Exercise enthusiasts have long used protein shakes for post-exercise recovery. Protein shakes are gaining popularity as a nutritious meal for people who want to lose or control their weight. Most protein shake recipes call for milk and/or yogurt, whey or soy protein powder and occasionally other flavorings such as fruit. These ingredients are healthy, but they also have carbohydrates. Fortunately, people who want to stick to a low-carb meal plan can enjoy protein shakes.
Protein is found in every cell of your body and is an important compound for growth and development. Athletes use protein shakes to speed up muscle repair and recovery following a workout. Protein sources for shakes include low-fat or non-fat milk, including soy or almond milk, yogurt, protein powders and natural peanut butter or other nut-based spreads.
Low-carb diets give the impression that carbs are bad, when, in fact, they are important to good health. Carbs are converted to glucose for energy. Fiber carbs assist in digestion and colon health, and lower your risk of heart disease. People on low-carb diets for weight loss or to manage diabetes should eliminate unhealthy carbs such as sugar and refined foods from their diet. However, nutritionists recommend carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Healthy carbs for protein shakes include low and non-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, milled oats and low-carb protein powders.
Protein and Carbs for Weight Control
Protein shakes are a fast, tasty and healthy part of a low-carb diet. In 2008, "Nutrition & Metabolism" published a study that showed dieters on a moderate protein and carbohydrate diet lost more fat weight than dieters on a low-protein, high-carb diet. Protein helps you feel full and uses more energy to digest.
The American Medical Association published a study that showed the Atkins diet -- a low-carb diet -- resulted in the greatest weight loss of the diets studied. The theory behind the Atkins diet is that lowering carbs reduces glucose in the blood, forcing the body to use fat for energy.
MayoClinic.com warns against having protein shakes for every meal. While protein shakes are healthy, they don't provide all the nutritional benefits of whole foods.
Low-Carb, High-Protein Shakes
"The Abs Diet" author, David Zinczenko, recommends protein shakes to help lose weight. His protein shake recipes start with a base of low-fat milk and yogurt, whey powder and ice. To that, you can add flavorings such as fruit. Flavored whey powder gives you other options as well. For example, use chocolate whey powder with your base ingredients and add instant coffee for a mocha shake. Or instead of coffee, add peanut butter for a chocolate peanutty treat. Choose non-fat milk and plain yogurt for the lowest carb content. You can also buy low-carb protein powders that have lower sugar content.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein
- "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism"; Nutritional Strategies to Promote Post Exercise Recovery; M. Beelen, et al.; 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates
- "Nutrition & Metabolism"; Moderate Carbohydrate, Moderate Protein Weight Loss Diet Reduces Cardiovascular Disease Risk Compared to High Carbohydrate, Low Protein Diet in Obese Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial; Denise A.W. Lasker, et al.; 2008
- "Journal of the American Medical Association"; Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women; Christopher D. Gardener, et al.; March 2007
- MayoClinic.com; Protein shakes: Good for weight loss?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D