Protein Powders And Shakes

What You Need To Know To Find The Best Product (And Avoid The Wrong Ones)

By MS, CNS, MMC, Edited By PEERtrainer

Protein powders are for many people an ideal meal replacement. They allow one to easily "crowd out" foods that can be toxic or cause weight gain, while allowing one to also pursue a diet rich in greens, cruciferous vegetables and other nutrient dense foods.

Protein shakes are very popular with members of the PEERtrainer community. However, there are many different kinds of protein powders and shakes, and people have a lot of questions in this area.

We created this article to answer these questions for you!

Related Article: How Green Tea Prevents Weight Gain

An Introduction To Your Options:

You've likely seen hemp (lower protein, higher cost than other kinds), soy (low in sulfur-containing amino acids), and casein (highly allergenic) powders on health-food shelves. Most better quality powders, on the other hand, contain either whey or a rice/pea blend protein.

Blending rice and pea proteins creates a complementary amino acid profile. So if, say, pea protein is low in methionine, rice protein fills that amino acid gap. Let's look at the benefits of both whey and rice/ pea proteins.

Whey scores highest for biological value (BV), which measures the amount of protein your body absorbs and uses. Your body utilizes whey very quickly, making it perfect for a post-workout fuel or first thing in the morning. In general, animal protein has a high BV.

However, protein that has a high biological value can help create high levels of a hormone known as "insulin-like growth factor 1." This hormone is critical when you are growing and during puberty.

Additionally, research has shown that as you get older, this hormone can speed up aging and is associated with higher levels of cancer. Dr. Fuhrman calls this the "Protein Paradox."

Dr. Fuhrman goes on to say in his new book "Super Immunity" that "The overall goal is to....reduce the amount of protein from animal sources and increase the amount of protein from plant sources."

JJ Virgin, who we also work closely with at PEERtrainer says that during a cleanse, you absolutely don't want to consume whey protein. Her reasoning is that there are so many different reactions that people can have to dairy. Additionally, she says that if you have acne, dairy is the very first thing to pull out from your diet.

Benefits Of Protein Shakes, A Good Protein Shake Recommendation:

On the other hand, a rice/pea protein blend provides a lower BV that creates a slower, more sustained energy. Rice/pea blends provide an ideal meal-replacement, pre-workout protein, or late-night snack.

Because processing removes most of the lactose, most dairy-sensitive people do fine with whey. However, other protein components in whey can be potentially highly allergenic. If you're vegan (whey is, after all, an animal-derived product), or you need a hypoallergenic protein, or otherwise want to avoid dairy, rice/pea makes an ideal protein option.

As a general rule dairy is one of the classically more reactive foods. And this is before any of the "crap" we do to cows happens.

Quality also proves important. Many commercial whey products contain artificial flavors and sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and other chemical concoctions you'd rather not put in your body. Manufacturers also use high-heat extraction and other processes that damage the fragile amino acids.

Likewise, some commercial brands use lower-quality rice/ pea proteins from genetically modified peas or rice manufactured with potentially allergenic grains.

Therefore, we recommend a high quality rice/pea protein powder because a) it is non-allergenic, b) it is cost effective, and c) helps in your "daily detox" process.

Additionally, at PEERtrainer over the years we have seen that it is easy for people to get animal protein and difficult to get plant protein. So whenever we have a chance, we guide people towards the plant-based option.

Why Are Protein Shakes Popular?

Here are 10 science-based arguments that support why many people include a professional-brand protein shake in their food routine.

1. Convenience.

Whether you're stranded at the airport with a three-hour delay or can't fit lunch into your hectic office schedule, a protein powder shake can provide the nutrients and high-quality protein to keep you satiated for hours without refrigeration and other hassles many commonly available foods present.

A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, for instance, found protein powders a safe, effective, convenient alternative to protein in whole foods. Think of protein powder as the perfect portable on-the-go food for the gym, car, hotel, or anywhere else you need an easy meal or snack.

2. Your Body Doesn't Store Protein.

You might not know this, but unlike carbohydrates and fat, your body can't store protein. Think back to your high school biochemistry lecture about all the things protein does in your body.

