Protein shakes and protein powders are often touted as an easy and effective way to lose weight or build muscle. On the flip side, some doctors and nutrition counselors warn too much of them could be a bad thing.
Your Nuvance Health primary care or women's health doctor can answer questions or connect you with a nutritionist for weight loss help. Book now with a primary care provider or book now with a gynecologist.
How much protein is too much? The jury is still out on the right amount. The Recommended Dietary Allowance from The Institute of Medicine for protein is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per 2.2 pounds of your body weight, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Tip: Current federal health dietary guidelines skew away from specific amounts, instead focusing on how we should eat healthier sources of protein and space our protein intake out throughout the day.
Our health providers agree and gave us an even bigger scoop on protein shakes. Here’s what they told us.
Roufia Payman, certified nutritionist, Northern Dutchess Hospital, says: Protein shakes and powders can be helpful for weight loss. They provide a quick and easy way to get in more protein and can make you feel fuller for longer.
Tip: The best products have all your essential amino acids without fillers and added sugar. I prefer vegan organic protein powder added to water or unsweetened almond or oat milk. I add berries, milled flax seeds and chia seeds for fiber.
I still believe that the best way to lose weight is to eat more plant-based foods. Get your protein from legumes and carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits.
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Alyssa Adler, registered dietitian, Nuvance Health Medical Practice, says: I like how protein shakes can help you control hunger pains, build muscle and have energy. But not all protein shakes are created equal. Some are made for weight gain.
Tip: Women should look for weight loss shakes with lower calories (less than 250 calories) and higher protein (at least 20 grams). Reading nutrition labels is always important.
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It is up to personal preference when it comes to which type of protein to use. Grass-fed whey is more pure than traditional whey and contains higher nutritional value. It is also more sustainable for the environment.
Tip: Whey is found in dairy, so if you are allergic or a vegan try pea protein. Pea protein is like whey, meaning it has essential amino acids for muscle-building.
The best liquid to add to powders could be water, low-fat milk or unsweetened soy, coconut or almond milks.
Not all women should use protein shakes and powders. Kidney disease affects how much protein a woman should have, and diabetes can impact how many carbohydrates and added sugar she can consume. Please speak to your doctor. Find a doctor.
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Dr. Elizabeth Lucal, OB-GYN, vice chair of women’s services, Nuvance Health says: The amount of protein we need is not a flat number, but an amount based on our age, sex, overall health and lean body mass.
Tip: Most Americans focus too much on protein and not enough on wholesome, healthy foods. Also, most Americans who are moderately active don’t need the amount of protein they think they do.
Women should be cautious of the sugars, saturated fats and processed ingredients that are found in many protein shakes.
Depending on those ingredients, health risks can be seen. I am not a fan of any processed food for pregnant patients.
Instead, you can add healthy, wholesome ingredients and make your own protein shakes. I suggest:
- Greek yogurt
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Oat milk
Bottom line: Don’t cheat by adding powders. Get out and exercise. Take time for yourself. Speak to your women's health provider about your nutrition concerns.
If you or a loved one want to learn how to lose weight without surgery, Nuvance Health offers a nonsurgical weight loss program supervised by a doctor who specializes in obesity medicine. Learn more about Bariatric Surgery and Medical Weight Loss.