The Skinny On Shakes- What To Look For When Choosing A Protein Powder?


strawberry smoothieIf the holiday cheer is starting to show up around your waistline,  and the extra stress is bringing on those nasty  carb and sugar cravings, listen up!  Before you throw in the towel and instead of saying to yourself that things will be different in January, how about taking charge of your health now and head into the New Year feeling great?  My first tip is to have a shake a day (AKA green smoothie).

Having a green smoothie is super easy & quick to do.  To make it even easier, I prepare a ready made bag of greens that will last fore 3 days that I can throw into my shake.  Spinach, kale, &cucumbers mix in really well.

If you really need to get yourself on track or kick start some weight loss, swap out two of your meals for a shake for 5-10 days.  I tell all of my clients this and have been doing this for years. It has made a huge difference to the way you will feel and also the energy you can put into your workout.   You can make your own with fresh fruit, greens, flax, chia seeds, milk or dairy alternative and add greek yogurt, or opt in for a protein shake powder which will pack in more than just the protein.

Why have a shake a day?
  1. A shake will replace a meal that may otherwise be less desirable when you are short for time and more inclined to grab something on the go, or skip the meal entirely.  This is even worse because your metabolism will slow down (your body thinks its starving and needs to preserve energy) increase your cravings, and ultimately lead to poorer choices later in the day  (especially if you are attending a social event).  The worst thing you can do is “save up your calories” for the end of the day.
  2. A shake can fill in any nutritional gaps (we all seem to lack vegetables this time of year) & keep your immune system running strong.  It is super easy to pack a shake full of greens, fruit, a healthy fat and protein all in one drink.  If you want to make it simple for yourself, choose a protein powder that is fortified with vitamins and minerals and you are more likely to get your RDA in.
  3. A shake  can help you get the most out of your workouts.  A huge part of your results (about 80%) comes from what you put in your mouth.  You can not out sweat a poor diet!   It is super important to feed your body correctly before a workout ( an easy to digest, low fat snack that is a mix of carbs and protein) as well as your post workout meal which will replace energy stores and support muscle growth.

Over the past few months I have made a continuous effort to find myself a higher protein based shake mix,  lower in sugar, and that tastes good, all in one go.   I tried over a dozen of the top brands.

Here’s my criteria for picking a product.  Depending on your lifestyle and dietary restrictions, you can start to narrow down your choices when reading the backs of labels keeping these points in mind.
  1. Manufacturing.  Look for a product that uses non GMO ingredients and organic sources if possible.  It should also stay 100% clear from artificial sweeteners, coloring, and flavoring.
  2. Fiber.  Look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving for this to be considered a high fiber meal.  We want fiber in our diet to aid in digestion, elimination, and to help keep us feeling full longer.
  3. Protein.   Personally I like to see a shake that is high in protein to aid in exercise performance and muscle recovery ie.  the results you are working hard for.  This should be at least 20 grams per serving.  Experts advise that an average woman, whose goal is to build muscle, get toned, maintain muscle while losing fat or increase strength and overall performance is 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  I suggest aiming for 100 grams per day.  Depending on your dietary preference, you may choose a whey protein (dairy) or a vegan protein.  Just be sure that if you choose whey protein, that it is coming from an organic, undenatured source.
  4. Sugars.  This is where it can confusing.  Sugar comes in many forms, glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose just to name a few…..  Carbohydrates, (think flour, pasta, bread, sugar, vegetables, beans, grains and starchy foods such as potatoes) get converted into sugar (aka. glucose), providing us with energy.   We want to see carbohydrates in our shakes to make them a complete macronutrient meal and to provide energy.  But not too many.  Why?

    Glucose is used to create energy – which is great if you are about to exercise – but as the rest of our day becomes more sedentary (coupled with the high levels of sugar we consume) we fail to ‘burn’ this off.  We don’t want to see high levels of sugars listed under carbohydrates in our shakes.  This number should be under 10 grams. Why?

    Our pancreas secretes a hormone called Insulin in response to glucose in the blood stream. Insulin transports the glucose to either fat stores or to be used in our muscle just in case we need to ‘run’, but sadly for us, fat stores are the more common destination. The results not only mean a larger waistline, but high levels on insulin production have serious implications for our overall health.

    What about Fructose?  Fructose is now considered the most damaging of all sugar forms.  Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and can’t be used for energy by your body’s cells. It is not only completely useless for the body, but is also a toxin in high enough amounts because the job of the liver is to get rid of it, mainly by transforming it into fat and sending that fat to our fat cells.  Bottom line:  fructose gets stored as fat.                                                                                                                                     Keep in mind though, that even most fruits are half glucose and half fructose, and avoiding it completely is not realistic.  (an apple has 12.6 grams of fructose!)

    5.  Micro nutrients.  These are your vitamins & minerals.  Look for a product that is fortified.  This is great if you do not take multi vitamins because the shake will fill in any nutritional gaps.

    6.  Extras.  Look for probiotics, omega 3’s such as fish oil or flax that has been added, and once again you will get yourself an all inclusive deal!  If these are not included, not such a big deal.  These are extras.  You can always add your own flax or chia to the shake, and a packet of probiotics.

Most importantly I think it also must taste great, because chances are if you don’t like it, no matter how good it is for you, you are not going to stick with it and get the results you are looking for.

Not sure how to get started?  Check out this easy favorite purple power green smoothie recipe of mine.  You can make it with or without the protein powder.  With a few simple ingredients you can easily implement a shake a day into your diet and be healthier for it!


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