Imagine the taste of blended-up chalk, lawn clippings and dirt. OK, now stop imagining it. Protein shakes can help with weight loss, but only when they taste good. Read on to learn why protein matters, how to make a great shake and for some award-winning recipes compliments of the Integrative Health team.
The role of protein in weight loss
There can be little doubt that protein is an essential part of your diet, but it can also be an essential part of your weight loss journey, too. You might be asking yourself how you can incorporate protein into a diet that encourages weight loss, instead of cutting out protein and leaving yourself feeling worse. We always want to aspire to be the best version of ourselves when we are dieting, and that comes directly from what we’re putting into our bodies.
Bottom Line: When we eat properly, we can feel energized and motivated to lose more weight, more quickly.
We have learned so much about how our brain controls what we eat. When we are experiencing stress, we can often binge on junk foods and other things that are not good for our bodies. The role of hormones being released into our bodies plays such a pivotal role, and protein can be the center of controlling those urges to dine out on fast food and sugary snacks.
Want to know what I mean? Let’s start by exploring just some of the ways that high protein intake can benefit our weight loss efforts:
Thermogenesis might sound like a huge and complicated term, but it’s actually a simple and important process that our bodies go through to create energy. Thermogenesis is the process of energy production in the body, caused by the metabolization of food. It’s been shown that a diet high in protein is likely to increase this process in our bodies (1). Better food means more energy and more weight loss.
At the same time that a high intake of protein can increase our energy, it can also make us feel fuller for longer (2). This means that proteins are not only giving us more energy, but they are keeping us from indulging in the foods which can get in the way of our success. Sounds like a perfect combination, if you ask me.
3. Blood Sugar Regulation
So much of our health is going to come down to our blood sugar – which is why we spend so much time paying attention to our glucose levels and our insulin sensitivity. Research has shown that an increase in dietary protein has helped people with Type 2 diabetes stabilize their blood glucose response (3). If it helps keep our blood sugar in check, dietary protein is a proven ally for our bodies.
Keeping your lean body mass high has a direct effect on your metabolism, which helps keep your weight in check. A diet that is high in protein has shown to help maintain lean body mass (4). When we enjoy high levels of protein intake, we are able to keep our bodies in shape. It not only brings us to that level, but it helps us stay where we need to be.
5. The Protein Leverage Hypothesis
What is the protein leverage hypothesis? Basically, it’s a theory which shows just how important protein is to our bodies. The power of protein is so strong, that even a small amount can decrease your need for unhealthy fat and carbs (5). This goes to show that a small amount can have a large effect on your body, and that even a low-to-moderate change in your protein intake can have positive effects on your body.
Bottom Line: The success of the so-called ‘low carb’ diet that is usually high in protein can be attributed to the relatively high-protein content per se, and not to the relatively lower carbohydrate content (6).
How Much Protein Do I Need for Weight Loss?
Now that we know how important protein can be in our diet, how much do we need to effectively keep those extra pounds away? Protein at around 25 – 40% of calories has been shown to optimize weight loss (7). Now, this isn’t easy to achieve in any diet, so we need to consider the ways that we can bring this much protein into our lives effectively.
If you were trying to start your day with a high level of protein intake, you might find yourself struggling. Eggs, dairy, it’s hard to get the levels of protein we need from the foods that we often start our day eating. This is where we need to understand a fundamental separate: protein for survival versus protein for body composition.
Merely getting by with protein is different than eating protein with purpose. When we eat protein for our body composition, we’re taking a tailored approach to what we’re putting into our bodies – giving our body what it needs to be successful. High protein intake is not simply about a lot of protein at once, but about eating proteins which can make change.
This is where we get into the idea of “foods with protein” and “foods with mostly protein”. We need to carefully consider the kinds of proteins we put into our bodies, on a gram-by-gram basis. This means that we need to focus on “protein by calorie,” going with foods that have a high concentration of protein, without the added calories.
Luckily, there is a great way to get more “foods with protein” into your diet, and the answer is a delicious shake.
Can Shakes Help Me Lose Weight?
When they’re made the right way, shakes can definitely help you on your journey to more weight loss. Shakes are a great way to get the “foods with protein” you need into your diet. Let’s begin by outlining three simple reasons why you should work more shakes into your diet today:
- Ease – Putting together a shake is as easy as putting ingredients into a blender.
- Convenience – Take them with you to work, make them at work, they can be portable and easy to bring along with you wherever you go.
- Taste – They can taste amazing! When they’re done right, of course.