Here are a few: it helps produce hormones, enzymes, and antibodies, repairs body tissue, and builds cartilage and bones. It is also essential in the muscle building and repair process. To do these things, your body needs highly absorbable essential amino acids, which undenatured rice/pea protein powder provides optimal amounts.

3. Protein Powder Is Inexpensive

Tally up how much you spend on that Starbucks venti latte or drive-through breakfast sandwich. (Never mind the empty calories you're getting.) Better yet, check out your room-delivery continental breakfast bill during your next hotel stay. A protein shake delivers far more nutrients and satiation than chain-food concoctions and stale pastries for about what you'd spend on a large coffee or tea. Everyone wants to save money these days, and a protein shake provides the ultimate nutrient-packed bargain.

4. Customization

Famous coffee chains let you custom-create your favorite sugar-loaded "adult milkshakes." Design your own smoothie with that same flexible - albeit healthier - approach for a filling, nutrient-rich snack or meal replacement.

With its slower, sustained release, rice/pea protein makes an optimal meal-replacement base that blends easily with an endless combination of good fats (like coconut milk and nut butters), chia seeds and other fiber sources, greens and reds powders, and any other healthy booster you enjoy (unsweetened cocoa powder, for instance), to create a far more nutrient-dense alternative to prepackaged meal-replacement shakes.

At PEERtrainer, we like to add seeds to our shake recipes to increase the fiber content and get some healthy essential fatty acids. Seeds we love are Chia, Hemp and freshly ground flaxseed meal.

5. Plays An Important Role In Fat Burning

Protein stimulates cholecystokinin, which tells your brain to stop eating, and curbs ghrelin, your hunger hormone. That partially explains why a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded a protein breakfast satiates you far better than Special K, skim milk, and a banana.

Likewise, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine (with 1,209 adults, in fact) showed a protein-rich diet helps you to lose weight and - as importantly - maintain that goal weight much more effectively than carbohydrates. A meal-replacement protein powder or a customized smoothie means you're much less likely to succumb mid-morning to the doughnuts your favorite co-worker brought in or that 3 p.m. snack-machine urge.

6. Helps Boost Immune System

A high-quality protein powder delivers immune-boosting protein components with names you're unlikely to hear at your next dinner party: lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, growth factors, and active peptides. Lactoferrin, for instance, provides anti-bacterial and anti-microbial benefits.

Rice/ pea proteins also provide precursors to build glutathione, your body's most important antioxidant that helps, for instance, lymphocytes detoxify potential carcinogens. Rice/ pea proteins also offer highly absorbable cysteine and methionine, two sulfur-containing amino acids that a study in The Journal of Nutrition concluded boost immunity.

7. Steadies blood sugar

A study in The Journal of Nutrition showed mice fed whey protein isolate developed improved insulin sensitivity compared to a high-fat diet. Protein also steadies blood sugar levels to reduce cravings, keep you full and focused, burn fat, and decrease your risk for diabetes and other complications. Without blood sugar spikes and crashes, you don't experience brain fog, mid-afternoon fatigue, rampant mood swings, and all kinds of other problems that carb-heavy foods frequently create.

8. Detoxification

Your liver requires protein to detoxify, which is an ongoing process and not just a twice-yearly-and-you're-done affair. Rice/ pea protein powder makes the perfect detoxification food because it's hypoallergenic, gives your digestive system a much-deserved break, and provides your body optimal amino acids to effectively detoxify.

For an effective everyday cleanse, choose a rice/ pea protein powder with added nutrients that aid your liver and other organs in detoxification. For a more comprehensive cleanse, you want to combine a high-quality hypoallergenic protein powder with a gentle fiber powder under expert guidance.

9. Added nutrients

You know the benefits that high-quality supplements can provide, but you don't always have the time or patience to sort numerous capsules or determine each nutrient's most efficacious amounts. A high-quality protein or meal-replacement powder can combine protein with potent amounts of therapeutic vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and other nutrients hard to get in food.

