We all know protein is an essential part of a balanced diet. Whether you get it from plant or animal sources, you need it to stay healthy.
Protein shakes are a staple in the supplement regimen of active individuals, especially those doing serious training. They're used before and after workouts and as meals, hosting a number of different benefits.
What should be in your shake? How much do you drink and how often? Let's take a closer look at protein shakes.
How Protein Shakes Can Help
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are essential for building strong bones and lean muscle and maintaining the integrity of the body's tissues, like the skin. Typically, users of protein shakes turn to them for two reasons:
Protein shakes help put much needed protein and nutrients back into the body after vigorous exercise. They help the body recover, especially the muscles, which can help prevent injury or soreness. These shakes restore glycogen, which fuels muscles and repairs damage. Taken before a workout, they can provide the fuel the body needs in a form that's easier on the digestive system before rigorous activity. Drink your pre-workout shake 30 minutes to one hour before your workout and your post-workout shake within 30 minutes of ending activity.
Protein shakes can also be used as a meal replacement to help control weight. By replacing a meal or two a day with a shake, you can cut your daily caloric intake, but be careful not to use them as a main food source. According to Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic, drinking them too much can cause you to be deficient in vital nutrients and some can be high in calories. Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends drinking one within an hour of getting up to keep you full later into the day and get the metabolism going right away.
What You Need
Protein shakes usually consist of protein, carbohydrates and fats, in varying amounts. The recommended daily intake of protein for adults is between 45 and 56 g per day, or about 20 percent of your daily calories, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). To get more energy for exercise, look for one that has more carbohydrates and to lose weight, find one that has a higher protein content. These shakes, which come either in powder form or premixed liquids, are available in a variety of flavors.
Here are the most common sources of protein and their benefits, according to WebMD:
Whey -- For more intense workouts, whey protein is quickly absorbed by the body and quickly digested. Found in milk, whey is best used after a rigorous workout.
Soy -- Created from soybeans, this form of protein is easy to digest and rich in antioxidants. It's best used as a meal replacement.
Casein -- This protein is also a great option for meal replacement and you can even take it before bed because the body absorbs it slowly. The dominant protein within milk, casein stays in the body the longest.
Other common sources of protein in these shakes and mixes are eggs and rice.
Helpful Protein Tips
Here are some other tips for buying and using protein shakes or powers:
Check the sugar content, especially on flavored options. The recommended daily intake of sugar and solid fats for adults is between five and 15 percent of daily caloric intake, according to the USDA, so don't blow it all on your shakes, especially if you drink them before and after exercise.
Read all ingredients, especially if you have food allergies or are lactose intolerant.
Protein powders can be mixed with water, juice or milk (you can use low fat, soy or almond milk to reduce calories). You can also blend them with ice to improve the texture.
If you prefer a natural (unflavored) protein, try adding fruit and natural sweeteners like agave syrup to enhance the flavor and nutritional benefit without too many extra calories.
Protein shakes can help you achieve the lean, toned physique you're looking for. Shop smart and time your shakes properly for the best results.
Products you may like:
Dymatize Nutrition Elite Whey Protein Rich Chocolate Why you may like this product? Available in chocolate and
vanilla, this why protein
powder contains no added fat,
aspartame, sucrose or fillers.
This product offers 23 g of
protein per serving, is low in
carbohydrates and fat and
contains enzymes to promote
CytoSport Muscle Milk Chocolate Why you may like this product? Available in more than a dozen
flavors, this product provides
32 g of protein per serving as
well as vitamins and minerals.
Using this supplement can help
increase creatine levels and
build lean muscle.
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