Protein is essential for optimal health. In addition to being an important building block for muscle, bones, tissue, cartilage, skin and blood, we need it to make enzymes, hormones and other chemicals needed for our bodies to function well.
Regardless whether you're vegetarian or vegan, on some sort of quick-fix diet, or opting for a program approach that teaches healthy lifestyle and balance, protein is viewed as necessary. And well it should. The question now seems to be not “Are you eating protein?” but rather, “What is your protein source and is it working for you?”
There are three main sources protein; meat and animal products, plant-based protein, and protein supplements. Depending on the quality you choose, there's good and bad in all. I've had a number of questions lately from people asking about protein shakes. Today's focus is to provide some education to help you sort out the junk from the good stuff, ensuring you choose one that will work with your body, support your goals, and maximize your results.
There are many options available when choosing a protein shake. Believe it or not, taste is an important factor and when at all possible, trying a sample before you buy is always recommended. A note of caution the quality can be amazing but if you have to gag it down every time you blend one up, you might as well pour your money down the drain. Of course taste isn't the only important factor, quality and composition should be right there at the top of the list.
There are three main ingredients I advise clients to avoid when choosing a protein powder. Soy is a very cheap, low quality, highly processed GMO protein that, in addition to being much more difficult to metabolize than other proteins, it also causes the body to retain bloat. In addition, recent studies have shown impaired physical development in babies who were fed soy.
Artificial sweeteners are another no-go. Having “zero calories”, sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, saccharin (or any of their brand names – Splenda, Sweet n Low, Sugar Twin, you get the idea) are marketed as the sweetener of choice for those trying to lose weight and to diabetics under pretext it won't affect blood sugar. In actuality, studies presented by Dr. Brian Hoffmann at the annual Experimental Biology convention have shown fake sugars cause changes at the genetic level that could lead to diabetes and obesity. They have also been shown to cause headaches, brain fog, depression, mood swings and other uncomfortable side effects.
Look for a gluten free shake. Along with upset stomach, digestive issues, gas, and bloating, gluten has also been shown to cause brain fog and headaches. Even if you are not celiac or don't seem to have any current issues with gluten, it can cause the body to retain bloat and waste resulting in that squishy, soft, full feeling around the mid-section. And nobody wants that.
Now that we've eliminated the junk, let's talk about what to look for in a protein powder, and why. Whey, micellar casein, egg white and hemp are all good sources of complete protein. It's important to note however that although you may have two brands with the same type of protein, and all things appear to be equal, there is quality to consider. And in all honesty, you do get what you pay for.
Whey is a great example and if you have tried different blends, brands and processes you'll know that all whey is not created equally. High quality whey is a great protein choice as it contains a wide range of essential amino acids (the ones our body cannot make on its own) that are quickly absorbed. Whey is also an important factor in building muscle, increasing strength, and burning fat. Uncomfortable side effects like gas, bloating and bad breath indicate poor quality, high processing and the presence of fillers, chemicals and/or artificial sweeteners. Not the best choice if your goal is to improve health, lose weight or elevate fitness.
Micellar casein is also very high in essential amino acids. While whey fills you up quickly, micellar casein allows for slower digestion, keeping you satisfied and helping to stabilize blood sugar for up to three hours - much longer than other protein sources. Combining micellar casein and whey will give you the best of both worlds. Personally, I use an online brand containing TruCELLE, a patented blend of whey and micellar casein to get the best of both worlds.
Now that you have your protein source, make sure you know how to use it to get the full benefits. If you follow my column, you'll know that keeping blood sugar stable is the key to health and healthy weight loss. Having a protein, fat and carb together is needed to keep blood sugar stable and your body balanced. Shakes that have only protein, need to add some fruits or veggies (carbs) and some type of fat – avocado, nut butter, flax, etc., to be balanced. Shakes with the same amount of protein and carbs along with a little fat, are a meal replacement. Adding anything causes a spike in the blood sugar and fat storage. The best shakes are those that have a good amount of protein, fewer carbs, and a fat. The balance works on it's own, yet has enough room to add in some fruit if you choose.
When choosing your shake, remember quality matters, know the balance, and enjoy the taste! Not all shakes are created equally and you deserve the best for your health.
Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.