Monday, March 21, 2011

Protein Shake Breakdown

Weight Loss
Promising rapid and easy weight loss, diet shakes--sometimes called meal replacement shakes--are a popular form of weight control. Meal replacement theories have been around for a while now. They often advertise a shake at breakfast and lunch, and then a sensible dinner. The sensible dinner may be used for any meal, as long as the two other meals are the diet/protein shakes. There are a number of manufacturers offering a wide variety of shakes in a host of flavors to suit almost every taste. Diet shakes are supplied in dry form to be mixed with water and some manufacturers also produce ready to drink versions that are packaged in single-serving cartons or cans.

As a dietitian we read between the lines and classify these diet approaches as Very Low Calorie Diet or VLCD which provides a daily calorie of only 400 to 800 unlike 1200-2000 calories per day to maintain achieve optimal nutrition from macro and micronutrients to sustain health not weight. Researches show rather that the weight loss in VLCD in its first few weeks is evidently successful but in long term practice of this diet the person may suffer from extreme discomforts side effects.

Muscle Gain
Protein shakes also have a notorious reputation for those athletes not looking to “lose weight” but rather “gain weight” or “build muscle mass”.  I know most women despise husbands that just want to gain 10-20lbs, HA!  We all see them in every gym: those with fitness goals to build as much muscle as possible. You can pick them out easily; they are the ones lifting the free weights bigger than your head and have a protein shake the size of a 2 liter coke that they proudly guzzle down when leaving the gym.
However, few elite endurance athletes are interested in building bigger muscles. Leaner muscle yes, bigger muscle not so much.  Think about it, muscle are heavy, and in most endurance activities, such as half-marathon, marathon, or triathlon training, excess body weight is the enemy of performance.  Do not mistaken my message, strength is certainly beneficial to endurance performance and overall health, powerful legs, core and upper body will propel you forward easier and prevent injury.  My message is that it is possible and ideal to get all the strength you need to endurance train with lean but less bulky muscle.

The Science of Muscle Building
Based on what you see bodybuilders doing at the gym, you might assume that, when trying to build muscle, lifting heavy weights and consumption of large amounts of protein are a requirement.  But research has shown that, while lifting heavy weights is an absolute requirement for building muscle, eating lots of protein is not.

A study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston fed 4-oz and 12-oz portions of meat to adult volunteers and measured subsequent rates of muscle protein synthesis. They found that the rate of muscle protein synthesis was no higher after the 12-oz portion was eaten than after the 4-oz portion was eaten. In case you are wondering, a 4-oz portion of meat is probably smaller than what most of us normally eat for dinner.  FUEL Fact: There is approximately 7grams of protein to every one oz. of lean meat. Accordingly, 4 oz. of grill chicken breast yields 28g of protein!

Research in this area has determined that whole-body protein synthesis (or building of new lean muscle) achieves its maximum rate at a protein intake level of 1.4 g/kg body weight daily in weightlifters. This is higher than the government’s recommended daily allowance—but not higher than the protein intake level of the average American. Other research by Mike Rennie, one of the world’s foremost researchers in this area, showed that a single dose of 10 g of essential amino acids is sufficient to maximize acute muscle protein synthesis. That’s the amount of essential amino acids in a glass of skim milk!!!

Back to Shakes and Such
However, there is no one size fits all in the journey to a healthier, happy you, and like all things there are advantages and disadvantages to all weight loss approaches.

Advantages
Diet / Protein shakes offer a very convenient type of weight-loss diet or meal replacement. There is no need to prepare special meals, weigh and measure your portions or spend time cooking low-calorie meals. The shakes are designed to be nutritionally balanced, fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and have been weighed, measured and nutritionally analyzed to save you having to perform any complicated calculations.

Typical Nutritional Content
Although there is a wide variety of diet and protein shakes available, most shakes provide similar levels of nutrition. Diet shakes normally contain protein for muscle growth and repair plus carbohydrates for energy. Diet shakes are generally low-fat but often contain monounsaturated oils as they are healthy. Many shakes include soluble and insoluble fiber which are filling, good for your digestive system and help regulate blood glucose levels by slowing the emptying of your stomach contents into your small intestines. Some shakes contain artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors but these are best avoided if possible as some people are sensitive to these ingredients.

Disadvantages
Although diet and protein shakes usually result in rapid weight loss, there are a number of disadvantages associated with this type of restrictive eating plan. Replacing meals with diet and protein shakes can result in social exclusion at family meal times which can be stressful and may affect your compliance. Using diet shakes does not teach portion control or healthy food selection. Therefore, you are not dealing with the real issue of why you struggle with food or weight; dieters are just using the meal replacements as a crutch. Subsequently it is not uncommon for dieters to regain their lost weight when they return to their regular pattern of eating. Drinking diet and protein shakes may become repetitive or boring which may limit your compliance. Once food is started again old patterns emerge with added pounds.

Other Disadvantages of Meal Replacement Programs:
1.Health problems and discomforts such as fluid imbalance, dry mouth and skin, headache, impaired range of motion (orthostatic hypotension), body malaise, hair loss, irregular menstruation and cold intolerance. For severe cases, it will trigger psychosis, gall bladder disease and gout.

2. It can affect the behavioral patterns of a person due to body system imbalances. This usually occurs to those who are extremely obese and placed themselves into this diet to attain self-esteem. So much so that if they fail and see bad results from the program goes into mental breakdown.

3. Unhealthy dieting and shifting to effortless way of dieting. The effortless manner of the diet makes people lazy in choosing the right food to actually use for the program.
4. Intake of calories are jeopardize instead the diet is motivated by just losing weight so to look skinny. Again not focusing on the lifestyle choices that got them into the problem in the first place.

Considerations
Diet and protein shakes fall into the category of very low-calorie diets. Very low-calorie diets promote rapid weight loss but can also leave you feeling hungry, tired and nauseous. When training for a marathon it is imperative that athlete receives the vitals nutrients that require for training and recovery. I am certain that drinking two protein shakes and one sensible a meal a day will NOT get you through long training days and will leave an athlete weak and unrecovered for their next training session. This will lead to injury and not completing the race.  

In the same breath I realize life is busy and time slips away and these shakes are convenient. I never said they couldn’t be utilized in a balanced healthy lifestyle. I am OK if you drink one for breakfast most days and one for lunch some days. Never use them as two meal replacements more than 3 days out of 7 days. They are great as recovery drinks or “post run” snacks after a long workout lasting 60 minutes or longer. The balanced nutrients and protein found in many of these shakes would be perfect!
However, I cannot stop you from giving it a try if that is what you desire. I do advice seek medical advice before starting any severely restrictive diet especially if you have any serious underlying medical condition such as coronary heart disease or diabetes.

Look for different types of protein powders on Wednesday’s FUEL Better Blog

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