The Gronkowski brothers have always been part of a large family of five kids with big athletic ambitions. Perhaps the most recognized figure in the family, Rob Gronkowski, has been playing professional football for the New England Patriots as the tight end since he was drafted in 2010. Dan, Chris and Glenn Gronkowski all made a name for themselves in the NFL as well. Dan, the second oldest of the crew, started his career with the Denver Broncos before spending some time on the Patriots and eventually playing with the Cleveland Browns. Chris also played for the Broncos in 2012, and Glenn, the youngest of the group, was on the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots teams. The oldest of the brothers, Gordie, never pursued a career in football but did find success as a baseball player in the MiLB for six years.
While their motivation and skills helped them reach these challenging goals, learning discipline, proper eating habits and how to care for their bodies played a major role in their success as well. Even though most of the brothers no longer play sports for a career, they’re still dedicated to their workout regimen. And, supplements are part of this well-constructed system. For physically active people interested in furthering their workout goals, one of the top recommendations by fitness gurus is to drink protein shakes. No matter your reason for exercising—to lose weight, to gain muscle, to lead a healthier lifestyle—protein shakes are beneficial for everyone.
Why Drink Protein Shakes?
Protein is one of the most important compounds to consume because it provides your entire body with the energy to perform basic daily tasks. The more protein you have, the more energy you will have to burn off. For this reason, many fitness experts recommend boosting your protein intake about 30 minutes before your workout with something simple and light like a protein shake. The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of your muscles, so when you drink a shake before the gym, this process is stimulated and your muscles can start to rebuild and repair before being worn down from your workout.
Replacing your regular breakfast with a protein shake, particularly if you usually eat a meal high in carbs in the morning, is the perfect way to provide your body with energy for the rest of the day and keep your hunger satisfied for longer. Breakfast foods like cereal are full of empty carbs, leaving your body to crave protein and causing you to feel hungry more quickly.
What Is the Best Type of Protein for a Shake?
The most common and probably the best type of protein to add to a shake is whey. When looking for this supplement, you’ll want to make sure that you purchase 100 percent whey to avoid less-effective additives. If the product you’re buying does not explicitly say that whey is the only ingredient, it is likely a blend of various types of protein that do not produce the same results.
What is Whey?
Derived from cow’s milk, whey is an isolated substance that can be removed from the other type of protein in milk, casein, or it is captured during the cheese-making process. Because this powder contains lactose, it may not be the right supplement for anyone who is lactose-intolerant or follows a vegan diet.
Other Types of Protein
As mentioned, milk can be separated into two different types of protein—whey and casein. While whey is by far the most common supplement to add to your diet, casein can be used to your advantage, too. The downside to casein is that it causes your digestion process to slow, making the absorption time much longer. Because of this, you may not receive that same delivery of energy to your body as you might when consuming whey. However, casein is great to add to a protein shake that you plan to drink either in the morning or before bed and can help to rebuild muscle breakdown while you’re sleeping.
There are also a variety of vegan protein powder options on the market. Because casein is extracted from milk, too, there can be traces of lactose found in the supplement. If you do not eat or drink dairy products at all, it’s best to find a good vegan protein powder. What makes a vegan protein powder great? A product with very little to no additives. You don’t need a bunch of extra ingredients in protein powder to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. The most common vegan supplements are mainly composed of pea protein, which can be very beneficial when concentrated into a powder. You’ll also want to look for products containing hemp protein, chia seeds and power foods like acai and kale.
Each serving of powder should contain between 20-30 grams of protein. If you’re just starting to switch to a plant-based diet, integrating protein shakes into your meal plan is a smart way to ensure you’re getting enough protein. One of the most challenging aspects of being vegan or vegetarian is tracking where you’re getting protein from and how much you’re consuming each day.
The Gronkowski Brothers Share Their Favorite Pre-Workout Protein Shakes
Each of the brothers has developed their own unique workout routine and healthy diet over the years of training and playing sports, and you can benefit from their expertise. Here, the Gronkowski brothers share some of their favorite protein shake recipes to make in an Ice Shaker and why they like drinking these before exercising.
