There are so many questions about what to eat and drink, for optimal health, weight maintenance and weight loss. Everywhere we turn there are new products and new companies springing up promising the latest fix. The fitness nutrition industry is a money-making business, and its trends come and go like any other business. One of the big debates is about whether we need to be using protein shakes, power drinks and power bars for weight loss and for supplementation in our diets.
Posted 8/16/18 By Chris Walsh
Can a shake ever be as good as a plate of food? The protein shakes and bars that used to be reserved for ripped bodybuilders and top athletes have migrated into the family kitchen….everyone feels the need to shake, as though they have supernatural properties. Protein is big business!
The optimal amount of protein we need each day depends on our size and our activity level. Protein is needed to repair and build muscle. The widely accepted dietary reference is around .75grams of protein per kg. of body weight. It’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get its health benefits. Some good choices might include seafood, white-meat poultry, lean beef, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans, nuts, legumes and soy.
A lot of folks are so concerned with protein shakes- when most of the US population is consuming well above the level of protein needed for good health. We can’t stockpile protein, and if we take in more than we burn, it can lead to weight gain. Some dieticians and nutritionalists fear that too much protein can put pressure on our kidneys. Another widespread opinion in the fitness world is that unless you are an elite athlete, there’s really no real need for protein supplements.
Each person needs to research and decide for themselves what works best in their diet. There is no one size fits all approach on this. No one knows you better than YOU. Here are some things to consider when choosing the path:
1. Protein shakes can be very pricey. They are usually heavily processed with sugars, sweeteners, chemicals, flavorings and colorings. Be aware that not all protein shakes are equal. Research the company, the knowledge and training of its staff, the ingredients and the processing. Nutritionally speaking, protein shakes almost never measure up to whole foods. Premade shakes tend to contain large amounts of refined sugar and artificial ingredients, and even homemade shakes that feature ingredients such as protein powder fall short in offering the calcium or fiber that whole food alternatives such as nonfat yogurt or black beans would respectively provide.
2. Not all supplements are regulated. Supplements and shakes can come with the risk of contamination with harmful or banned substances.
3. Protein might make you feel full for longer, but overdoing it can lead to imbalances in your diet. We need to consider the variety in color, texture and the balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
4. Sustainable weight management is not just drinking a shake, it needs to include behavior changes such as regular exercise and learning to make healthier eating choices. Remember eventually you will need to start eating solid food again, which may cause excess weight to return if you don’t choose wisely.
5. How does the shake taste? This is a big part of the equation as well. Can you stomach the taste vs real whole food?
6. Protein-rich whole foods are more nutritionally complex than shakes, so they offer a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. Since you go through the process of chewing them and they take a longer period of time to consume, they also satisfy your hunger more effectively and keep you fuller longer. You should always aim for eating nutrient rich whole foods
7. Shakes can help reduce your daily intake of calories, which in turn could lead to weight loss. Any time we eat less, we have the potential to lose weight.
8. Some people enjoy the convenience of a shake, as opposed to fixing a meal. They are very portable and good for a hectic schedule. So from that perspective, they are certainly better than skipping a meal.
9. Shakes may be a useful tool, if you have special requirements or are lacking in certain areas of your diet. If you struggle with a poor appetite, they can be a good alternative. It is best to seek medical or dieticians advice if you feel you are deficient in your diet.
There are a wide variety of choices out there and lots of information and misinformation. If you are worried that you should jump on the protein shake band wagon, relax…don’t worry! Learning to shop your own grocery store and farmers markets and making sensible choices is just what you should be doing. Eat right for the Best version of YOU!