Protein shakes – is it the way forward?
What are they for?
When should we take them?
Best ingredients to have?
How much protein do we need during a normal day and when we exercise?
What are they and when should they be eaten?
Protein shakes are mostly consumed by people who train and want help with performance and muscle repair, and they see them as a convenient way to do that. If however you are taking a protein shake as a meal supplement then you need to make sure it contains all the correct components i.e. vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and fibre.
People who consume protein shakes could get the same benefits by adding good quality high-protein foods like meat, tofu, eggs, dairy, beans and quinoa to their diets; either as snacks or main meals. It would certainly be cheaper and more cost effective, but admittedly maybe not as convenient
The optimal post-workout meal or drink should include 15– 25 g protein in order to maximise muscle repair. However too much protein in the diet can be hard on your kidneys and your liver and could also increase your risk of getting osteoporosis
It should also include protein to carbohydrate in a ratio of about 1 : 4. This means 1 gram of protein per every 4 grams of carbs. Since most protein powders have at least 20 grams of protein per scoop, you’d need about 80 grams of carbs to go with that scoop to get the proper proportion of nutrients!
Best ingredients to have
Whey is the most commonly used ingredient in protein shakes, because it’s a water-soluble milk protein. It’s also a complete protein, because it contains all nine of the amino acids essential for human dietary needs. It is also ‘fast acting’ meaning its starts to repair and build muscle very quickly after being digested.
People who are vegan or lactose intolerant may prefer soya, pea or hemp protein. Pea protein is a “slow-digesting” protein, therefore it may be able to keep you fuller for longer. If you are consuming non milk protein shakes as a meal replacement remember that, unlike whey they are not a complete protein and you will need to eat other proteins to obtain all the essential amino acids. if you are consuming protein shakes to build muscle and for fitness then pea protein has been proven as effective as whey at maintaining muscle mass
Protein shakes are an easy and convenient source of high-quality (and often complete) protein. But remember, most people, even athletes, can also get everything they offer by eating sources of lean protein like meat, fish, chicken, tofu, nuts, quinoa, beans and pulses and dairy products.
How much protein do we need?
Recreational athletes need 0.5-0.75 grams of protein daily for every ½ kg of body weight. For instance a 10st or 63.5 kg woman would need 70 – 105 gs of protein per day, that’s the equivalent of
- 2 poached eggs on toast for breakfast (16g)
- a jacket potato with a small tin of baked beans and 25g of cheddar cheese for lunch (22g)
- a yoghurt for an afternoon snack (5g)
- a grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables and chickpeas (55g) for an evening meal
That said most of us exceed the recommended daily amount of protein, so there is often no need for additional protein in our diet
If like a lot of people who want to lose weight then the amount of protein you need to consume is 1.6 to 2g protein per kg of body weight a day. So again a 10st or 63.5kg woman would need 101 – 127g. Substituting the baked beans for tuna would add and extra 14g of protein, and a handful of nuts as a snack after the evening meal would add an extra 12g
It seems counter intuitive to eat more protein than someone who is training in order to lose weight, but the extra calories from protein will balance out the reduced calories from carbs. Protein also produces a feeling of fullness and satiety. When you eat less of certain carbs like bread, rice, pasta and potatoes and more protein a state called ketosis can be activated, whereby the body can burn fat instead of carbs for energy. This can be beneficial in the short term but long term it could lead to some health issues like kidney problems
For weight loss a 10st or 63.5kg woman would need to consume between 3-5 g of carbs per kilo of body weight i.e. 190 – 317 g
That means a 10st female would need to consume between 400 – 500 calories from protein and between 760 – 1,270 calories from carbs (that not only includes bread, rice, pasta, potatoes but all fruits and vegetables)
With sales of protein shakes and powders expected to reach over £8bn over the next five years worldwide it is no wonder that large companies are coming up with different products.
Probably one of the names that is gaining in recognition is Arbonne protein shake powder. A £54 pouch contains 30 servings, which works out at £1.80 per serving. Each serving contains 20g of vegan protein, 14g of Carbs (64% of which is sugar or just over 2 teaspoons), various vitamins and minerals and 2g of fibre
In the interest of research I met with a local Arbonne representative who was very happy to give me some samples. So I made up the protein shake (2 scoops of vanilla powder to 270 ml of water, shake vigorously and drink). My first reaction was that it was very sweet so I added a drop more water and it made it slightly more palatable. The texture was very powdery and it left an unpleasant artificial aftertaste. I got through about half of it then gave up and threw the rest away. Not my cup of tea
It might be improved by whizzing it in a blender with some fresh fruit. But this would increase the calories and the carbs but in a positive way the fibre content.
Arbonne advise you to have no more than 2 servings a day (160 calories per serving). I guess in part because it contains amongst other things Fructo-oligosaccharides – a natural plant sugar (which can also be produced in a lab), which can be taken for constipation.
As mentioned earlier if this is a protein shake for people who like to train the ration of protein to carbs should be 1:4. Arbonne contains 20g of protein but only 14g of carbohydrate – significantly less than the 1:4 ratio) therefore I would not take it as a post workout food. I’d be more likely to have a chocolate milkshake or a bowl of cereal.
If it is intended as a meal replacement I would prefer to have something that tastes more natural and that I could enjoy. So I decided to make my own!
How to make your own protein shake
- 1 banana
- 250ml of milk or non dairy alternative (coconut milk is my current favourite)
- 1 tablespoon wholenut peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon porridge oats
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
Put all the ingredients in a blender (or in my case the nutribullet) and whizz up until smooth. Eat this shake like you would a meal i.e. take at least 15 minutes
Will you be losing lbs or just losing £s?!
Overall if you have a varied diet, containing plenty of natural protein like eggs, fish meat, beans, lentils, nuts, tofu and quinoa you will obtain sufficient protein for all your dietary needs, event whilst training. And at a fraction of the cost of protein powders and drinks
Please share with me your thoughts, do you buy protein powders, as a meal replacement or for muscle building?
Do you like them, if not why not try my version or share with me your own homemade shake
Ditch the protein powders and have some hummus on Ryvita instead