Bottom Line: Shakes are a great way to get “foods with protein” into your diet. They’re easy to make, and easy to enjoy. As long as you have the right ingredients, shakes can help you lose weight and feel good.
What Needs to go Into a Shake?
You have a lot of options when it comes to putting together a healthy shake to help you lose weight. You have so many options, here are just some of the things you should look to incorporate when you’re looking to use shakes to get more dietary protein into your life:
- Complete Vegetable Protein – these are vegetables which have 9 of the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. Quinoa, buckwheat and chia seeds are just a few examples (8). They are especially great because some of them, such as chia seeds, have little taste and can easily be spread into any shake. No prep, no hassle, just the good stuff that your body needs.
- Resistant Starches – we’ve talked about how resistant starches in your diet can help your body function better, and it’s all about keeping your gut in check. Resistant starches can be found in potatoes, legumes and pea powder (which are perfect for shakes). They can help the gut flora in your stomach, while also helping your blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity, too.
- Pectin – ever heard of pectin? It’s a naturally occurring substance that you might have used before to make jams or jellies, but did you know that it can be used to help suppress your appetite (9). Bringing more pectin into your appetite is a great way to get the kind of protein which can eliminate those unhealthy cravings that are holding you back from achieving your weight goals.
- Glutamine – using glutamine supplements can help you build up your lean body mass (10), while also helping your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. We discussed earlier how important lean body mass can be for achieving, and maintaining, weight loss results.
- Avoid Refined Sugars – that doesn’t mean you should be avoiding the naturally occurring sugars from fiber or fruit, but that you should make sure to avoid anything that has refined sugar in your shakes – it’s not going to help you get the most from your shake.
What Should Not go Into a Shake?
There are also some ingredients that should be mentioned to avoid in your shake. As much good as there is out there, it’s just as important that you keep an eye on the bad. Stay on the lookout for:
- Whey/Casein – You will want to avoid either of these in your next shake, because of the dairy issues associated with thyroid problems (11).
- Hemp – There are too many risks associated with hemp, that it’s best to avoid it in the shakes you are making. Stick with “known quantities” when it comes to your protein, and you’ll be a lot happier with your dieting.
- Soy – There are too many issues that come around when it comes to using soy in your shakes, specifically surrounding your thyroid. The goitrogenic activity in soy can often have a negative effect on your health (12), as well as the other hormonal effects that can get in the way of you reaching your goals.
- Egg – Eggs are known as a common inflammatory for those with thyroid disease, so it is best to steer clear of those when you’re working them into your shake. It’s not worth the risk, so avoid yolks entirely.
The Best Protein Shake…
A good shake is going to change the way you diet, especially when you keep in mind the taste considerations which will always have you coming back for more. It’s not just about the ingredients, though, there are some other things you’re going to want to keep in mind before you take a sip:
- Texture – Low in calories and high on taste, you’re going to want to try flax milk when it comes to your shakes. This dairy-free milk is a great base for your next shake, especially because it will really allow the other ingredients to shine. You’re also going to want to make sure that you blend everything properly, so that it is smooth and goes down easy – no chunks.
- Temperature – Add ice and work with cold ingredients, as this is going to make the drinking process much easier. It’s also a nice way to cool down if you’re going with a shake after a workout.
- Blending – How do you make sure everything stays well-blended? Always add your liquids first, so that they’re close to the blades of the blender, and go with the powders and solids next. Add ice last, as the ice will start to melt and help separate the solids in between when it meets with the liquids on the bottom.
- Cleanliness – Keep your blender clean, or else your shakes are going to take a turn for the worse. Clean with unscented castile soap, and blend with warm water. Dry to avoid mold, and you’ll always be enjoying a fresh smoothie.
- Method – Go with a straw! If you’re worried about the way your shake is going to taste (and I wouldn’t be when you go with one of my recipes), try using a straw so that you have less interactions with your tastebuds. Otherwise, drink up and feel good.
Last, but not least, I can’t talk about shakes without telling you my recipe for my all-time favorite protein shake. Give it a try it today, and get more protein into your life (13).
Salted Carmel Banana Shake
Resistant starch is a type of starch that passes through the digestive tract unchanged – in short, it resists digestion (1). The powerful health benefits that we can find in resistant starches is instructive to how we can go about living a life with more energy.
- 2 scoops reset shake
- 2 tbsp banana powder
- 1/4 frozen banana
- 6 drops natural caramel extract (such as this)
- 1 cup unsweetened flax milk
- 1/4 tsp large grain sea salt
- 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
- 1 cup crushed ice
- Blend all ingredients.
- Love it!
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.