By Lauren Denos: 9/15/2015 (Nutrition)

Do you simply think that a protein powder is going to make all of your health and fitness dreams come true? Let's talk.

I hear from so many people on a regular basis how they are so healthy because the are using protein powders for their meals. Protein powders have their pros and cons but they do not make you automatically more healthful. Lets take a look at the pro's and cons.

Pros

It's Easy.
This has to be one of the best pro's of protein powders and bars. If you are one of the many people who get so caught up in work that you will forget to eat, or you just don't care enough about food to go eat a meal, then a protein shake is a great option for you. You would want to specifically go for a meal replacement shake since it will have more of the nutrients you need.


A Healthier Chocolate Treat.
Some protein shakes can be quite delicious and many protein bars can be very taste. They can be a much healthier chocolate treat than what you may normally reach for. Now this really depends on the quality of what you are reaching towards. I personally make my own chocolate protein bars and that way I can have my own quality control on what goes in them.

Keeps You From Over Eating.
If you are someone who is terrible with portion control then a protein shake or bar can be a great option when you do not have time to think about what you are doing. When you are eating a protein shake or bar they are pre-measured so you do not risk drinking two servings of your protein shake by accident.

Cons

Low Satisfaction.
There is a joy that comes with eating a real meal, shakes do not satisfy the same way. While there are some good tasting shakes, they are not all that way, plus even if a shake is good, drinking them all the time gets old. Protein shakes also generally will not fill you up the way a well rounded meal can. This can make it very hard for people to stick to a protein shake routine like many aim for. It is better to use them when you need them and eat real meals when you can, this way you do not get burnt out.

Not A Nutritional Equivalent
Protein shakes and bars are okay in a pinch, as a supplemental product or if it is the shake or nothing at all. But they are not going to give you the full nutritional profile of a good meal, although this is assuming you are eating healthy meals. When you have a healthy meal you are getting a variety of vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates, and although many protein shakes add vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, very few actually give you what would be optimal in your meal. Besides many people forget that with real food you are stimulating your metabolism more. Real food is broken down by the body in a specific way with specific timing. That being said if you choose to eat your protein in shake form at least make sure you are getting other real foods in your diet like more vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

You Are Not Learning Portion Control
Although you are not at risk of over eating when you are eating a protein shake or bar, it is not teaching you proper portion control for the real world. If you are only ever eating perfectly portioned scoops of protein or protein bars then you are not learning that you need a certain amount of protein, carbs, fats and vegetables with each meal and how to know by guesstimating how much you should have.

It Can Be Expensive
Protein powders can be expensive, especially the good ones. You do not want to be buying a cheap protein because they are usually made with less than optimal ingredients. Make sure you read what you are buying first!

Okay, lets say you decide you do want to go the protein powder or bar route. Then you have a few decisions to make. Let's look at them.

Types of Proteins

  • Soy - Some people still love soy, many are avoiding it due to the estrogen response the body can have to it.
  • Whey - Whey is derived from milk. Whey concentrate has a low lactose level and a little bit of fat. Whey Isolate is pretty close to fat free and is often lactose free.
  • Casin - Casin is a milk derived protein, this is not a good choice for the lactose intolerant.
  • Egg – Well, this is obviously derived from eggs. This protein is from the egg whites, so it is usually very low in fat.
  • Plant derived - This is a huge category all on it's own. There is hemp, pea, brown rice, quinoa, millet, spirulina, chia seeds, and other grains. If you are a gluten sensitive person you do want to make sure what grains are in your plant based protein powder.

Look at what additives and sweeteners they have. I prefer unsweetened, this way you can add your own to it. If there are any sweeteners I like to keep it at stevia. But some people hate stevia and prefer honey or a fruit based sweetener. This is a personal choice.

If you are going to use a powder for meals, then get a meal replacement shake. These have all the extra vitamins, minerals and a variety of nutrients you would want to get in your meal.

Quality meal replacement protein powders.
I have not had all of these, they are quality products but I will not testify to the taste except for Vega. This is by no means all of the good ones, this is just a few to give you an idea of where to start.

  • Vega One by Vega (this is my personal favorite for quality and taste)

  • Raw Meal by Garden of life

  • The Ultimate meal by 23rd Evolution

  • Amazing Meal by Amazing Grass

  • Veggie Meal Replacement by MRM



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-Lauren