Having a shake instead of a full meal can provide the necessary calories and nutrients to work toward a healthier diet, but there’s no guarantee that it will make a positive difference. Please note: Not all shakes are nutritionally equal, so it’s important to spend some time examining nutrition facts and ingredient labels before you spend your money. (If you have a question about what’s the right shake for you, please contact me.)

The Benefits

One of the benefits of shakes is that they’re packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, so they can conveniently substitute a meal while still meeting your daily nutritional  requirements. Plus, some shakes tend to have fewer calories than full meals. So if your goal is to lose weight, using a shake to replace one meal every day can help you reduce your daily calorie count and over time it can produce gradual, consistent weight loss.

Protein types and uses

Whey protein is one of the most commonly used proteins and is best for day-to-day use. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested. It helps boost energy and can reduce stress levels. Whey isolates and concentrates are best to use after a workout.

Soy protein is another common choice. It helps reduce high cholesterol and can ease symptoms of menopause for some women. It can also help with osteoporosis by helping build bone mass.

Other types of protein include:

1. Egg protein, released more slowly than whey, can be taken throughout the day.
2. Milk proteins help support immune function and enhance muscle growth.
3. Rice protein, which is 100 percent plant-based, is a good choice for vegetarians or for people who don’t consume dairy products. It’s also gluten-free.
4. Pea protein is highly digestible, hypo-allergenic and economical.
5. Hemp protein is also 100 percent plant-based. It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Matching a powder to your needs

How do you decide which protein powder is best for you? Here are some general guidelines, based on the outcomes you’re looking for:

Build muscles — For muscle growth, choose a protein powder with a high biological value (a value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein). Whey protein and whey isolates are your best options.
Lose weight — To lose weight, choose shakes with no added sugars or dextrins/maltodextrins (sweeteners made from starch). Don’t choose those with added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), as they help promote muscle growth and weight gain.
Stay vegetarian or vegan — If you are vegetarian or vegan, don’t choose milk-based protein shakes (e.g., whey, milk proteins); instead use 100 percent plant proteins.
Go low-sugar with diabetes — Patients who have diabetes should choose protein shakes without added sugar (don’t choose protein powders with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients). It’s also best to look for a shake that’s low in carbohydrates (less than 5 grams per serving).
Limit protein for kidney disease — People with kidney disease can’t tolerate a lot of protein at one time. Stick with powders that have a lower-range protein content (10-15 grams per serving).
Avoid gastrointestinal problems — Patients with irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance should choose powders that don’t contain lactose sugars, artificial sweeteners or dextrins/maltodextrins. If you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, don’t choose powders that contain gluten.

A few things to consider:

Post exercise, you should consume protein within 30-60 minutes of a workout. That’s when your muscles are most responsive to the use of protein for the repair and growth process.

To control your weight, it’s best to consume a steady supply of protein at each meal and with snacks to help keep you full.

Thank you,
Dr. Kent S Lambrecht, Pharm.D., FAARM, ABAAHP