Living the Protein Dream
So what is the truth about protein shakes? Over the last years, the higher the awareness becomes of health, fitness etc the growth of the Protein shake has continued to happen. The first thing most people will do when they are looking at losing weight, gaining weight, training for a marathon or whatever it may be is buy themselves a shaker.
The shaker seems to be the accessory of every ripped six pack bodybuilder right over to the tiny waisted, perfectly sculpted glutes of the latest miss world. It has even infected our social media, it seems no self respecting selfie enthusiast would be seen without one to frame the latest proud unveiling of their newly discovered Abdominis muscle.
The Protein shake has been lorded as the answer to all our prayers, meal replacement, muscle builder, fat stripper in-fact i’m quite surprised that Viagra haven’t launched a brand of their own yet!
But there are so many Questions!
But what do we know about protein shakes?
whats in protein shakes?
WIll it make me muscly?
Will protein shakes help me lose weight?
and do they bloody work?
So I have set out to look at the truth about protein shakes
So firstly, what the heck actually is in our Protein shakes? Well Protein powders tend to come in one of three forms:
Soy protein isolate is derived from the soya bean and said to be 90-95% carbohydrate free and perhaps seen as the favoured choice of the vegan as its purely plant based protein. One thing people don’t take into account and one of the reasons that this form of protein is not favoured among pro bodybuilders etc is that it actually increases your oestrogen levels and soy is actually used sometimes to help women going through the menopause because of it’s oestrogen enhancing properties. Oestrogen will promote your fat to be stored on your hips, lower abdomen and around the lower chest. It is also less soluble so its less common in our shakes.
This is what you may think of as Milk protein as it’s the one most common in mammalian milk, I.e cows milk and usually that is where it is derived from when it arrives in our supplements. It is a slower release protein which can have a number of benefits, releasing it’s amino acids more steadily into our bodies. It is said that of the three this protein is the more likely to cause you an allergic reaction ranging from gastro issues and cramps right up to an anaphylactic shock. It is worth noting that some people try a protein supplement and say it made them feel really sick or have a bad stomach, it is worth checking if it was casein protein rather then swear off protein all together.
Whey protein is essentially a bi-product of cheese and it is removed when cheese is created. It is said to contain the quicker release BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) so this is better for quicker protein synthesis. Whey is the most soluble in water so this is the one most likely to be found in out protein powders.
Anything else in there?
Im afraid so, loads of things, some good some bad and some neither. Every powder that is produced is different from the next. They contain different sweeteners (all approved to be used in foods by the FDA, but lets face it as long is it doesn’t kill you the second it lands on your tongue they will approve basically anything) but most no more harmless then you will find in many foods etc. However ones without sweeteners are better for you as sweeteners are either sugar based usually or they are a chemical that literally makes a mis-transmission in your brain but the ones without any sweetening at all will probably taste awful so you may need to get creative and mix them with some berries, cinnamon etc to mask the flavour. Soy lecithin extract usually listed as an emulsifier has been noted to have some dangerous side effects too our long term health and also usually comes from GM crops. Also most will contain gluten and wheat. There are also some shakes that have some useful added ingredients. like additional vitamins and things like flaxseed for added omega-3 amongst other things that can add towards your health.
So lets take a look at some of these burning questions
Will Protein shakes help me gain muscle?
If i had to give a one word answer to this question it would be… errrrmmmmmmmhmmmmmmYes does that count as a one word answer? basically there is so many caveats to this answer it is difficult. The long and short of it is yes there is a place for protein shakes when it comes to building muscle. Of course you can not sit on the sofa drinking protein shakes and hope that will give you more muscle it will do nothing of the sort in-fact it will probably just give you a calorie surplus. On the other hand Protein is more then essential to building muscle, it is everything. In-fact every process in the human body is driven by proteins. But when it comes to muscle and re-pairing, re-building we need to have a good supply of protein to allow this development. So getting a good quality supply of protein is a great help to adding muscle or “lean muscle” one of my favourite terms that gets banded around, is there any other type of muscle? fat muscle? news to me. One thing people confuse is that fat is one thing, muscle is another, you can not turn one into the other just like you can not turn water into wine (oops sorry Jesus i’m sure you where the exception to these rules) But it is worth noting that gram for gram this protein is not super fuel. It is no more beneficial then the protein you find in you chicken or eggs it is probably less beneficial as it doesn’t come with all the facilitators that the food has. I is not a magic formula but can have a good place in your muscle building regime. This is will come onto.
Can Protein shakes help me lose weight?
Again it is not a one word answer i’m afraid, I am sure this surprises you! There are two ways that protein shakes can help you lose fat. One by supporting muscle growth that will in turn mean you have a faster metabolism and higher “resting calorie consumption” meaning you will metabolise more fat. But that is when you are training hand in hand with your protein intake as mentioned above. Simply adding a “diet protein shake” to your day to day and changing nothing else will certainly not help you lose weight in-fact it will do the opposite. In terms of meal replacement, i.e having a shake for lunch instead of a meal, this is certainly no something i would subscribe to anyone. However there are many low carb, low calorie shakes that by having instead of a meal will give you a calorie deficit that will in turn mean you lose fat. You have to be careful again of the ingredients some are very high in sugars like fructose and can still be called diet but will not be helpful to your health or your waistline. If your choice is between a baguette and a packet of crisps at lunch or a good quality shake and you are looking to lose weight then yes the shake will be better. you just need to make sure you are getting all of your nutrients from other sources. Also if you are someone that skips breakfast and could not be talked into eating a good quality protein based breakfast, then a shake is certainly better then nothing to help kickstart your metabolism and keep a steady blood sugar level so that when you get into work you are not craving as badly and reaching for the biscuits with your cup of tea. So yes there is a place in fat loss for protein shakes but again make sure you are selecting the correct one, low sugar and low carbohydrate.
So whats the final scoop? (sorry had to get one in)
I guess a good place to start would be with how I use shakes. Instead of viewing them as the answer to my muscle building needs or as a way of stripping fat. I use protein shakes to ensure i am getting enough protein and calories. My main struggle is with eating enough calories. As an advocate of avoiding refined sugars and carbohydrates it can sometimes be difficult for me to eat enough calories in the day to support muscle growth. Sometimes the thought of another mouthful of turkey can be enough to turn your stomach. So i use a shake almost as a snack, topping up on protein and calories. But I am well aware this needs to go hand in hand with good quality meals throughout the day and hard training. wether you include a shake into your diet should be based on a myriad of factors. what are your goals and what are you current eating habits? Also selecting a shake that is suitable for your needs is important. Take the time to read the ingredients, if its is one that is for mass then it can be laden with carbohydrates, this can help you make some quick gains, but only based on the fact that you will have ore then enough sugars and calories to support the work you put in, otherwise it will add mass… just not muscular mass! Shakes can be a great alternative to a pre-bed snack as well. But just be aware that they do have a calorific value, but it is likely to be a more useful one. The other question that is often posed is when? the common error is too think you need it immediately after you work out, this is a myth. Recent studies have shown that it is not overly relevant when you are taking in protein as long as you are. So it is better to place it around your meals and think more about your metabolism timeline.