As a Nutritionist, I often get people asking me about smoothies and protein powders. Are they good for us? Which brands won’t taste chalky? And which are the best that to consume after a workout. So I figured I’d do a post about this very subject and break down:
Protein Powders & Meal Replacements in Review
So let me start off by saying that not everyone can have smoothies. Some people will feel instant cramping and bloating from smoothies and generally this is because their “digestive fire” is considered too weak for a smoothie that has a “cold” thermal property which can extinguish that digestive fire. In other words, raw foods for an already weak digestion can be crippling for some. So if you still want to have them, I would suggest adding warming spices like cayenne, cinnamon or ginger. Otherwise stay away from them until you’ve done enough digestive work where you can tolerate them.
So let me know start off by talking about some of the negative feedback about protein powders.
Argument number 1: Protein powders are bad for you because they contain an unhealthy proportion of high protein to extremely low fat.
Without the addition of fat (like found in nature with eggs for example), your body can’t process the protein effectively and you risk being deficient in vitamin A or D.
This is true many protein powders are simply that just protein. However while there are some people who do consume it with just water, I advise people to actually make full on shakes. Given the scenario, I’ve suggested adding in a low glycemic index fruit like berries, almond butter and some sort of greens boost like spirulina. So while it’s true they are outside their natural form, I still believe you can reap the benefits of it given you combine it properly to suit your needs.
Argument number 2: Protein powders are denatured
Yes, it’s true, most protein powders have been denatured. This means that they’ve been heated during the processing of the product that it denatures the amino acids making them essentially useless and possibly harmful to the body.
However understand that when you consume a protein, it denatures in your body because it needs to essentially break up the shell around the amino acids (your building blocks) so that you can actually assimilate it.
Argument number 3: Meal Replacements are in general a bad idea.
Listen I fully get the importance of teaching someone healthy habits about how to eat well. However I also believe that if it’s between a busy mother skipping breakfast because she’s trying to get little Johnny off to school or having a shake, then have the damn shake. Below I have included my top picks for good meal replacement shakes should you need one. And don’t feel guilty, just do your best.
Argument number 4: Protein powders are in general, poor quality.
This is true, many are. Many whey protein powders are from antibiotic, grain-fed cows, so make sure to read labels as it should read: “hormone and antibiotic free whey protein”. What is also true about the statement is that there are many artificial sugars found in protein powders including three in particular: aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose.
Aspartame itself is composed of two amino acids with the addition of methanol. When the body breaks down methanol it turns into formaldehyde and formic acid. Both are naturally present in the body in low manageable levels but a small additional amount is all it takes for formaldehyde to start becoming toxic.
Acesulfame also carries the risk of breaking down into a potentially dangerous substance when metabolized. Acetoacetamide is the resulting compound when this artificial sweetener is digested and some animal studies have looked into how it can affect thyroid glands.
The same residual issue happens with sucralose. One study showed that sucralose alters gut bacteria and remember, if you mess with your gut bacteria you’ll increase stress levels and bring on a potential inflammatory response.
Instead stevia is a more acceptable form that comes from a plant-based sugar.
So without further ado, here are my picks:
Protein Powders: Whey
If you can tolerate whey, this contains hormone and antibiotic free whey. I actually love the fact that it blends REALLY creamy with water and fruit, so I can skip the almond milk. In addition it contains CLA that has been shown in studies to reduce fat mass. But remember, drinking this isn’t your magic weight loss silver bullet. You need to be eating a whole foods (and portion control is key), getting enough water and exercise. It’s also important to evaluate if there are any hormonal factors at play that could be impeding your weight loss efforts.
How I’ve used this: After a workout, your body requires a 1:1 ratio of proteins to carbs. I try to get something in within the first half hour after exercise as the body is processing nutrients to repair itself at a dramatically elevated rate. However after two hours after exercise, that window is closed and the opportunity for any accelerated recovery is lost. I’ll add in a pinch of fat just so that the protein can be absorbed properly into the body.
Who should not be consuming whey: If you struggle from insulin resistance you may want to avoid whey. Dairy in general, contains IGF-1, which can increase insulin resistance up to 300% in a given a meal.
Protein Powders: Vegan
I have to say that I actually love this because it’s the only fermented vegan protein on the market for those who can’t tolerate whey. Their vegan ingredients are fermented in small batches using non-dairy probiotics. Plus being that it’s fermented, it’s pre-digested.
How I’ve used this:
I’m quite promiscuous with my protein powders in the regards that I don’t always use the same one. I also don’t have protein shakes every day. But when I do I try to give my body as much variety as possible.
Meal Replacements: My Picks
I have only recently discovered this when I recently attended the CHFA. I have to admit that I completely fell in love with it. It’s not on the market yet, but when it is, I urge you to try it (you will also TOTALLY dig the price point because its super affordable!). It blends quite creamy and it’s not gritty one bit. It contains 20g of plant-based protein, three servings of greens, 25% DV food-based vitamins and minerals and only 130 calories.
How I use it:
It’s no surprise that my schedule is insane. I wake up every morning at 6am to workout and then after I shower I start my day and generally don’t finish until 9 or 10pm in the evening. So if I’m pressed for time at breakfast I will have a meal replacement and I’ll skip the guilt thank you very much.
What…you like an MLM product? I know I was fully against all MLM products for the longest time. I found that many of the products are poor quality, the sales people have been incredibly pushy and truthfully it’s not a part of my business model as I do fine without it. However I recently gave Shakeology a go and actually felt fantastic off of it. However, you do have to be super careful to introduce it slowly because there are a ton of herbs in it that can cause an upset tummy without properly introducing it.
I had many concerns walking into this. Here they were:
My first question was what about pesticides? Hormones and Chemicals?
To test for analytes (pesticides, hormones, any chemical) analytical labs do liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. This allows for detection in the ppt (parts per trillion). Example: when they were sourcing their vanilla, they actually refused a source they were almost going to use because they tested for unwanted chemicals. They went over their launch date by at least a year because of this, looking for clean sources.
Some sites have said that they don’t test for rBGH for their whey protein variety.
BUT, they test for BST which ALSO tests for rBGH as well.
The other issue is – is it GMO-free?
To test for gmo they use PCR fingerprinting, which copies and sequences the DNA and can see if any foreign sequences have been inserted. This is the standard for certifying things as non-GMO.
Is it denatured?
No it is not denatured, rather it’s purified through a cold filtration method.
There are a ton of incredibly therapeutic foods and herbs in the product. The amount of each one: that I’m not aware of, but that can be said for any popular meal replacement shake out there. It’s sweetened with stevia and contains no added junk. Yes, the price point is high (for Canadians it would be almost $200 a bag) which is why most people become a coach to receive the discount. To get more info on it, click here.
How I use it:
Just like Vega Essentials, I’ll replace a meal if I’m pressed for time. It’s super rich in fibre and blends incredibly creamy even if you decide to skip the almond milk and just use water as your base.
So there you have it, my review on my best protein powders and meal replacements thus far. Do you have an opinion or question about these?