Protein shakes are everywhere in our society these days. And why not!? They’re a fast, convenient, and delicious way of getting some additional protein in our day.
But the thing is, if you have a fat loss goal… they’re probably not your best choice (unless it is after a workout). In fact, it’s always better to eat protein from its natural source vs protein shakes because you absorb less calories from foods that are minimally processed.
Yes, you absorb more calories from a protein shake than from a minimally processed food like chicken.
Remember that the food we eat has to be digested and processed by our body.
And the innumerable steps involved in digestion, processing, absorption, storage, and use, as well as our own individual physiological makeup, can all change the energy balance game.
We absorb less calories from minimally processed protein, carbohydrates, and fats, because they’re harder to digest (and our body actually has to process them). These include foods like chicken, broccoli, turkey.
We absorb more calories from highly processed proteins, carbohydrates and fats because they’re easier to digest. (Think of it this way: The more “processed” a food is, the more digestion work has already been done for you).
By eating a diet rich in whole, minimally processed foods, the number of calories you absorb can be significantly less than what you expect.
Eating a 1000 calories of chicken, rice, and broccoli thus is not the same as eating a 1000 calories from McDonalds.
Doesn’t that sound like a short cut to weight loss if one ever existed?
You get to eat more food, and you absorb less of the calories so you stay lean or lose weight.
This seriously has been my secret weapon over the last few years.
Hundreds of grams of chicken, beef, fish, turkey every day with minimally processed foods like green vegetables and nuts.
Anyone that knows me, knows of my huge appetitie (and as long as you are working out hard), limiting the carbs, and eating minimally processed food, it will be ok.
This is why eating foods void of nutrients is bad…
Like potato chips…
So you know you just kinda keep eating them because your body is secretly hoping to get some vitamins or minerals or some value from what you are eating. And then because these foods are less filling you end up eating more than you probably needed so it’s a kinda a double whammy.
In my opinion if your meals are not comprising a minimally processed protein as the star of the dish, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.
Because when you consume protein, you also get value with the thermic effect of eating.
This is where you burn additional calories by eating, digesting, and processing your food. This represents roughly 5-10 percent of your “calories burned” everyday…which could actually rival your exercise each day… THAT”S HOW HUGE THIS IS!!!!!!
In general, you’ll burn more calories in your effort to digest and absorb protein (20-30 percent of all protein calories) than carbs (5-6 percent) or fats (3 percent).
Now, back to the protein shakes…
Protein shakes also spike your insulin (you didn’t think something that sweet wouldn’t have some negative drawback right?), which could be a great thing post workout (and why I recommended protein shakes post workout earlier in this article). However, consuming a protein shake anytime in the middle of the day (say like a snack mid afternoon) is not the best idea.
When you spike insulin mid day, you do not put your body in a state conducive to weight loss and thus you may struggle to lose weight when you are continuously spiking insulin without a need for it.
Protein vs Protein shakes take home message:
- You need to eat protein.
- Protein helps you keep and build lean body mass (which includes connective tissues, organs, and bone as well as muscle).
- Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller despite eating less. (And eating more protein often causes people to eat less overall.)
- Just by eating more protein you burn more calories, because of the increased thermic effect of eating.
- Just by eating minimally processed protein, you will absorb less of the calories from that food.
- For most active men: 6-8 palm-sized servings of protein per day.
- For most active women: 4-6 palm-sized servings per day.
- Minimally processed protein does not spike insulin, processed protein shakes do spike insulin. In general, the only time you want to spike insulin is post workout if your goal is weight loss/fat loss.
So my question to you is, are you eating enough protein?
If you are not getting the results you expect, look at your adherence to this over a period of at least a month. Remember, if you are adding more protein in your diet, you will want to decrease something else like carbs to keep your daily calories around the number that your body is used to handling.
And as always, exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together CONSISTENTLY and you’ve got yourself a kingdom.
Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BSc, CSCS
Langley Times Readers Choice Personal Trainer of the year 2017