Hi guys,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo.  Protein Shakes: Are they good for you? Are they a magic weight loss pill?  Will they get you where you want to be? I’ll be digging into the good and bad of the beloved meal replacement in today’s blog. If you have any questions about this or would like to know some recipes for spicing up your own shakes, give us a call: 806-322-3188.

It seems a lot of people are jumping on the protein shake bandwagon these days.  In today’s world we rarely have the time to step away from the demands society puts on us to get into the kitchen and cook a nutritious meal. The easy alternative that still let’s us meet our deadlines and get everybody where they need to be seems to be protein shakes. Whether it be pricey shake packets you buy in bulk or something you picked up from a supplement store, protein shakes seem to be the meal of the future. But why? Well, protein is important. Protein allows us to build muscle.  It also satiates our diets so we don’t feel like we are starving all day long.  But figuring out how much protein you need to accomplish these two feats can be confusing.

For women 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal is enough to keep you going and about 40 to 60 grams per meal for men. Keep in mind that where that protein comes from is important too. Making sure you are ingesting a lean high-quality protein is crucial in order to give your body what it needs to perform the way you are asking it to.  This provides the right building blocks your body can use to slim down or tone up all the while keeping you feeling satisfied food wise.

Pre-made shakes have about have about 20-30 grams per packet or shake. Often they are dairy based and include things like whey and casein in addition to the protein. That makes a good protein supplement, but it’s not a good meal supplement.  Even if you were to opt to make the shake at home with powdered protein, you are still getting the 20 grams per shake, but you have nothing else with it. Depending on the brand they may include a few extra macro/micronutrients in there, but the point is still the same. If you are going to replace your meal with something you need to read the ingredients in order to get the best bang for your buck.  

I’ve worked as a personal trainer in Amarillo for a while and I see a lot of people get stuck on that nutrition label. They look at the numbers they see there’s 20 grams of protein in whatever they are buying and think they got exactly what they need. Not quite. You must read the ingredients for the products. If sugar is listed in the first 3 ingredients, you need to put it back. In the first 5, it would be a wise choice to find another product. You’re drinking these things everyday. Why would you want a majority of it to be sugar?  

Sugar can go by more than 30 different names, so try to catch it in the ingredients list by checking the ending of the name for -OSE (ex. Fructose, glucose,sucrose, etc.). Anything that says syrup is also sugar. Other culprits include Splenda, Agave, Honey, Stevia, and more. Your body doesn’t know the difference between sugars that are healthy (grown from the ground) or unhealthy sugar (processed). Your goal is to take in more natural sugars from fruits and veggies instead of shakes.

People start to drink protein shakes on a regular basis and don’t exercise with it. Maybe you grab the shake in the morning and consider it your breakfast, but don’t exercise consistently.  You will begin to notice a spare tire form around your lower abdomen. You will start to store the sugar because your body can’t burn it off with exercise. You will need to find a different solution because in that case protein shakes are not the answer. Add exercise and better nutrition to stave off that increase to your waistline.

If you’re working out all the time and you drink these protein shakes, is that okay? Sure.  I would definitely recommend making it more of a meal replacement shake rather than just a snack shake. My guys clients who are trying to build more muscle and bulk up definitely need to make it into a meal replacement rather than just a snack shake. You can even sip on it while you are pumping iron – if your goal is to bulk up, adding protein while working out is the best time to have it.  People trying to burn off fat, if you’re not planning to eat a high protein, high vegetable meal afterwards,  should drink a protein shake immediately after a workout.

If you’re using this shake to replace a meal, you need all the key macros to give your body what it needs to restore and thrive.  First off, in addition to the protein, you need some sort of vegetable in there. Doesn’t matter if it’s a greens powder or actual produce.  I notice people skimp on adding veggies to their shakes.  This isn’t doing you any good. You need to get at minimum a fist sized serving of vegetables into your drink.  Even better would be 3 -5 fists per meal. Next up is a healthy fat.  Hemp seeds, chia seeds, or ground flax seed are great for this.  Please make sure the flax is ground because the whole seeds are very slippery and your digestive system doesn’t process them well; ground seeds are easier to absorb. Feel free to change things up by using avocado. This will make the shake thicker like a banana would, but you’re not battling all the extra sugar. So you get more protein, more vitamins, without the sugar. You want to make sure you creating your full meal in a cup by having protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.

By creating a shake that is a complete meal rather than just protein, your body will respond with a thermogenic effect.  This means it will burn more calories trying to digest those foods than by consuming each of those foods individually. The thermogenic effect will burn off more fat, be able to better build muscle, and attain that body shape that you been looking for.  

I hope that helps to clear up some of the confusion on protein shakes. If you’re not exercising stay away from them. if you are exercising remember one a day is plenty. You don’t need to eat to drink for five of these things a day. I met a woman recently was drinking 1 post workout and then snack in the afternoon and then before bed.  better customize that situation for you and show you what your needs are and what would be best for your body. We typically don’t recommend more than one per day.

As always, if you have any questions about our customized nutrition counseling, personal training, or group classes and programs, please contact us at: info@customfitness.biz or 806-322-3188. At Custom Fitness we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great day everybody.