Although protein shakes have many health benefits, there are several things to consider when thinking of using them as meal replacement drinks. Certain nutritional needs are not met with protein shakes that are found in real foods and meal replacements. The nutrients missing may vary depending on your brand of protein shake.
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Benefits of Protein Shakes
Protein shakes can be used for many health benefits, from protein supplementation to weight loss and building muscles. When taken within a half hour before, during, or after a workout, protein shakes have been shown to increase muscle building and reduce soreness. According to MedlinePlus, "Protein is also important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy."
What Nutrients Are Available in Protein Shakes
Besides for the obvious protein, many protein shakes contain other nutrients that your body can use. Varying from brand to brand, protein shakes can include energizing calories, and enhanced amounts of amino acids such as glutamine and carnitine. Protein shakes can also contain various amounts of vitamins, particularly B vitamins for energy.
What Nutrients Are Missing in Protein Shakes
While they have many benefits, protein shakes should not be used in place of meals. Most protein shakes are missing nutrients that are needed by the body on a daily basis. They can include carbohydrates, fiber, electrolytes, antioxidants, healthy fats, and other vitamins and minerals. Protein shakes are known as supplements for this reason; they can be used to supplement a healthy diet with increased amounts of protein.
Enhancing Your Protein Shake
There are several things you can do to enhance your protein shake with more nutritious foods. In a blender, try combining your protein shake with nonfat dairy such as milk or yogurt, fruits, vegetables, seaweed, oatmeal, flax seed, flax oil, or liquid multivitamin and mineral supplements. Consult your physician or dietitian before using any supplements as a meal replacement.