A subscriber asked recently if I could recommend protein shakes since there are so many of them out there and so many varieties. I decided to share my response (with a few minor changes) to her with you. This is an area I wish everyone would ask more about. There are protein powders that are high quality and there are those full of things you would not knowingly consume.
So, a disclaimer before I launch in: I carry protein shakes. For the exact reason you describe…it’s a confusing mess and a land mine. Worse, 50% are full of carcinogens and artificial ingredients that backfire on the goals most of us have for using them. Plus you have egg, soy, whey, casein, beef collagen, hemp, pea, plant blends to choose from in flavors to make your head spin. Below you’ll find I don’t address egg, soy (ever), casein, hemp, or collagen (though I like and use it – I don’t use it for muscle it’s for connective tissue and other reasons I use it). The things I don’t address are primarily due to either expense, food sensitivities, or something I don’t recommend for anyone (soy).
I swore… up and down loudly for 31 years I would never sell supplements. So, it was a little embarrassing that I jumped on the bandwagon last year but I seriously found it impossible to locate a high quality protein that didn’t have soy in it, or added vitamins (which can interfere with vitamins you take by competing for absorbency), sucralose or sucrose or something else detrimental to health.
So on the types of proteins available that would be most ideal to choose from:
What’s safe for everyone – Pea or Plant-based blend. This vegan or vegetarian option sometimes can fall short of leucine, however. Leucine is one of the key amino acids you want in a protein if you want to keep and or build lean muscle. You want 2.5 grams per serving if possible. There’s less sensitivity to plant-based proteins for most people. It’s great for vegans and vegetarians or anyone who wants a protein at a time other than around workouts, so that it doesn’t spike blood sugar.
Next is what’s called hydro-beef. Sounds awful, tastes great. It’s an animal protein but still no dairy and no soy. So this one is also great for any time of day, as it won’t spike blood sugar. The contents of my Girls Gone Paleo is 97% real defatted beef protein.
Then there’s whey protein, which is probably the most common protein shake out there. The reason it’s not always best is you really need to first test your sensitivity to dairy to see if you do better without it or it’s fine for you.
I for instance, don’t do dairy milk but do lactose-free cheese and can tolerate whey so I do have it before and or after a vigorous workout. My reactions to dairy weren’t strong when I ate or drank it, but during exercise it was a nightmare. Since stopping dairy over 12 years ago I have fewer stomach issues exercising and my skin is a lot clearer – bonus! Whey is the most rapidly absorbed protein so uptake by the muscles after is fast and it doesn’t sit in your stomach if you have it before exercise.
There is quite a bit of recent research about whey’s benefits to the immune system, connection with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure along with risk of stroke. If you’re a woman testing hormones you’re potentially hearing about the need and importance of glutathione. Glutathione is boosted with whey.
Below is a typical day for me that demonstrates how I use various protein shakes.
I am terribly disciplined and have a strong work ethic.. I will workout I know I will… but often work a little too far into morning before my workout and need to eat something more before I am fueled to exercise. I’ll often have a whey shake before a run or weight training.
If I’m having a light lunch or a mid-afternoon snack after an early lunch I’ll have either Plant-Powered Girl or the Girl’s Gone Paleo shake as the protein in a smoothie.
For women who go through a group program with me or opt for private coaching, I’ll sometimes recommend two meals a day of a (lot of veggies, fat and berries included) shake to help boost some nutrient absorbency and ease digestion. When we do, I prefer to have two options so there’s little risk of the same exposure to the same food too frequently.
I hope that helps you make sense of how to add the convenient, (as long as they are) clean, protein options to your diet.
You can read more on the best use of proteins here.
P.S. If you’re looking for an easy and delish way to get a smoothie packed with thigh-thinning, waist-whittling protein and micronutrients in it, grab my smoothie guide.