Customization Tips for Protein Shakes
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Protein shakes are not just a fad drink. Many athletes love them; some vegans depend on them; and those who don't have much time in the morning enjoy them as a breakfast on the go. Ready-made protein shakes packaged in neat little bottles are available in most supermarkets. Muscle Milk, Odwalla and Lean Body are some of the popular brands. Keep in mind, though, that not all of these ready-to-drink products are created equal. Some offer a substantial amount of protein while others consist mostly of carbohydrates with a not-so-impressive protein content. Plus, packaged protein shakes tend to be on the pricey side and don't always deliver a perfect flavor for your personal liking. To save some bucks and have a healthy drink that actually tastes delicious, it is best to make your own. A foolproof way to customize protein shakes is to understand the pros and cons of available protein ingredients, then choose the ones that best suit your conditions and goals. Sweeteners and other flavoring ingredients also shouldn't be taken lightly. As the famous saying goes: you are what you eat. Be very selective of what you put in your blender!
Who may benefit most from drinking protein shakes?
- Athletes and those who are regularly engaged in vigorous exercise, such as weight lifting, running and any competitive sports - Although protein shakes alone do not increase muscle mass, they can enhance muscle strength and facilitate the repair of muscle damage that may occur during a strenuous workout. In other words, drinking protein shakes may help improve stamina and allow athletes to recover faster from minor injuries.
- Vegans and vegetarians - Due to the lack of meat in their diets, these individuals may not get enough protein from their regular meals.
- People whose diets are not very stellar - There's no need to worry about protein deficiency if you eat well-balanced meals on a regular basis. Those who usually don't have time or resources to maintain proper eating habits, however, might be able to improve their health by supplementing their diets with protein shakes. For example, instead of grabbing three donuts for breakfast, only take one with a big glass of protein shake that is low-sugar and vitamin-rich. This will give you more energy without causing a sugar crash later in your day or a giant spare tire later in your life.
Different Types of Protein for Protein Shakes
Antioxidant-rich, low-fat and packed with vitamins and minerals
May not be safe for those with nut allergies
Casein protein powder
Low in fat and carbs, may enhance protein synthesis in the body and protect colon cancer
Its slow digestibility may not be ideal for athletes who want to quickly replenish their bodies with amino acids after a strenuous workout
Provide several nutrients including calcium and vitamins
Contain cholesterol and could be a source of foodborne illness, such as Salmonella infections, if not pasteurized
Good source of dietary fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids
It's a mild laxative and not a low-fat ingredient, therefore may not be good for the body if consumed in large amounts.
Prime source of calcium, patassium and vitamin D
Contains cholesterol and is a bit high in calories (unless you choose a fat-free or low-fat versions)
Flavorful and rich in dietary fiber, calcium, vitamins and minerals
Certain brands may contain high amounts of fat and sugar
Cholesterol-free, rich in vitamin B, and promotes cardiovascular health
High-carb and doesn't provide as much protein as cow's, soy and almond milk
Soy protein powder
Easily digestible, cholesterol-free and low-carb
May exacerbate some thyroid disease symptoms
Packed with nutrients and may help lower bad cholesterol
May aggravate symptoms in people with thyroid problems
Cheap, antioxidant-rich and may help lower bad cholesterol
May worsen thyroid problems and contains a distinct aroma that can be off-putting to some
Packed with iron, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins
Harmful for people with celiac disease
Whey protein powder
Fast-absorbing, very low in fat and carbs, and may help increase protein synthesis in the body
Comes in various flavors and offers many nutrients, such as calcium and vitamins
Contains cholesterol (unless it's a fat-free version) and possibly a high amount of added sugar, depending on the brands
Additional Ingredients for Protein Shakes
To make it sweet - fruit juices, fresh fruits, canned fruits, honey, syrup, sugar, artificial sweeteners
To add texture - fruits, vegetables, ground oats, coconut flakes
To add aroma - cocoa powder, fruits or fruit juices, fresh or dried herbs, green tea powder, brewed tea, brewed coffee, any flavoring extract you like
Customization Tips for Protein Shakes
- If you like your protein shakes to be on the thin side, be generous with liquid ingredients, such as milk and juice. Avoid overusing thickening agents, such as peanut butter, tofu, yogurt and ground oats.
- If you prefer it thick, don't be afraid to use a lot of texturing ingredients. It might be easier, though, to start with a thin shake, then add more ingredients until the desirable consistency is achieved.
- To make your healthy shake light and refreshing, be sure to utilize citrusy fruits or juices as your main ingredients. Plus, try adding some aromatic herbs, such as lemongrass, basil or mint.
- If you're diabetic, choose ingredients that are fiber-rich and low-sugar. Flaxseed and wheat germ are great choices of protein whereas rice milk is something to avoid. Ground oats and fresh veggies are also very diabetic-friendly. To sweeten your protein shakes, stick with 100% natural fruit juice, fresh fruits (non-starchy) or artificial sweeteners.
- For athletes, it might be wise to invest on whey protein. It is, according to WebMD, the most fast-absorbing protein supplement that effectively replensishes the body after strenuous workouts.
- If you have heart problems or want to lose weight, go with low-fat protein sources, such as protein powder, reduced-fat or fat-free milk, tofu, wheat germ, or pasteurized egg whites. Whole milk, fat-laden peanut butter and whole eggs are not your friends. Flaxseed, although not low in fat, could also be a heart-friendly ingredient if used in moderation.
- If you're on a gluten-free diet, avoid wheat germ, oats and flavoring extracts that contain grain alcohol. The other mentioned ingredients are inherently gluten-free.
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