If you’re trying to navigate the wild world of protein supplements, we know it isn’t easy. With so many products and enormous amounts of information out there, I’m sure you’re asking questions like, “What type of protein powder is the best for me?” or “When should I drink a protein shake?” We’re happy to step up and share our expert advice to help you understand how protein shakes can help you produce your desired health and fitness results.
Best time to drink protein shakes
Protein shakes can be helpful if you aren’t able to meet your minimum protein requirement through food. The best time to drink protein shakes depends on your lifestyle, habits and unique wellness goals. For instance, if you’re juggling kids and your commute to work in the morning, or if your stomach churns just thinking about eating before your morning workout, a protein shake may be right for you. Another instance where drinking protein shake may prove useful is when there’s a lot of time between your meals and your workout.
With all that said, to get the best results and ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need, we recommend having meals and snacks made up of whole foods — fruits, veggies, whole grain carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. To keep your metabolism running and your energy high, we suggest aiming for three meals and one snack per day. Also, remember to stay hydrated by drinking at least 2-3 liters of water per day to help your body function to the best of its ability and can help it filter out extra waste.
Here are some scenarios when a protein shake can come in handy:
Whether or not breakfast is a morning must is still up for debate. It all depends on what your body is used to and what works best for you. Also, as you might have an inkling, there’s a big difference between eating sugar-coated cereal or juice-forward smoothies and eggs with whole grain toast. After an entire night of sleep (i.e. “fasting”), your body quickly absorbs simple and refined carbs, leading to a spike and eventual crash in blood sugar. To avoid this crash, it’s best to eat a balanced meal with complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. Protein in the morning is linked to appetite control and more sustained energy. If you don’t have an appetite when you first wake up or don’t have any time for a meal, try a protein shake.
Pre- and post-workout protein shake
When we fast and don’t eat for long periods of time, our glucose levels deplete and, to get the energy our body needs, it starts to break down muscle reserves. Therefore, if you haven’t eaten in a while and are about to train intensely, it’s a good idea to have some quick-absorbing fuel or a protein shake to get the most out of your workout.
If your goal is to lose weight and your planned workout isn’t intense, you don’t have to worry about immediate pre- and post-workout fuel. Forget the protein shake and instead focus on eating balanced meals throughout the day — including a complete meal two to four hours before working out plus by a snack or main after the workout.
If you’re doing intense, long workouts (i.e. 45 minutes or longer) or your goal is to gain muscle, preparing your body correctly can help prevent muscle tissue loss, decrease your recovery time, and give you extra energy during your workout. Whole foods are always the best option, but depending on how much time you have before a workout, protein shakes may be your best — and only — option. Bonus: The shake gives your body branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which help maintain your muscle energy stores.
Throughout the day
Recent studies show that the total amount of protein and carbohydrates you eat over the course of the day is more impactful on performance than the exact time you consume the macronutrient. That means drinking a protein shake immediately before or after a workout doesn’t really matter. Remember, one of protein’s primary functions is to give you energy. To stay energized all day, space out your meals and snacks and be sure to include protein with all them.
If you have a particularly active day or you train regularly, you’ll need more carbohydrates to sustain your energy levels. Add in an extra snack or a protein shake to your meal plan.
Protein powder for weight loss
Protein is a key ingredient for weight loss, as your body uses more energy to break it down and absorb it compared to fat and carbs, especially when eating non-processed types of protein. Protein also fills you up and keeps you satisfied, curbing hunger and cravings.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should run to the nearest store and grab the first protein powder you see because not all protein powders are created equal. Studies show that some proteins are highly insulinogenic (i.e. produce insulin). For example, the insulin response after consuming whey protein is higher than the insulin response after eating white bread. Protein powder quality can also vary based on the ingredients, processing and the amount of added sugar and artificial ingredients. When choosing a protein powder, aim for purity, minimal ingredients, and one that doesn’t lead to any digestive upsets.
Here are some other protein powder guidelines:
Purchase a powder that is at least 70% protein
One serving, typically one scoop (about 0.8 ounces or 23 grams), should contain at least 0.6 ounces or 16 grams of protein.
Not a fan of processed powders? Low-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt is the best substitute. So if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of protein powder, replace it with two tablespoons of low-fat Greek yogurt.
Protein powder recipes
Don’t drive yourself crazy searching for the best protein shake or spending hundreds of dollars for something your body can’t properly absorb. Do your body and wallet a favor and focus on whole ingredients and make your own protein shakes at home. Add these 8fit recipes to your meal plan as a breakfast snack or post-workout smoothie.
Green smoothie power bowl
We recently collaborated with the amazing food blogger, The Colorful Kitchen, to add this plant-based smoothie recipe to the 8fit app, which you can be enjoy in a glass or a bowl. To set yourself up for success, we suggest you portion out mango, banana, berries and spinach ahead of time, then freeze each portion in freezer-safe containers or bags. This way, you”ll always have the ingredients ready to blend.
Chunky sesame banana smoothie
Open Sesame! Sesame seeds are high in protein, vitamins and minerals. For a more nutty flavor, we recommend roasting your sesame seeds before adding them to your smoothie. All you need to do is heat a pan to medium heat and add your seeds. Keep them spread out and shake the pan often so they don’t burn.
Apple pie protein smoothie
Peanut butter is one of our favorite protein-boosters as it contains heart-healthy fats that keep you satiated all while tasting delicious. Always check the ingredient list before you buy a jar, to avoid sweetened versions with hydrogenated oils. Top this apple pie smoothie off with some high-fiber oats to keep you full for longer.
Every 8fit meal has the protein you need to meet your wellness goals. Sign up and give our personalized meal plan a go.