10. Complements A Nutrient Dense Diet

There is also a vast body of research that shows that high micronutrient intake is correlated with improved immune function, reduced levels of hunger, weight loss and reduced levels of disease. At PEERtrainer we have seen overwhelming evidence that high consumption of nutrient dense greens and vegetables lead to weight loss and increased energy.

However, we also see that bringing a nutrient dense diet to a high enough level to crowd out toxic foods is extremely difficult for most people. We pay close attention to the reality of how people live. It seems from our perspective that a plant-based protein shake can be very helpful for many people. Additionally, the research shows that both approaches can lead to good outcomes.

What Brands Does PEERtrainer Recommend? What Are The Best Protein Shakes?

For those of you who have been part of PEERtrainer for many years, you know that constantly looking at different parts of the health and fitness market, and guiding people to what we see to be best in class. As a general rule we would guide people toward plant-based protein powders and shakes.

We also would guide people away from any product with synthetic ingredients or high levels of sugar. We also observe that people have an increasing awareness of the need to increase the quality of anything they put in their body. So any product, that meets these general guidelines, we would probably feel comfortable recommending.

One company that we have developed a strong comfort level in this area is Thorne Research. We have also developed a direct relationship with them, and have begun to incorporate some of their plant-based protein powders into our new Cleanse Program. If you are interested in this particular product line, we have created a page where you can learn your different options, and also buy separate from the program if that is something on your shopping list.

We will also be on the lookout for other high quality products in this area. We would also recommend that one use protein shakes for meal replacement and detoxification, but for overall nutrition please also focus on micronutrient rich foods such as greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, berries, seeds- the whole class of superfoods that are overwhelmingly correlated with improved health.

Related PEERtrainer Article: If You Want More Energy You Must Look At CoQ10


Do Protein Shakes Work?

Protein shakes work really well, depending on what you are looking to accomplish. For weight loss, detoxification and general well-being, pea/rice protein shakes work incredibly well. They fill you up, get your body working well and also help crowd out the other junk that you might otherwise eat. If you are looking to build muscle, whey protein has a very proven track record. However, you want to make sure you eat a highly vegetable rich diet if you follow this path.

Are Protein Shakes Good For You?

The answer to the question is that context is everything. If your diet is very high in protein shakes, and low in a variety of other foods, that is not healthy. If you are eating a diet high in natural fiber, low in sugar, low in processed foods and high in vegetables, protein shakes can be very good. Especially the vegan kind where you are not increasing your daily animal protein levels.

What Is The Best Time Of The Day To Have A Protein Shake?

Breakfast is the best time of day to have a protein shake. Period. Breakfast is the time of day where people consume the most sugar. A protein shake can fill you up for a long time, so blending some kale or spinach into a pea/rice protein shake with some coconut milk will give you a very broad array of powerful nutrients.

Question:"I swear by Designs for Health's Paleo Meal DF (dairy-free) but am still and forever, it seems, on the lookout for a high-quality protein powder without any kind of sweetener, artificial or natural. Any thoughts on this?"

Answer:(From JJ) "I used to use that shake prior to the Thorne Vegalite but now i am hooked on chocolate! Look for a shake with 5 grams or less of sugar and nothing artificial and you are in good shape!"

Question:"I find Designer Whey protein powder to work best for me. I fills me up without bloating like some soy protein powders I have used in the past. Glad you pinged the soy!

Answer: (From JJ) "Whey may work for you though I would always emphaszie rotating with pea/rice for the long term until you do an actual trial removal of dairy for at least 2 weeks (3-4 weeks better) it is impossible to know what reactions you are getting as they are generally mild and we get used to them."

Question:"I think that's one of those things when it's best to listen to your own body. The one protein powder I was able to use without getting nauseous was Body Fortress, or better known as the cheap stuff at Wal-Mart!"

Answer:(From JJ) "There is a big difference in protein quality which is what drives the price up."

Question: "What about Spirulina protein shakes?"

Answer:(From JJ) "It depends what else is in the shake. I prefer a blend like pea/rice for a better amino acid profile."

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Joel Fuhrman, MD. Super Immunity

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