Protein Shake vs. Real Food – Are Shakes the New Black?

Jeff Baldelli
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Do We Really Need Protein Shakes?

Ahh, Protein Shakes! The industry that has sprung up around protein shakes is huge, and the multi-millions of people who consume protein powders are not a small or insignificant group at all. There are several reasons for this raging interest.

As we’ve discussed already, the slow burning longer-lasting energy (compared to carbohydrates and fats) of proteins is the main reason for the increased popularity of protein powders. For those of us wanting to lose weight, a protein shake with water before going to bed makes for an excellent snack replacement. For those of us who are looking to gain weight for muscle definition, consuming protein powder or a similar protein-packed meal during the day is important to help us reach our goals.

Nearly every major bodybuilder takes protein supplements these days. Other weight lifters, and anyone interested in general health or strengthened immune systems, take protein shakes as well.

The body is comprised of over 50% water. Water is absolutely essential for life. And if you’re not currently drinking water, start doing that first. If you’re already drinking water, then you should probably start drinking more.

Eating whole foods is always recommended over consuming supplements because whole foods contain a multitude of other healthy nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, while protein powders contain none of those things.

Do You Really Need the Shakes?

Half the people you meet nowadays seem to be on some kind of diet-they’re either “cuttin” it or “bulkin” it-typically with the aid of some kind of supplemental nutrition.

For about 100 years now, we’ve been inundated by information on what to eat and what not to eat. But in the past few decades, there’s been a boom of supplements claiming to provide rapid results in building muscle mass while burning fat.

How widespread is the use of supplements for body-building? In a recent survey, 53% the men reported that they worked out to try to improve their body and looks, while 92% of the women surveyed said they would like to gain muscle mass.

So how effective are these supplements? Are they just a band-aid to jump-start your body into working out, or are they a long-term solution to a healthy lifestyle?

Well, to tackle this question, we need to first understand why people use supplements.

There are two main reasons. One is just to make up for the lack of, or need for, certain foods in their daily diet. These people assume that a well-balanced diet should provide all the nutrients and antioxidants needed for them to look good and be healthy.

Can a Protein Shake Replace Food

What do you do if you’re in a hurry, and you suddenly feel like hitting the gym – but you’ve been busy and haven’t been eating all day? Maybe you are caught in a jam and have no access to a kitchen, or you just want to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible.

You may want nothing more than to reach in your gym bag and grab your go-anywhere and fast protein shake, but you have to wonder, “Is it really helpful to exercise on a shake?”

Should you rely solely on protein shakes to meet your nutrition needs? Do they help you gain muscle? Are they as healthy as we’d like to believe? Let’s take a look at the facts to discover the pros and cons. First, try to imagine that you’re about to prepare a hearty, healthy meal of eggs, toast, green tea and berries.

Sounds delicious, right? Well, with the calories of an entire meal, a 25-gram serving of the popular EAS Myoplex Rich Dark Chocolate shake gives you the protein you need, all for only 200 calories.

Milk is also a popular added ingredient to many shakes, as well as soy protein isolate.

Difference Between Protein Shake and Real Food

Most people will attempt to get more protein in their diets by replacing a meal with a protein shake. However, if you are a meal replacement shake user, this might surprise you: most of these popular products don’t contain anywhere near as much protein as you would think. And if that isn’t surprising enough, some of these products, particularly the so-called meal replacement bars, can contain as much sugar as a coke.

However, there are a couple of reasons why people may prefer protein shakes over eating a high protein meal.

Ease of Use and Convenience

A quick and easy protein shake is simply easier for a lot of people than bothering with sitting down to a meal. All you need to do is take out your protein shake, add any supplements or additional nutrients, and shake it until it’s blended. No need to peel bananas, cut meat, or anything like that. When you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to cook, the convenience of it all is undeniable.

Approval from your Dietitian or Physician

Pros and Cons of Protein Shakes

A protein shake is a popular supplement with the goal of increasing protein intake. A common misconception about shakes is that they can replace a meal. These drinks should be used as a meal replacement only if you are trying to lose weight.

Protein shakes have the goodness of high-quality protein but they are deficient in nutrients that can be acquired from food. For instance, plant-based proteins are deficient in vitamin B12, iron and calcium. Deficiencies of these nutrients can be addressed with frequent consumption of veggies and nuts.

Shakes can be of great help to people with lactose intolerance. Some individuals find it difficult to consume dairy products. Shakes don’t have lactose and you can add it to your preference. You can add a tablespoon of olive oil or flaxseed oil for Omega-3 supplements.

Consuming a protein shake as a mid-afternoon snack can keep you going for another two hours. It can be a healthy snack since you can keep the ingredients to a minimum.

You can consume a protein shake if you are having trouble managing weight. It helps curb hunger cravings between meals.

On the other hand, if you are not taking care of your diet and you maintain a poor diet, the protein shake can be a source of cheap calories which will increase fat and cholesterol levels.

Pros

Going to the gym isn’t just about getting as many abdominal crunches in as possible while sipping on your protein shake. In order to preserve lean muscle mass, you need right kinds of vitamins and nutrients. Protein is an important and powerful building block for your body and is essential for muscle growth, repair, energy, and healthy functioning.

Protein shakes are available in a variety of flavors, and they can be convenient if you’re always on the go. If you’re trying to avoid artificial sweeteners and refined sugars, you’re in luck—some pre-made protein powders occasionally contain too much of it.

If you’re trying to lose weight, using protein powder instead of real food can make a world of difference because you can make yourself lighter and more filling meals. You may even experience a weight loss boost because more protein means fewer calories during digestion.

Protein shakes are also great for athletes because, during strenuous exercise, you use a lot of muscle and protein, which can’t be met by your daily diet. Protein is the most important nutrient for muscle building and repair, and it helps supply your body with healthy fat, too. Protein helps your body avoid running out of energy during workouts, too.

Cons

Until very recently, protein shakes were pretty much using recipes or formulas that were made in labs rather than in the kitchens or dining halls of the world. But Synergy Diet Systems has taken protein shakes to the next level, giving you food-quality protein that comes from natural plant and nut sources rather than hard-to-identify, oddly-located animal parts.

It’s this commitment to real food that has driven a steady rise in athletes, bodybuilders, and other people in need of quality sources of protein to turn to Synergy to meet their nutritional needs.

Why People Appreciate Protein Shakes

Synergy has pulled back the curtain and shown protein shakes the light. And, it has the science to back up its product claims. One study in particular showed huge health benefits to using whole food protein instead of the isolates and synthetic components found in some protein supplements:

Those study participants, men who had undergone bariatric surgery, not only lost weight but also showed better improvement in terms of LDL cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, and increased insulin sensitivity.

A lot of people today are undergoing bariatric surgery. Why? After surveying about 1,000 people, here are the numbers that Synergy came up with:

  • 81% were induced into their procedure
  • 71% were children of Type-2 diabetics

Bottom Line

Healthy eating is a cornerstone of good health and a critical aspect of realizing your potential fitness habits. Some people, usually consisting of those who are extremely time-poor or those with picky eating habits, may turn to protein shakes as a dietary supplement.

But before you run out and buy those ready made shakes in the store, consider what makes a healthy shake and whether this is the right option for you.

Read on to learn how protein shakes stack up against well-prepared, real foods.