Tag Archives: weight loss

Anatomy of a Protein Shake

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.

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

A new year is a great time to reset your health!

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.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

This whey protein contains all the amino acids and a blend of organic fruits and greens, making it perfect for children who are picky eaters.

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.


One of my favorite shake brands is the OptiCleanse GHI. This brown-rice protein is gluten, dairy and soy free, and it contains ingredients that mend the gut, support the liver and clear inflammation.

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!

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Filed under Rants and Cravings, Working on Our Fitness

Is Obesity Contagious?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You are who you hang out with.”  It’s usually recited to teenagers as a warning as they pick which high school clique they want to join.  At that age, there’s nothing worse than being associated with the wrong crowd.  But it turns out the saying applies not only to our reputation, but also to our health.

According to research from Harvard University, if an individual is friends with an overweight person, his or her chances of becoming obese increases by more than 50 percent.  This might explain why obesity, which now plagues a third of all Americans, is expected to rise to 42 percent of the nation in the next few years.

While simply surrounding yourself with lean friends does not help you lose weight (If only it were that easy!), I think it’s smart to spend time with people who share and support your health goals.  I know I’m much more likely to order a salad when out to lunch with a health-minded friend than I am when eating with someone who doesn’t make staying fit a priority.

Do your lunch buddies bring you up or down when it comes to food choices?

With all of this in mind, think about the people in your life and how they influence your diet and exercise habits.  Are you hanging out with people who will encourage you to live your best life and make the healthiest choices you can make?

I also challenge you to think about the impact you’re having on the people around you.  Even if you don’t struggle with weight issues yourself, you can benefit from making good lifestyle choices.  If nothing else, you can be a cheerleader to your friends and family members as they work toward their goals.  Don’t be the person who brings donuts to a co-worker who is trying to lose weight, or who encourages friends to skip the gym and grab a drink with you instead.  You can catch up on a jog just as easily as you can over a margarita!

Make social time active, and kill two birds with one stone.

Whether they mean to or not, there are people in our lives that deter us from our healthy habits.  Do any of your close friends and family members fall into one or more of these categories?  More importantly, do any of these types describe you?

The Social Butterfly

They have your number on speed dial and constantly invite you out for drinks or dinner.  It’s not that you don’t want to spend time with this person, but does every meeting have to take place over a daiquiri or a plate of nachos?  If you can’t entice this person to hang out in a healthier setting, it may be best to let their calls go to voicemail!

The Unreliable Gym Buddy

You’re all set to meet up with your gym partner when she announces the latest drama in her life and asks if you want to hunker down with a chick flick and a tub of ice cream instead.  The next time you meet up, she’s forgotten her running shoes.  If you’re serious about regular exercise, you gotta find a more reliable partner.  Or, you may be better off joining a class, hiring a trainer, or just flying solo.

Betty Crocker

This individual bakes a cake or tray of cookies for every conceivable occasion…book club, birthdays, Presidents Day, Grandparents Day, Tuesdays…you name it.  If you don’t partake in her latest effort, she’s completely offended.  She’s also apt to serve you a huge serving and only dole out a tiny bit for herself.  You may have to avoid the office break room from time to time, but if you know what’s best for your health and your waist line, steer clear of little Susie Homemaker!

It may hurt her feelings, but you gotta tell Betty that her daily dose of chocolate cake is ruining your weight loss plans!

The Skinny Mini
These people have never had to diet in their lives and can’t understand why anyone would want to restrict their caloric intake.  After all, life is too short to skip French fries, right?  While there are people who are naturally slim, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily healthy.  Explain to them why health is a priority, no matter our size, and how they could benefit from a lean diet and regular exercise.  They may not make any big lifestyle changes, but perhaps it will help them sympathize and be more supportive of you.

The purpose of this post is not to alienate you from your friends and cause you to become a hermit!  I’m just trying to get you thinking.  Many of these types are well-meaning people who have no idea that they are derailing your weight loss efforts.  Some firm but gentle education or a simple request for more support could turn things around.  Unfortunately, there are people who purposely set out to sabotage others’ health efforts or turn it into a competition.  I don’t know about you, but those are not people with whom I want to spend a lot of time.

Can you think of any other types of people that can influence our health in a negative way?  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Have a great day!


Filed under Rants and Cravings

Who is your fitness idol?

This American Fitness Timeline on the New York Times Website inspired this post.

Isn’t it interesting to see all the different fitness icons America has looked up to over the past 60 years?  And isn’t it sad that despite all our great role models, the percentage of obese Americans continues to climb?  Even so, it’s fun to reminisce.  As a child of the 80s, I can remember  wearing out the Jane Fonda video with my mom and sisters as she showed us how to work up a sweat and rock the leg warmers!  In high school I had Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo videos memorized.

So all this got me to thinking about fitness idols and who we’ve looked to for inspiration over the years.  Nowadays, we have a plethora of diet gurus and celebrities to admire (or hate).  I love it when an actress, singer or model is honest about her fitness struggles and tells the truth about how hard she works to get her body looking the way it does.  When a celebrity says she eats whatever she wants and just chases her kids around to stay in shape, it absolutely drives me nuts.  These people are either lying or very lucky, and either way I think they are evil!

We're so fascinated when celebrities struggle to stay fit just like us.

As much as I love to read about what the celebrities are doing to keep their rock hard bods, I have to keep in mind that many of them have trainers, personal chefs and other staff dedicated to making sure they look fabulous at all times.  That’s why some of my biggest fitness idols are people I actually know, like a great group fitness instructor,  or people who are constantly training for marathons.  Also, I’m always really inspired when I see those individuals who successfully lose lots of weight and keep it off WITHOUT using some kind of crash diet.

Two of my fitness role models are in my family, my sister Harmony, and my sister-in-law Shannon.  Both of them have a few kids under their belt, but don’t let the carpool stickers on their SUVs fool you.  These ladies are hard-core.  They’re always training for the next race and make their workouts a priority despite basketball games and PTA meetings.

When I see people eating well, pushing their body to its limits and losing weight the RIGHT way, it really encourages me and makes me think, “If they can do it, so can I!”   Some days, we need all the motivation and accountability we can get!

It’s only natural to be a little envious when it seems to come easier to others than it does for yourself.  But rather than letting it get you down on yourself and the amazing body the Big Guy Upstairs gave you, let it inspire you and push you to the next level.  It’s never constructive to think negative thoughts about ourselves (Believe me, I know!).

So let’s hear it!  Who are your fitness idols of past and present and how have they impacted your health in a positive way?  You never know, you just might be someone’s health role model!


Filed under Working on Our Fitness