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One of my clients suffers from multiple food allergies and intolerances. This makes getting all the nutrients her body needs, especially protein, just a bit harder. The poor women can’t stomach eggs! Eggs are some of the most nutritious foods in the world, loaded with vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein, good fats, and they taste so good! And when hard boiled they’re easy to transport. I love them and I’m sad that my client can’t enjoy them, too! But I digress.
We discussed alternatives including protein powders. Powders have come a long way over the years. I remember them tasting bad, some sat really heavy in your stomach, and they were made with inferior ingredients.
Today we are lucky-not only can we find high quality shakes, but they also actually taste quite delicious.
When I recommended them to my client, she was worried that she wouldn’t finish a whole tub in the last remaining weeks before putting all her stuff in storage and traveling the world.
“But that’s what’s so great about protein powders,” I explained, “They are perfect for travel and take up very little space. You can take it with you. I do it all the time. I use my own tupper ware or ziploc bags to transport it in my luggage.”
While you may not have allergies or upcoming travel to deal with, it’s helpful for all of us to understand the basics of a quality protein shake and how to use them effectively for your fitness and nutrition goals.
Do I need protein shakes?
Protein is an important nutrient for all and the foundation of every human body. Your body needs protein for many different and important functions, such as building muscle, repairing tissue, oxygenating blood for better nutrient supply, digestion and hormone regulation and it can even help you stay in shape.
Getting your protein from whole foods is the best choice, but it’s not always easy to pull off, especially if you’re busy with work, family, friends and all the other important stuff in life.
Here are examples of times it makes sense to grab a protein shake:
- you are struggling to hit your target protein goal for the day through real food sources
- You want to lose weight and replace one of your not so healthy meals with a shake
- It’s convenient and much faster than preparing a meal
- You are in a bind/rush and don’t have access to food
- You are traveling and not sure when you’ll be able to eat next or what options will be available. Your protein shake is the perfect backup plan to have on hand.
How much protein do I need every day?
That depends on your goals. My clients come to me to build lean muscle and shed body fat. We strive to add 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass. So, if I have a client who weighs 165 lbs and her goal weight is a lean 145lbs, she will try to consume 145g of protein each day.
As you begin using shakes and tracking your protein shake, you’ll learn to anticipate what your body is needing and make adjustments accordingly. Remember, nothing is ever set in stone. When I work with a client on their diet, we experiment and adjust as necessary. But 1g of protein per lb of lean body mass is a great starting point when you want to gain lean muscle and shed body fat.
What should I look out for when shopping for protein powder?
When purchasing powder the same rules apply as with any other food. Read the labels and don’t be afraid to research the company or product. Not all products are equally good. Here are some basics to look out for:
- Buy a protein powder with mostly protein, and an otherwise short ingredient list (My favorite protein powder (mentioned later) has a serving size of 38g with 30g of protein per serving. That means per serving I get 78% protein. That’s a fantastic indicator that there is little else in it.)
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Stay away from products filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce
- If possible, choose a whey isolate. It has a higher protein content with less carbs, lactose and fat than concentrate.
What are my options when buying a protein powder?
- Whey protein: Whey protein is a popular option known for digesting quickly and being particularly useful in muscle gain and recovery.
- Casein protein: Casein and whey are both found in milk, however casein digests slowly. Because it digests more slowly, some people choose to drink a casein protein shake before bed with the theory that it will increase their overnight muscle growth and recovery.
- Egg protein: If whey and casein aren’t an option, egg protein powders are a good alternative.
What about plant-based protein sources?
- Pea protein: The most popular of plant proteins seems to be pea protein. With all nine essential amino acids, it’s a complete protein that supports your muscle recovery after workouts.
- Brown rice protein: An incomplete protein, brown rice protein can be combined with other protein sources (including pea protein) in order to support muscle growth and recovery.
- Hemp protein. At 12 grams of protein per cup, hemp protein doesn’t compare directly with other protein sources, however it makes up for it with a robust nutrient profile, which includes iron, zinc, and omega-3s (all of which are common deficiencies in vegan diets).
- Soy protein: Soy is common in vegan protein powders and is a complete source just like pea protein. However, some people avoid this protein source because they believe its phytoestrogenic properties are counterproductive to their goals.
So, one more time:
- Protein shakes are a great supplement to your healthy diet, but should not replace it
- If you’re strapped for time, protein shakes are a quicker solution than making a meal
- Protein shakes can help you get in all the protein in you need
Before I go I want to share with you my favorite protein shake. I like it because it only has a handful of ingredients, is sweetened with natural stevia and is absolutely delicious: Myogenix Myoice Isolate Powder. (This is not a sponsored link. I’m just sharing what works best for me.)
What are your favorite protein shakes? Share with me.
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