Use of Protein Shakes in Weight Control
First, let me share my bias that the use of whole, minimally or unprocessed foods is the ideal base for all of our meals and snacks. They are typically more nutritious, and depending upon the food, are higher in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals while being lower in fat, sodium, calories, and cost. But they can also take more time to prepare for consumption than processed foods.
Some processed foods can be helpful with weight control. Protein shakes can be used as a satisfying snack or as a meal replacement when a person would otherwise be skipping a meal or eating something much less nutritious and more caloric. They are fast, convenient, and if prepackaged, are not perishable (although they do taste much better when cool).
Shakes as Meals
Breakfast is important – it breaks the overnight fast and gives us energy and nutrients to handle the day. It is also important for those trying to lose weight. Be sure to read my post about breakfast and weight control from July.
Many of us in medical weight control recommend that folks struggling with weight loss aim to consume about 20 grams or more of lean, heart healthy protein sources at each meal. A generous serving of protein is important for satiety after a meal. A lot of brands of protein shakes can easily meet this recommendation for about $2 - $3 per serving. Although pricey, it is still a better choice than skipping a meal or eating most fast food breakfasts (although there are some decent choices out there – see my post on fast food breakfast choices from April).
Most protein shakes will be calories-controlled enough to easily fit into any calories plan so there is not one specific brand I would choose over another. But be sure to view the Nutrition Facts panel of the shake before purchasing if you are trying to limit added sugars (regular shakes), avoid certain artificial sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and/or sucralose are commonly used in lower carb shakes), or have an allergy to milk proteins (used in most brands), wheat, or soy. Lactose sugar, the component of cow’s milk that causes gut discomfort for those who do not produce enough lactase enzyme, is not typically included in protein shakes but read the ingredient list to be sure. Ingredients are listed in order by ingredient weight.
If you use a protein shake as a snack, then be sure to limit calories if you are already eating three well-balanced meals. Calories-controlled protein shakes can be particularly useful for those of you who get very hungry in between meals as well as for those of you who tend to skimp on the protein content of your meals (especially light breakfast eaters). Here are a few products that are close to 100 calories, provide at least 15 grams of protein, and appear to give a good value for the price. Neither MyNetDiary nor I receive any financial support from the manufacturers of these products.
- Muscle Milk Light Vanilla Crème, 8.25 fl oz container
100 calories, 3 grams total carbs, 15 grams of protein
- EAS AdvantEdge Carb Control French Vanilla, 11 fl oz container
100 calories, 3 grams total carbs, 17 grams of protein
- Pure Protein Shake Vanilla Creme, 12 fl oz bottle
110 calories, 4 grams total carbs, and 23 grams of protein
And remember, if you have the time and inclination to buy and prepare your own meals and snacks, then do that as a first line of defense for a healthy, calories-controlled eating plan. But if you need a little help in getting a fast and easy, portable protein source, then consider prepackaged protein shakes as an option – a tool when needed.
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Kathy Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
Consulting Dietitian for MyNetDiary
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.