If you are a fitness junkie or new to working out, you are probably aware of protein shakes and the odd vitamins that are provided. You can now go into any superstore and down the lifestyle isle you will find sports vitamins, mens health products and different types of protein shake brands. It can be really confusing what to take. It can also be a bit tricky as to WHEN to take them.
They can be convenient and quick, so you end up having a protein shake for lunch or grab a protein bar (or three) to "keep you going throughout the day". This can be a really slippery slope to go down. As much as you may think you are consuming "healthy calories" you will end up packing on the pounds from the protein bars (they are more designed as a post workout snack) and feeling a bit headachy and sluggish. You are not providing your body with the nutrients and energy it requires, causing your insulin to spike and for you to have a sudden sugar crash. These protein bars can be just as bad as you having a candy bar.
Here is an example of a diet that would be using a protein supplement to the extreme:
Breakfast - porridge, honey, banana and protein shake
Snack - protein bar
Lunch - Ham salad with handful of nuts
Snack - protein bar
Post workout - protein shake
Dinner - Chicken, rice, stir fry
Dessert - yogurt
Before bed - protein shake
You are looking at having a VERY sparse diet, not doing much to keep steady energy levels through out the day, recovery of any exercise you are doing and also moods. This is due to the lack of nutrients you are consuming throughout the day. Begin to replace your meals with bars or protein shakes and you are looking at less fibre (recommended to be consuming 35g for women and 48g for men) which provides benefits such as increased satiety (fuller for longer), lowered blood fat and cholesterol, reduced risk of colon cancer, proper intestinal motility and a boost in overall gut health. Also, lacking in vitamins and minerals that will be repairing our bodies, keeping our immune system healthy and body working efficiently.
On top of that, the protein you consume from a protein shake is completely different to that from a natural food source. The body digests them differently and they are built up from different protein sources (as you would expect).
Complete proteins (from meat and dairy sources) are those that contain all the amino acids our body use. This means that no matter what our body needs to do, it will be getting the materials to do so. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Our body can create some of them, while 9 essential ones must be obtained from our food. If you are missing some essential amino acids because you chose to use protein shakes over proteins from meat, you might be wasting your efforts because you are missing the amino acids you need. For optimal results complete proteins like meat and dairy are the best option.
The other advantage meat has over other foods is that the fats in grass fed meats work synergistically with protein to promote energy production and metabolism. Proteins with the right fats in a meal are much better for burning fat and building muscle than protein alone.
Now, with that in mind, a good way of using a protein supplement within your diet is:
Breakfast: porridge, one banana (mixed together) and 2 poached eggs
Snack: handful of nuts and piece of fruit
Lunch: Meat and veg of choice
Snack: Couple of rice cakes and nut butter
Post work-out: Protein shake and one piece of fruit OR a protein bar (I tend to love having a battle oats bar from Icon Nutrition)
Dinner: Meat, veg and fist size of starchy carbs (sweet potato, rice, cous cous etc).
Dessert: Hibernate (pre-bed protein mix)
Obviously this isn't something to follow religiously. This is just an example how a protein shake can be a good addition to your diet and help enhance muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery, reduce muscle soreness, decrease protein breakdown and increase the use of body fat during subsequent training.
Dependant on when you train, you may want to have the snack of handful of nuts and the banana pre-training (if you are an early bird catching the worm), the protein shake, porridge and eggs post work-out, the starchy carbs from dinner at lunch and the dinner just meat and vegetables. The timings of meals and the portion sizes will all be individual to what your goals are, how often and how long you are exercising for and your weight and gender. This is when it is handy to have someone help you with your lifestyle and getting an idea of a nutrition plan.
I have tried out many protein brands and have had some good and bad experiences. Some that are on the market are full of sugar, some are ridiculously over priced and others add in a lot of carbs really adding the calories to our days. I have also had experiences of chronic stomach ache after having a protein shake.
A product that I have had great success with is Icon Nutrition. We began selling them down our box at a discounted price for members and it is a great protein source that doesn't play havoc with my stomach, tastes awesome and isn't too highly priced. I have a real addiction to nut butter (yes, i have been known to eat a kilo of nut butter in a week that belonged to my other half, replaced it and then ate that too so informed him we are no longer allowed nut butter in the house), so my favourite protein flavours are chocolate peanut butter and also, the cookies and cream tastes like ice cream. LOVE!
I am a real dessert person as well so I find it really handy to have pomegranate after my dinner and then before bed the Hibernate protein mix. Hibernate combines 100% grass fed micellar casein with 5-HTP - a precursor to Serotonin. Serotonin is one of the most important brain chemicals for regulating our sleep and wake cycle. Hibernate not only helps with recovery and muscle building whilst you rest but also helps users have better sleep management.
The best thing to do is try and taste out protein shakes from friends or ask the company for some taster packs so you can have an idea of how you feel without having to purchase a whole tub and find that it doesn't agree with your stomach or that drinking it is like drinking sand water.
Be smart with your nutrition, eat a balanced and healthy selection of foods (don't buy a kilo of nut butter!!) and enjoy what you are eating, You don't have to replace meals with shakes or bars but use them as a addition to your diet to compliment your training and fuelling your body to reach your goals.
If you have any questions on todays blog or would like to discuss your current diet then get in touch and we can find ways together of getting to a healthy and nourished you.
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