Protein shakes and smoothies seem to be all the rage right now. Scroll through any social media outlet and you will undoubtedly find a flurry of sweaty selfies with some blended beverage in hand. There are so many varieties and brands of shakes out there, how could you possibly know which one to choose?
Years ago I started making smoothies on my own when I was looking for way to eat breakfast more regularly and shed a few extra pounds. I was a new Physician Assistant working long hours and notoriously skipping the “most important meal of the day”, yet everything I read said in order to lose weight and maintain energy throughout the day, eating breakfast was the key. I started using a basic grocery store protein powder and adding in all my favorite fruits and veggies to try and make it “healthy” and taste half-way decent. I thought this would be a great way to help keep me full all morning and get me to my goal weight. I quickly became accustomed to making my morning shake on the way out the door and it sure did keep me full most of the morning. But I started to see the scale go in the wrong direction. I thought, how could this be?? I following the rules! I am eating 6 small meals a day, exercising regularly and eating breakfast. WHAT IS HAPPENING!!
I thought for sure it had to be the smoothies, so I quickly eliminated them from my diet. Yes, I saw the scale tip slightly in the right direction, but I was hungry, tired and quite honestly..cranky! I decided to re-examine my shake to see if this was truly the problem. When I sat down and really looked at what was in there like calories, sugar, protein content as well as my add-ins I started to see why I was not getting the results I wanted. I was adding way to much to an already calorie packed protein powder, and the powder itself was not high quality. What do I mean?
No one protein powder is created equal and I am here to give you my tips on how to get the most out of your protein shake without ruining your waistline.
If you are looking to make a smoothie that is going to keep you fuller longer or to use for post-workout, it should definitely contain protein. For weight loss you would want to target around 80-120g of protein per day. My mistake was I was often choosing the absolute highest protein content I could find, which in the end was too heavy for me and led to weight gain. There are many different types of protein on the market including whey, pea, hemp or soy just to name a few. If you are allergic to dairy, you want to stay away from whey which is derived from lactose and go for a pea or hemp protein. Soy protein is somewhat controversial as it often comes from genetically modified sources that can contain chemicals that affect hormone imbalance in some people. The powder that has worked best for me and my weight contains a combination of whey, pea, rice, chia, quinoa, flax, sacha and oat protein. (visit this link for more) This combination of proteins helps build lean muscle and reduces cravings.
Sugars. No Artificial Sweeteners!
I had no clue there were so many types of sugar that could cause weight gain. You should not use any splenda, sucralose, aspartamine, saccharin, or equal. These ingredients can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, headaches and weight gain. Check your labels. Make sure your powder contains non-GMO sugars derived from natural resources like stevia. Also ensure that you are not ADDING too much sugar to your smoothie by overloading it with fruit. Yes, fruit is super healthy and includes much needed natural sugar. But we often add way more to a smoothie than we need to. This increases the calorie content and can actually cause weight gain. For me, that was part of the problem. Instead of bananas, strawberries and pineapple, I just do half a banana or a handful of berries. This will add the sweetness you need naturally without adding the calories.
This was one of my biggest mistakes. I was so focused on the protein content I did not think to look at the calories and by the time added all my “goodies” in there it was upwards of 600 calories! When choosing a protein powder try to keep the calories of the powder itself at 150 or less. This allows you to add in the ingredients you enjoy like a little unsweetened coconut milk and fruit without boosting the calorie content too high. Other add ins like nut butters or oats are amazing for taste and bulk, but are also calorie busters. I LOVE a chocolate peanut butter shake, so instead of using peanut butter, I use PB powder which has less fat and I can just add a teaspoon to get the same flavor. This one is my favorite available on amazon.. https://bit.ly/2s1heSE
A big reason why my smoothies were high in calories and fat, was the type of milk I was adding in. I was unaware that there are soooo many to choose from that are great for smoothie making but won’t add the bulk. I like to stick with unsweetened milk. Cow’s milk, even skim, can add a lot of extra calories and sugar to a smoothie. I use unsweetened coconut or almond milk and stick to ½ cup so I do not go overboard and add ½ cup of water as well. Also, stay away from milk products in the powder itself as these are often used as bulking agents for cheaper powders and can cause GI distress.
This one is simply for safety sake and I was unaware of the added ingredients going into my smoothies. Did you know that a study done by Consumer Reports revealed that 15 popular protein powders contained arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, some at unsafe levels? Seriously. While some heavy metals are naturally occurring in the earth, others seep in the soil through pesticides and fertilizers used to grow ingredients.
With all the different protein shakes on the market today, make sure you do your research and use these tips to help you along the way. I have tried over 6 different kinds over the years, but my absolute favorite is of course..Shakeology. The ingredients, vitamins, minerals and flavor cannot be beaten, but it has also contributed to maintaining my ideal weight for the last 2 years.
Want to try to win a free Shakeology Sampler or Shakeology Shaker bottle?
To enter to win:
1. Subscribe Now at the bottom of this page!
2. Follow me on Instagram.
3. After completing those two, tag me in any health related post on your feed with >> @michele.neskey