It seems that the health and fitness industry has the shakes again.
I’m not talking about tremors or vibrations, but those fluid concoctions that promise to be all the nutrition you need regardless of your goals or needs.
Actually, shakes have never gone away. Their popularity rises and falls, but I have never seen a surge like this. Let’s do the wise thing and educate ourselves before deciding to shake or not to shake.
What is a “shake?” Usually marketed as a “meal-replacement” to help with fat-loss, these beverages are engineered to be high in protein (10-25 grams/serving), low in carbs and have a varying but generous blend of vitamins and minerals. Shakes come packaged as a powder you can easily mix or in a small, portable, disposable “ready to drink” version, which only requires you to punch in a straw (attached) and suck it down.
Shakes normally come in two flavors, chocolate or vanilla, because they are easy to blend with other flavors (fruits for example), with strawberry showing up from time to time.
Why are shakes so popular? Because they can really work, especially for fat-loss, and for those “on the go” types that need a quick, healthier meal option. Shakes are super-convenient, fairly well-balanced in nutrition, tasty (or easy to make tasty with a slight modification) and finite in calories, offering meal discipline.
Sounds pretty perfect, right? Sure they do, but there are three things to consider before you start shaking uncontrollably.
1. Do I need this? In my opinion, not everyone needs to add a meal replacement shake to their diet, but they can definitely serve you for these purposes:
• to assist in beginning a fat-loss program to establish good eating patterns/behaviors, and offer some initial discipline and success
• to replace a meal you need but are choosing to skip for whatever reason, especially breakfast and lunch (no one skips dinner, are you kidding me?)
• to replace a meal where you would normally grab a convenient, but not-so-healthy item
• as a post-workout product to replace your energy and offer resources for your body to rebuild itself; and
• as a quality, disciplined snack that bridges the gap to your next meal, and gets you through tricky, cheat times
2. Is there a plan? Regardless of the promises and convenience of shakes, don’t be fooled. The best nutrition for your body is real food. When considering a nutrition plan that involves shakes, look for a progressive plan to ween you off the shakes and onto real food as you experience success and discipline. But, feel free to keep the shake in your food arsenal especially for the reasons I listed above.
3. What are the ingredients? Turn over the food label and take a look. What’s in it? What is the protein source? Looks pretty good right? Just one catch: the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements but leaves it to the company to make sure the ingredients inside are as the label says. So be careful and remember nutritious, quality ingredients are expensive and companies can skimp and use inferior ingredients. For example: two common protein sources — soy and whey — both have some negative health benefits and allergenic properties. You might also consider a certified vegan product since those guys are even more picky than the FDA.
Personally, I love shakes for all the great reasons I have listed above, but they don’t define my nutrition. They are a useful tool providing a specific niche in my food plan, but real food is the base. Use your brain and do some homework to decide if a shake supplement is right for you and your body.
Mark Moreland is the owner of Body Outfitters Personal Training Studio in Zionsville and has 13 years of experience as a personal trainer. Mark welcomes your comments and ideas for future topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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