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I never consumed any protein shakes before but I am considering it now because I want to cut back on my meat intake. I am currently 30 years old and weight 145 lbs, hit the gym once or twice a week for about 2 or 3 hours. In addition I play flag-football twice a week for 2 hours. Taking all my other activities into consideration, I do sports about 4 to 5 times a week on average.

I eat a lot of meat lately - chicken almost daily and tuna about 2 times a week. To cut back on meat intake I consider adding protein shakes to my diet plan. What do I have to look out for to find the right product for me? My goal is to stay healthy, build muscles and keep my current fat level.

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Perhaps it will help us to understand why you think the meat intake is a problem. I'm eating a lot of chicken, eggs, yogurt, etc. I'd rather have natural protein sources than processed protein shakes. If you are having problems with hypertension, or other dietary health related issues it might make more sense. –  Berin Loritsch Sep 7 '11 at 12:45
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I want to reduce meat intake to be more responsible for the environment. First world countries consume way too much meat considering what we are able to produce world wide. I don't want to go to the extreme and turn vegetarian because I strongly believe that this is not a healthy lifestyle, but reducing meat intake is a goal I want to achieve. If there are good reasons why protein shakes would be even worse for the environment than pure meat, let me know. In that case changing wouldn't be the best idea ;). –  Demento Sep 7 '11 at 15:20
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For environmental concerns consider: Many protein shakes have protein from animal sources. Regular consumption of protein shakes may increase your exposure to contaminants. Have you considered grass fed beef, wild salmon or adding high protein plant sources? Another way to help the planet is to ask your grocer to carry food from healthy sources and local farmers (saves on transportation costs). Consumer$ helps to clean up the food sources. –  BackInShapeBuddy Sep 21 '11 at 19:37
    
Why not just buy some chickens and lay eggs and have a few raw eggs in the morning? full of protein. –  John Smith Sep 27 '11 at 9:40
    
I honestly would love to do that, but my current situation does not allow me to keep farm animals. –  Demento Sep 27 '11 at 9:50
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2 Answers 2

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For protein powder there are several things you need to be concerned about:

  • Protein quality/type: There are many kinds of protein powders but most common is whey. Most common whey powders are whey concentrate, whey isolate and whey blend (mix of isolate/concentrate and possibly other protein powders). Concentrate is cheaper but is less 'pure' so it tends to have a bit of sugars and fats left over. Whey isolate is more expensive but is almost entirely protein.

  • Fast vs slow digesting: If you want a post workout shake then its best to go with a fast digesting protein powder such as whey isolate. For slower digesting protein powder you can look at blends, probably the most popular is casein. Mixing your shake with fat/fibre/carbs will also slow down the absorption rate making it better as a meal replacement.

  • Mixability/taste: Obviously you won't be sipping your shakes but you are going to be drinking them frequently so taste is important. Not all protein powders taste the same so do some research and find brands that taste good. Also some shakes blend better than others, I do recommend using a blender so that shouldn't be a huge deal.

  • Additives/allergens: Some protein powders contain lactose -whey concentrate for example- which will cause issues even for someone who is mildly lactose-intolerant. If you have any issues with milk/cheese products I definitely recommend going with a high quality whey isolate. Same with other additives like sweeteners. Big culprits would be sugar alcohols which again cause digestive issues to some people. I personally prefer Splenda as a sweetener.

Having said that most protein powders are very similar and getting something generic like optimum nutrition works fine for most people. If you want something very specific and high quality then I would recommend ordering from a site like TrueProtein.com (use THESWOLE for 5-10% discount at checkout) and getting a whey isolate.

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Shake it Good

Your shake should have a lot of protein and include animal protein and BCAAs. Why? Bluebonnet, which has some nice un-sweetened whey, tells us:

In general, although both animal and plant foods contain protein, the quality of the protein is what differs. High-quality (complete) protein provides an ample amount of all nine essential amino acids. Animal foods, such as meats, poultry, eggs and milk, are considered high-quality (complete) protein sources versus vegetables, which contain no or low levels of some of the essential amino acids with the exception of soybeans.

I recommend milk, banana, berries, yogurt, and a scoop of whey powder, and if you like, peanut butter or another nut butter. Most whey powders are combined with BCAAs, so you don't need to get them separately.

Proper Use

Drink the shake right after working out. Don't replace meat wholesale with whey shakes. Whey is meant to be used as a supplement of convenience, not as a primary protein source like milk, eggs, or meat.

If you're looking to replace meat in general for ethical-sustainability reasons, and not just after workouts, increase your milk and egg intake and look into local, grass-fed, grass-finished, free range meat.

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