Why are so many celebs turning to protein shakes?

Even cricketers have got in on the act. Here's England's Stuart Broad advertising a protein milk abo

Even cricketers have got in on the act. Here's England's Stuart Broad advertising a protein milk about 15 months ago. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA - Credit: PA

Protein shakes were once the domain of bodybuilders. But with a growing army of celebrity fans, they are now the convenience food of dieters too.

Foods that give us good levels of protein

Foods that give us good levels of protein - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Here, Nikki Edwards of Deluxe Nutrition talks through the health benefits of a supplement boost.

Protein is an essential nutrient. In recent years, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have become the hottest thing since sliced sirloin steak, and more and more supplements – in the form of shakes and bars – are being purchased by the health-conscious who want a quick fix.

From bodybuilder to body conscious

Protein is an important component of every cell in the body – from your hair and nails through to your bones and blood.

The reason athletes and bodybuilders benefit so much from the intake of protein supplements is that intensive physical activity requires higher than usual levels of protein. By increasing your protein intake you are also giving your muscles more time to recover; but they also grow faster as a result.

If consumed after a workout, protein can help heal the “micro tears” (very small tears in the muscle tissue, caused by intense contraction of the muscle during workout).

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Because solid food takes more time to digest, to break down the protein and send it to the muscles, bodybuilders use protein shakes for convenience.

So why are these shakes now being used by dieters who – rather than wanting to gain mass ? want to lose weight?

Well, you will be aware of the growing popularity of high-protein, low-carb diets as an effective approach.

These diets generally recommend dieters receive 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein. They work well because by drastically restricting carbohydrates to a fraction of that found in the typical diet, the body goes into a different metabolic state called ketosis, where it burns its own fat for fuel.

The trouble is that chewing through mince and chicken fillets can get a bit boring, and most of us crave something sweet every once in a while. When cake and chocolate are banned, protein shakes offer a “nice but not naughty” way to satisfy a craving and top up protein.

Swap a steak for a shake

It’s easy to understand the excitement of a short, sharp shot of protein in a sweet-tasting milkshake. They are perfect for people who are aware of the importance of healthy eating but don’t always have the time to prepare healthy meals and eat well.

Protein shakes have even won celebrity fans, including Gwyneth Paltrow.

Some nutritionists suggest drinking two high-protein, low-carb shakes a day, with fibre and omega-3s added, in place of two of your usual meals.

Whey hey hey!

Protein shakes consist of powdered forms of protein such as soy or whey, which is a by-product of the cheese-making process. Flavouring is added to the powder so that when it’s blended with milk or water it resembles a milkshake-style drink.

Whey

Studies suggest whey protein may have the best weight loss results. Whey provides good satiety and digests easily. Whey isolates are fat-free, very low carb and lactose-free, but slightly more expensive than whey concentrates which have an extra 1-2g of carbs. Whey is also one of the best muscle-building proteins.

Milk or protein blends

The protein in milk (casein) is slow-digesting and can help you feel full longer. Many protein blends combine whey and milk proteins so you get the benefits of both. A straight casein protein is popular when taken at night, due to its longer satiating effect.

Egg, soy or plant proteins

These sources are good for those who like to avoid dairy or have specific milk allergies.

Fibre boost

Add fibre to your shake to keep hunger away and to control blood sugar spikes. These fibres absorb water and expand in your stomach to create a sense of fullness. Fibre also slows the normal increase in blood sugar in response to a meal, even when drinking just protein.

Psyllium

Psyllium husk fibre is primarily a soluble fibre that absorbs about 50 times its weight in water. This helps create a bulkier, softer stool and minimizes constipation that is common during carbohydrate restriction.

Add good omega-3 fats

Fats help slow down the digestive process, making you feel full longer. Since protein powders are low in fat, you’ll want to add some healthy omega-3 fats like flax oil, fish oil or chia seeds. This will give your shake more “staying power”. These good fats have been shown to reduce insulin resistance, which improves fat-burning in muscles and inhibits fat storage.

Balance your lifestyle

Of course, there is no point adding protein shakes to your diet unless you are going to make additional changes to your lifestyle.

Protein shakes make it easier to ensure the consumption of a well-balanced meal, but you should also avoid eating high-calorie fattening foods, sweets, desserts and fizzy drinks, drink 8-10 glasses of water every day and do 30 minutes of exercise daily.

With changes like these you can expect to reduce your weight by 4-6 pounds a month.

For more information visit www.deluxenutrition.co.uk

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