The truth about protein shakes. Walk into almost any gym and you’ll see lots of people drinking protein shakes. I have to admit that this makes me just a little bit crazy. My gym has three vending machines with different types of protein supplements, anything from huge tubs to pre-made single serve shakes. Every time I see someone drop their hard earned money into one of them, I just want to grab them and ask “why?” Do you know what’s in that shake? Are you not getting enough nutrition from your regular diet? Do you know how much protein you need? The list goes on…. So let’s assume that you are not an elite athlete on a very specific diet regime, but rather a regular individual who goes to the gym and generally tries to be healthy.
THE TRUTH ABOUT PROTEIN SHAKES
What is protein? Simply put, protein is a macronutrient that your body uses to both repair and build tissue and is a component in every cell in your body. In fact, your hair and nails are mostly comprised of protein. It is also an important element in your blood, skin, muscles and bones.
How much do you need? These numbers will vary from individual to individual, but for sedentary adults it’s about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight (0.36 grams per pound). Unless you are a professional athlete, that number doesn’t go up much if you are an occasional exerciser. To put that into perspective, an average, moderately active 145 lbs woman requires around 52 grams of protein a day. A 3 ounce piece of meat has roughly 24-26 grams of protein, which is already half of your daily intake with the rest of your diet easily providing the other half (think milk products, legumes, nuts, soy). Do the math for yourself and you’ll see that you really don’t need that much protein on a daily basis to stay healthy.
Post workout. I know we are constantly being told that it’s best to have some carbohydrates and protein immediately after a workout, but in reality it’s not going to make a huge difference if you have it later when you get home. A post workout protein shake may look something like this:
1 cup spinach
1 cup kale
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 scoop vanilla flavoured protein powder
1 cup (about 10) ice cubes
A shake like this is fairly high in caloric content, so you need to ask yourself whether it’s really necessary and how it fits with your overall diet.
As a meal replacement. One time where protein shakes can really come in handy is in the morning when you are running out the door and have no time for a proper breakfast. In order for this to be a complete well balanced meal, remember to add some veggies, fruit and healthy fat. Your protein shake may look something like this:
1 cup blueberries (use frozen if they are not in season)
1 cup spinach
1 cup (about 10) ice cubes
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 scoop of protein powder
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
Of course there are hundreds, if not thousands, of smoothie recipes available with a quick internet search. So pick your favourite one (just watch the sugar content) and only add a scoop a protein powder if you are sure that you aren’t getting enough in your diet. As with other supplements, however, you should always consider fixing the diet first and turning to powders second.
Let’s get one thing straight, eating protein does not make you lose weight. Gaining muscle does. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that there are some pros and cons to consuming protein powder and just like with “real” food, you shouldn’t ingest it mindlessly. While it may be a great way to get a concentrated boost of protein if you aren’t getting enough from your diet, it can also cause elevated bouts of acne in some people as well as bloating and digestive discomfort. So if you are choosing to drink protein shakes, do your research and make sure that the protein is of the highest quality, as not all protein powder is created equal.
Do you use protein powder to supplement your diet?