Whilst personal trainers promote protein shakes as part of a weight loss program, incredibly the market in the USA last year was worth $2.7 billion dollars. This article takes a look at the use of protein shakes and what to look out for.
What are protein shakes?
Basically they are milk shakes with an added protein powder. Some can be bought ready made. They can be flavoured, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry you get the idea.
The powder is a protein supplement. The supplement can be just protein powder to fill up on, or it may contain additional supplements. Top of the range powders are formulated with different protein, added vitamins and nutrients.
If your protein shake does not contain vitamins you may need to add these to your diet, especially if you are using them as meal replacements.
What are they used for?
Both weight loss AND weight gain, weight loss speaks for itself the gain is usually desirable in the form of muscle, this might be new muscle or assisting in the repair of existing muscle.
In addition it now appears that protein shakes can be beneficial in topping up building blocks that are deficient as we get older or just giving a boost of energy.
Protein makes you feel full, a protein shake might typically contain 40 g. of protein, depending on the person we can process between 5 – 9 grams per hour, any excess protein is either excreted or turned to fat. The former can lead to diarrhoea and dehydration the later can lead to weight gain of the wrong sort!
Coupled to this a protein shake needs to contain fibre in the same way that we need vegetables for fibre in any balanced diet.
So its obviously important to get the amount of protein shake consumed correct.
Alternatively the shakes can be combined with activity or exercise to use up the excess. When used in this way the ease of absorption is a real plus. So if ‘active’ is the way you describe yourself protein shakes might be of use.
If protein shakes are added to a balanced diet this ease of absorption can be a real advantage particularly when it comes to building and repairing muscle.
Increase in muscle requires protein, the build up is slow because it requires more than can normally be consumed in solid form. So a top up in easily absorbed liquid form can massively advance the program.
They can’t be toxic surely?
An investigation in the summer of 2010 found that when 15 protein shakes were tested some had levels of cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic, These heavy metals can be harmful so how do you avoid them?
First of all, heavy metals exist naturally in the earths crust so some ingestion is inevitable what needs to be avoided is excesses.
If you are looking to use protein shakes as part of a program go for one that has had some formulation and meets Food Standard Agency guidelines.
Do they really help to loose weight or build muscle?
All weight loss is a combination of reducing calorie intake and a considered exercise program.
There is a growing consensus that protein shakes are helpful in getting the initial weight loss started, this phase is key because it provides the motivation to continue the program and make the diet a success.
What is also fascinating is that the same is true for any fitness or muscle building program! It seems early results are the key to success whatever our goals.
Keeping weight off.
Research from 2001 by the American Dietetic Association indicates that women who lost weight on a diet plan that included meal replacement shakes kept their weight of by replacing one meal a day with a shake.
Their counterparts who achieved weight loss on a conventional low-fat diet without shake use at all regained most of their initial weight.
Can I live on them?
Properly formulated protein shakes contain a vast quantity of the basic ingredients in our diet. However, they are not designed to replace food altogether. Steer away from products that suggest this. Complement them with healthy snacks for a balanced approach.
What to look out for in Protein Shakes.
If you are going to use protein shakes they should contain vitamins, roughage, quality protein and be non-toxic.
Only use the recommended amount, excess can cause problems with diarrhoea and dehydration.
Protein shakes can replace some meals but they are NOT a long-term food replacement.
Protein shakes are convenient and help to motivate dieting or muscle repair and muscle building programs, especially in the early stages.