has a key role in producing serotonin. 

In the same way, nuts and seeds are a great source of tryptophan, along with that, it is a great source of protein. In the same way, turkey and chicken meat are great sources of tryptophan. 

Eggs are also a great source of protein, and since there are many ways to prepare them, you can put them in your diet in as many ways as possible. Tofu and soy are also foods that are rich in tryptophan, as well as milk, cheese, and pineapple.

What are ways to improve my serotonin level? 

If you feel low, and need to boost your serotonin level, there are some ways you can improve it without medication. As said before, you can use food as a way to boost your serotonin level, and there are a lot of types of food that will allow you to do so.

Another way to improve it is by exercising. When you work out, your body releases tryptophan in your blood. You can start to swim, run, ride a bike, or do some light hiking. Exposing yourself to light can also improve your serotonin level.

You can do that by exposing yourself to 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight each day, or by exercising outside. Along with that, you can use supplements to raise your serotonin level. You can get it through prescription medication, some forms of over-the-counter medication, vitamins, or herbal remedies.

You can take tryptophan in its pure form, aside from that, you can have a supplement that is called 5-HTP that will produce serotonin. Probiotics can increase the tryptophan in your blood. 

Massages are another way to increase the serotonin level, along with dopamine. It also decreases the cortisol level. And finally doing some visualization exercises, or thinking about a positive experience you had can improve your serotonin level.

What are the signs of chemical imbalance in the brain?

Having a chemical imbalance in the brain can be related to many mental health conditions, such as depression. Aside from that, it can cause many effects in a person’s life. People might begin to feel hopeless, sad, worthless, or empty.

Along with that, it can lead you to overeat, or even cause you to lose your appetite. It can cause a person to sleep too much, or sometimes even too little. The chemical imbalance can make it hard for you to relax, making you more irritable, and less energetic.

Aside from that, when a person is experiencing a chemical imbalance in the brain can be constantly worried, and feel a fear of impending doom or danger.

To regulate the person’s brain chemical imbalance is often used medication, most antidepressant medications will adjust the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters in the brain.


This article explained how protein shakes can affect anxiety. For that, the article explained what anxiety is, and what it causes the person to feel. 

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write it in the section below.


Markus CR, Olivier B, Panhuysen GE, et al. The bovine protein alpha-lactalbumin increases the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, and in vulnerable subjects raises brain serotonin activity, reduces cortisol concentration, and improves mood under stress. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:1536-1544.

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