What is a protein shake anyway?
Well, it can come in many forms, but it’s usually some sort of powder containing soy or whey protein, among many other ingredients, that you add water or milk to, mix it up, and drink it. It can be a supplement to your meal, or a replacement. Some people use if for building muscle after a work out at the gym, and some use it for simply gaining weight, and some for even losing weight.
Are protein shakes good for you?
Well, again, it depends on what your using them for. I feel they’re great for building muscle, as the whey protein helps repair and re-build your muscles after a hard work out.
As a meal replacement, they can give you lots of protein with out the preparation time usually associated with meat, and they stifle your appetite for carbohydrates and sugars. Be careful to choose a product that has a lot of added vitamins, minerals, and possibly even omega 3 fatty acids, as some are really only whey protein powders. These shakes should really only be used in conjunction with a healthy well-balanced diet, and mainly as a supplement to this diet. If you are replacing 3 meals a day, you would be missing out on other essential nutrients and the fiber that whole foods give you.
The jury is still out on whether they assist in actually losing weight, but the general consensus is that you don’t – you just build muscle underneath your already existing fat.
Are protein shakes bad for you?
Some of the additives used in these protein shakes include sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, fructose, and sucralose, and can have side effects, which are not always desirable. These include: nausea, headaches, shakiness, and possible development of cancer, although this is only been know to happen at very high levels.
Some sweeteners can add unwanted calories, cause allergic reactions, and are mildly carcinogenic, such as saccharine. Food additive 955, or sucralose, is made from sugar, and is generally considered to be safe, with most of the ingredients (it’s actually made from sugar) used to make them either being processed by the body, or passed through untouched. My experience with 955 was it gave me a pretty intense headache if I had too many shakes in one day. So I cut back to just one after my weight lifting work out, and none on the days I did cardio-vascular exercise. The body doesn’t need to repair as much (if any) muscle after cario workouts.
The safest sweeteners are stevioside or rebaudioside which are derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. Other safe ones include: lo han extract, coconut nectar, organic raw honey, and black strap molasses. So, I recommend these healthy protein shakes: Jay Robb’s Whey Protein Powder, North Coast Natural’s ISO Protein, and EnergyFirst – Ultimate Vanilla Protein Powder as very natural products and a safe way to take whey protein.
Other additives include:
- Calcium caseinate (a natural protein)
- citric acid (a preservative)
- carrageenan gum (a thickener)
- certain heavy metals (such as: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury)
Basically, whatever your body can’t break down, it will pass out of the digestive system, but some fear those chemicals in the additives may still be doing some harm on the way through. Very small amounts of heavy metals have shown up in tests, and these can build up over time. Metals take a very long time to pass from the body.
Your guiding principle here should be to buy a protein shake with the least amount of additives, and the safest sweetener you can find. Why put more chemicals into your body than you need to?
As with most products you use, please exercise care and moderation. Read the labels, and be safe.