I really love adding peanut butter to my protein shakes. I think it gives it an extra flavor and helps create an even smoother, creamier shake. High in protein, peanut butter is the perfect ingredient to mix into your drink before a workout to get that extra boost of energy and help your body to start the muscle repair process before you’ve hit the gym. People don’t realize that peanut butter contains monosaturated fats, which is the good kind of fat that is not as likely to be stored as fat in your body and can help reduce the risk of various heart diseases. Here’s one of my favorite recipes with peanut butter to whip up in my Ice Shaker:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Powder Shake
6 Ice Cubes
1 Cup Milk or Almond Milk
1 Scoop of Chocolate Protein Powder
2 Tablespoons of PBfit Powdered Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon of Honey to sweeten (optional)
Once you’ve gathered these simple ingredients, you’ll want to add some ice and a little bit of the milk to the Ice Shaker first. Allowing this liquid to pool in the bottom of the bottle will prevent the powder supplements from sticking to the bottom. Then, add the protein powder and the powdered peanut butter as well as the rest of the milk and the bit of honey–if you choose to add it. Make sure that your agitator is screwed into the lid of the Ice Shaker and the pop-top is completely closed. You should hear it click twice when you push down. Shake your mixture well and enjoy a delicious protein shake before you hit the gym.
As a professional football player, my daily life can get pretty busy between finding time to work out, train and still have fun with my friends and family. Rushing from one commitment to another doesn’t give me a whole lot of time to prep meals, so I try to fit protein shakes into my diet as a quick and healthy way to make sure I’m supplementing my diet with enough protein. Playing in the NFL comes with a lot of pressure and hard work. To help me bulk up and make sure I’m reaching my maximum potential, I like to make a shake with protein powder and Pre-Workout:
The Tornado Pre-Workout Shake
12 Oz. Water or Milk
6 Pieces of Ice
1 Scoop pre-workout
1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
Just like preparing any other drink with the Ice Shaker bottle, add the ice and the liquid first and then the powder. Shake until the mixture is well-blended.
Pre-workout is one of the best supplements next to protein powder for anyone looking to gain muscle strength. When purchasing pre-workout, you’ll want to examine the ingredients carefully, though, because different brands contain different substances. Some recipes have a little bit of caffeine added to give you an additional boost of energy, but depending on how caffeine affects you, you may want to steer clear of these types or find one with a very low amount. Creatine is another ingredient often found in pre-workout, which can raise your stamina and fuel your body with more power to make it through a longer workout. Finally, nitric oxide is a supplement sometimes found in pre-workout that can help you perform better because of its ability to send a higher level of oxygen to your muscles by expanding your blood vessels.
As the only one of my brothers who entered professional sports as a baseball player, my workout regimen and daily diet was slightly different. I still encourage everyone to get into the habit of drinking a protein shake before exercising because of the many proven benefits, but it’s easy to get tired of drinking the same thing every day or every other day. I make an attempt to mix up my protein shake flavors. Right now, one of my favorite recipes is the protein shake version of a creamsicle.
Orange Creamsicle Protein Shake
1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
¾ Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
¾ Cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice (from about 2 large navel oranges)
1-2 Cups of Ice
First, add some of the ice and a few splashes of almond milk. Then, mix in the orange juice, protein powder, vanilla and remaining milk and ice. Use your Ice Shaker to combine all the ingredients into a smooth, tasty energy-inducing drink.
When I make my protein shake for the day, I try to keep it as healthy as possible while boosting my protein intake, but every once in a while, I’ll treat myself to a shake that may qualify as a protein-packed dessert. One of my favorite recipes is a take on a well-loved winter drink: frozen hot chocolate protein shake. Though this may sound like a sugar-packed shake, you can reduce your sugar intake while still enjoying this delicious drink.
Frozen Hot Chocolate Protein Shake
2 Cups Milk or Almond Milk
1 Scoop Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
1 Packet Hot Chocolate Mix
1 Cup Crushed Ice
1 Squirt of Whipped Cream to top (optional)
As with any other protein shake, add the ice and liquid first and then the protein powder and hot chocolate mix. Shake well and top with whipped cream if so desired. If you’re planning to use this recipe as a pre-workout shake, I recommend skipping the whipped cream as it may not settle in your stomach well once you start moving around.
Because I like to get my workout in first thing in the morning, I usually drink a protein shake with coffee as my breakfast. The extra caffeine stimulates my brain and gives me an energy boost before hitting the gym and the protein fuels my workout and helps with muscle growth. Making a coffee protein shake with Ice Shaker is super simple and actually a great way to cut unnecessary sugar out of your diet.
Coffee Protein Shake
1 Cup Brewed Coffee
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 Scoop Vanilla or Chocolate Protein Powder
1 ½ Cups of Ice
Before mixing the ingredients together, you can let the coffee cool to room temperature so it doesn’t melt all the ice, turning the shake into a water drink. Once the coffee has cooled a bit, mix ice, coffee and almond milk together. Then, add the protein powder and shake well.
Find even more Gronkowski-approved protein shake recipes here.