Happy New Year! It’s that time again, when we set our resolutions for the year ahead. For most of us, that list includes a health-related goal, such as losing weight, getting back in the gym, fitting back in our “skinny” jeans, etc. Even if you don’t have weight to lose, you may just be ready to cleanse from all the heavy holiday eating. A great way to detox, shed pounds and feel better all around is starting the day off with a protein shake.
When you hear the words “protein shake,” you may picture the big bulky man at the gym who wears MC hammer pants and a big support belt as he strains to bench hundreds of pounds. But protein shakes aren’t just for weight lifters and those trying to bulk up. They make a very healthy meal replacement and are a convenient way to pack a lot of nutritional punch. If you’ve always wanted to try a protein shake, but you feel overwhelmed by all the options out there, this blog post is here to help!
Protein Shakes to Avoid
When it comes to selecting a high-quality shake, the first step is knowing what ingredients to stay away from. Just because it’s sold at your local health food store, GNC or gym, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. Avoid shakes that contain the following ingredients:
- Artificial Sweeteners, Colors and Preservatives – Stay away from dyes, MSG and other additives. If you see the words “aspartame,” “high fructose corn syrup,” or sucralose on the label, put it down! Artificial sweeteners are so harmful to your health, and they can spike your blood sugar worse than regular sugar does.
- Hydrogenated Oils – Not all shakes contain oils, but there are a few out there that contain soybean oil and other hydrogenated oils that are harmful to your heart.
- Soy Protein- Many people who are dairy sensitive use soy protein shakes thinking they are a healthier option, but most soy protein is highly processed, containing MSG, phyto-estrogens and other unhealthy ingredients. Here is some more in-depth information about the dangers of processed soy.
- Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals – You know all those words that you can’t pronounce on the back of supplement labels? Well your body has a hard time recognizing them too! In order to be most efficiently utilized by the body, most of the ingredients in your shake should come from the ground…not the lab!
I won’t name any names, but here is the list of ingredients in a very popular protein shake sold in gyms, GNCs and grocery stores everywhere. See if you can pick out all the harmful ingredients.
micellar alpha and beta caseins and ceseinates, whey concentrates rich in alpha-lactalbumin, whey isolates, whey peptides, colostrum extract, l-glutamine, taurine, lactoferrin), leanlipids (trans fat free lipic complex consisiting of canola oil, sunflower and/or safflower oil, mct’s, l-carnitine), fructose, cocoa powder maltodextin, cytovite 1 (vitamin and mineral premix consisting of vitamin A acetate, cholecalciferol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, ascorbic acid, folate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacinamide, pyridoxine hcl, cyanocobalamin, biotin, pantothenic acid, di-calcium phosphate, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, ferrous fumerate, magnesium oxide, copper gluconate, zinc oxide, chromium nicotinate), GCC (proprietary endogenous creatine precursor consisiting of glycocyamine, betaine anhydrous), natural and artificial flavors, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, soy lecithin.
What to Look for in a Protein Shake
Now that you know what to stay away from, here is a list of acceptable protein shake ingredients:
- High-Quality Protein Source – The main ingredient should be non-denatured whey, brown rice, pea or hemp protein. A good option should have at least 17 grams of protein per serving.
- Natural Sweeteners – Select a shake that is sweetened with natural ingredients such as stevia, organic coconut palm sugar, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, natural vanilla, etc. Many high-quality product lines are removing fructose, or fruit sugar, from their protein shakes to make them a better low-glycemic option for those with diabetes and other blood sugar issues. All the protein shakes at Longevity have less than 9 grams of sugar per serving!
- Beneficial Fat – If your shake contains oil, it should come from organic coconut oil or another stable fatty acid.
- Whole Food Ingredients – Some of my favorite shakes contain extra antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and anti-inflammatory ingredients. Ideally these ingredients should come from organic fruits and vegetables and other whole food and plant sources.
- Value-Add Ingredients – Many high-quality shakes contain extra amino acids, digestive enzymes and antioxidants. To me this is an added bonus and it means I have less pills to swallow!
How to Make a Protein Shake
I like to bulk up my protein shake so that it’s nice and filling and holds me over until lunch. I put a serving of protein (usually two scoops), a cup of frozen berries and about 8 oz of water into the blender. I also add a beneficial fat (flax seeds or oil, coconut oil), D3 liquid, and something green (a greens powder or chlorophyll liquid). You might want to use almond milk or coconut milk if you like your protein shake on the creamier side. Make it your own so that you’ll look forward to having it for breakfast every day! Protein shakes take about 3 minutes to prepare, and you can drink them on the go. They are also a great breakfast option for children, especially for picky eaters who aren’t as interested in protein and vegetables.
Young or old, we all need protein in the morning. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, and if you stick to no other resolutions this year, you should make sure you and your family start the day with a high-protein meal. Try a healthy protein shake in the morning, and I bet you’ll notice you have better energy, focus and mood all day. I tend to crave less sugar and starchy carbohydrates on my shake days.
Longevity has several high-quality protein shakes in our walk-in pharmacy, and knowledgeable staff members that can help you find the best one for you. We each have our own favorite brands we can recommend! Every shake we carry is gluten-free, and we have both vegan and non-denatured whey options. We also carry shakes that help mend the gastrointestinal tract, balance hormones and cater to those with blood sugar imbalances. All our shakes are 15% off in the month of January, just in time to help you jump-start your New Year’s resolutions. We’re also discounting our healthy oils, hemp hearts, greens powders and chlorophyll liquid, all wonderful additions to your morning shake.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!