Things to Put in Protein Shakes

There's an abundance of options available for protein shakes. And you can make them with whey protein powder for weight loss or muscle gain — it's really all up to you.

There are a plethora of options for protein shakes available.
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The key is to make sure you're using quality protein shake recipes for weight loss or muscle gain. If you're replacing a meal with a shake, it's imperative to use highly nutritious ingredients.

Are Protein Shakes Healthy?

Most research shows that protein shakes lack adverse side effects on your health. However, something you should be wary of, according to a study from the September 2017 issue of the _Journal of Dietary Supple_ments, is overusing these shakes.

It's all too common for people to replace too many meals with protein drinks. But that comes too close to an all-liquid fad diet and it won't keep you sustained. It's essential to make sure you're eating regular meals.

If instead, you make sure to mix your diet with meals of solid foods and protein shakes, you'll be just fine. The other consideration to watch out for is what you're putting inside of your shakes. For this to be a healthy meal replacement or snack, you need to make it with quality ingredients. You also need to decide what you're making your protein shake for.

Are you looking to replace meals for weight loss, or do you want an excellent nutritious source for workouts? Depending on the goal you have, you'll need different ingredients. And picking the right ones will determine just how healthy your shake is.

Read more: 4 Benefits of a Protein Shake that Will Improve Your Workout

The Importance of Protein

Protein doesn't just give you energy; it's an important building block for your muscles and is essential for tissue repair. More specifically, the amino acids that you find in the proteins that you eat are what make up the building blocks of cells. And while your body produces amino acids as well, they are not enough to sustain your body without help from the amino acids you eat.

So without the proper intake of protein your body wont have the materials it needs to build and repair muscles. There's even evidence, outlined in a study from the September 2014 issue of Osteoporosis International, that protein improves bone health when combined with proper iron intake. As the providers to the building blocks of your cells, it should come as no surprise just how important protein is for the overall building and repairing of your bodily systems.

While protein's primary function isn't providing energy, each gram does contain 4 calories. Since calories are the energy your body uses to do actions, protein does provide you with energy.

Furthermore, there's evidence that protein helps keep you full longer, which is great for people doing extraneous activity or looking to lose weight. A small study of 57 adolescents featured in the August 2015 issue of Obesity found that high-protein breakfasts are even more effective for weight loss than fasting due to their effect on suppressing appetites.

Carbs Build Muscles

Carbs are a great source of energy; they provide the primary energy used by your body — glucose. Your body breaks down the carbs quickly, meaning that eating carbs before working out provides quick power. And the glucose that your body doesn't use right away turns into glycogen, which is stored in your liver and skeletal muscles.

The best types of carbs are complex carbohydrates. They don't cause the crash that processed carbs can. Some great complex carbs include lentils, quinoa, squash and oats. Simple carbs you'll want to avoid are cane sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup.

If you're working toward bulking up your muscles, carbs are imperative to your mission. Glycogen, which comes from carbs, is the type of energy your body needs to do resistance training. During these types of workouts, you burn through your glucose, which means you need to have glycogen reserves to continue going. And since resistance workouts are the best form of muscle building, you're going to need carbs to build your muscles.

Weight Loss Through Meal Replacements

Restricting calories was found to be an effective way to lose weight in a study from the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Research in Medicine Sciences. The best way to restrict your calories is to know just how many calories you should be eating. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020 edition, outlines the recommended amount of calories for different demographics who have moderate activity levels.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women in their 20s eat between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day. So, if you're restricting your calories for weight loss, you'd want to eat less than 1,800 calories.

Meal replacement shakes can be a great way to ensure you're getting the nutrients you need while keeping your calories low. Since you decide what goes in them, you can act like a chemist concocting the perfect mixture of a nutrient-packed, delicious meal replacement.

Protein Powder Choices

Whey protein powder is a low-calorie high-protein food that will help fill out any meal shake, and there aren't any adverse side effects that are associated with this type of protein supplement. Of course, additional studies should be done to further investigate the effects of this powder on the body's health. One thing you do need to watch out for is possible interactions with your medications, so talk to your doctor before taking any risks.

Spirulina is a potent source of protein containing about 60 percent protein. It's not just a robust protein source either — it has essential fatty acids, beta-carotene and minerals your body needs. In a small study of about 50 children from the September 2016 issue of International Journal of Pediatrics, it helped with malnutrition. While additional studies are needed, spirulina is an incredibly nutritious form of protein.

Soy has been an underutilized source of protein in North America, according to a study from the December 2016 issue of Nutrients. It's packed with protein and other things your body needs like fatty acids. Another essential component of soy protein is isoflavones, which are effective at reducing hot flashes. There are a lot of other health benefits that some studies have found isoflavones to provide, but they need further research for verification.

Fruits for Your Protein Shake

Fruits are probably the most popular ingredients of protein shakes, and that's not just because they are a hearty source of critical minerals and vitamins. Fruits are a complex carb, which means they are imperative for any protein shake recipes for muscle growth. You might think it's just a way to make your protein shake taste better, but without the carbs from fruit, your shake will be incomplete.

Fruits to add to your smoothie include:

Read more: Is It Healthy to Eat Avocados Everyday?

Don’t Forget Your Vegetables

When curating your protein shake recipes for weight loss and muscle gain, there are more protein sources than powders. So when you're making your protein shakes, make sure you try packing them with high-protein vegetables.

High-protein vegetables for your protein shake include:

  • Spinach — 30 percent protein and only 7 calories
  • Asparagus — potent vegetable with 3 grams of protein and only 27 calories
  • Peas — 3 grams of protein and 42 calories
  • Broccoli leaf — another quality leafy green with 3 grams of protein and 28 calories

Peanut Butter Protein Shake

If you want a smoothie without the protein powder, peanut butter is what you need. It mixes well with most fruits and provides 7 grams of protein and 180 calories. Unlike protein powders you don't have to worry about adding processed food to your fresh smoothie. And there are plenty of ways to make your peanut butter protein shake taste great without having to add sugar.

A simple recipe for a peanut butter protein shake might include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Bananas are an excellent sweetener for any protein shake, and the riper the better
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Milk or your favorite milk replacement, such as pea milk, soy milk or almond milk
  • Cinnamon for taste and because it may slow down your hunger for your next meal

Read more: Is Peanut Butter Bad for Weight Loss?

Or you can switch it up and use an apple instead of a banana. There are a lot of options out there, and your body likes variety.

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