“I drink a protein shake in the morning. Is it good for me?”
This is a very common question that I am asked during or after my nutrition seminars. Usually the person bought the protein powder from a friend or family member, or a “health store” or “nutrition store” employee. They were probably told that drinking the shake will make them feel fuller, give them all kinds of vitamins, help build muscle and possibly assist with weight loss.
Unfortunately, those claims are not proven, nor regulated! Actually, many claims on food packages and supplements don’t have ANY proof. When it comes to supplements, there is very little regulation so you can’t be sure of what you’re getting. This lack of a regulation can result in contamination, as occurred in 2010 with two protein supplements containing unwanted levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic.
Here are 3 reasons that you probably do not need to use protein powder in your daily routine:
- Most people already eat enough protein.
Did you know that a normal, healthy individual only requires 0.36g per pound of body weight each day? For someone who weighs 150 pounds, that’s 55g per day. It actually doesn’t take much food to give you 55g of protein. A 3-ounce portion of chicken provides about 25 grams of protein; 2 eggs provide around 12 grams and 1 oz of almonds gives 6g. [For more on how much protein is in different foods, check out my blog post on protein in foods, which includes lists and charts!] The Institute of Medicine also provides a recommended range for protein intake, suggesting protein should make up 10% to 35% of your total calories. If you take in 2,000 calories, this translates to a range of 50 to 175 grams of protein.The truth is that average protein intake in America is more than adequate.There’s not a need for protein shakes unless there’s something that keeps you from eating enough food. Sometimes people going through cancer treatment, or having side effects after it’s over, cannot eat enough food or protein, because of difficulty eating or swallowing, or because nothing tastes right. In these cases, the meal supplements can help make up deficits.
- Eating protein from real food gives you extra nutrients in addition to protein.Some use protein shakes in place of meals. The problem with this is that real food gives you a wide variety of nutrients. The chicken not only gives you protein, but it also provides vitamins and minerals. Eggs give choline and healthy fat along with the protein. Along with protein, almonds have fiber, b vitamins, vitamin E and plant nutrients called phytochemicals. All of these nutrients are essential for optimal health. Our bodies prefer to get our nutrients from food, not pills or powders.
You get more bang for your buck by choosing real food sources of protein, rather than powders and shakes.
- Protein powders often have additives your body doesn’t need.Depending on the brand of protein powder that was sold, it may or may not have to meet the same FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations as “conventional” foods and drug products. If you choose to use protein supplements, always read ingredient lists to make sure you know what you are consuming.If you don’t recognize something, consult with someone who knows (preferably not the person selling you the product!). Often they add a bunch of artificial sweeteners and powder versions of vitamins. These might not cause harm, but they’re not doing anything to help you.
Make Your Own Shake!
Instead of buying the protein powder, I suggest you make your own protein shake out of real food!
Try out this simple recipe that gives you protein and other nutrients from real food. Plus, it tastes DELICIOUS!
- 1 medium banana (frozen)
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 cup milk (skim, 1% or soy)
- 1-2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 cup spinach
- ice, if desired
- Put all ingredients in the blender. Blend and ENJOY!
This real food shake with no added sweeteners gives you:
- 15g protein,
- 1100mg potassium,
- vitamin A (68%),
- vitamin C (35%),
- Vit D (25%),
- Calcium (35%),
- vit b-6 (45%),
- 300 filling calories
- only 2.2g saturated fat
THAT is what you can call a “health shake”!
If you want more information, I found these science-based articles to be helpful:
- WebMD article on vitamins and supplements
- Kaplan.edu written by a PhD in nutrition about protein powders.
- Quick and Dirty Tips Nutrition Guru discusses whether americans eat too much protein.
More on supplement: FDA information site on supplements and regulations