It’s no secret that we are proponents of JERF: Just.Eat.Real.Food. It’s simple, it’s satisfying and therefore, sustainable. Sustainable approach ==> sustainable results. We JERF because it makes us feel good, look good and perform better. And, with so much less stress at that.
But, let’s face it. While we encourage real food fuel, no doubt, sometimes convenience trumps. Are you busy and constantly on-the-go with neither the time nor interest in crazy restrictive meal plans and extensive meal preps that have you hauling Tupperware… everywhere? Yeah, we hear you. Us, too. But, we don’t *let that* stop us from JERF-ing. We’ve got a protein-packed, nutrient-dense solution.
So, what’s the big deal with protein? Its slow digestion stabilizes blood sugar, and doesn’t produce an insulin response as great as carbohydrate or worse, carb and fat together (these insulin spikes can promote fat storage). This keeps you feeling fuller for longer, staves off hunger, keeps cravings at bay and can actually help you burn fat.
A great convenience option for those of us who’ve got things to do and places to be, protein powder can be helpful in terms of fitting in protein. But, not all are created equal. In fact, some most are loaded with additives, chemicals, preservatives and artificial ingredients; basically, toxins. These things build up and can wreak havoc on our system (e.g. skin, digestion), trigger hunger and cravings, decrease energy and make us fat; even age us. #nothanks
And, while protein powders can be a positive addition to healthy, balanced diet (what you eat, not dieting), they are not a replacement for real, whole foods i.e. why they are called a supplements. But with so many products on the market, what and how do you choose? We like high quality whey protein, which I’ll get to in a second, but first, an important public service announcement:
In terms of weight loss, there is no protein powder out there that is going to help you “tone,” lose fat.
You’ve got to put in the work (i.e. take action); there’s no way around it. But if you do, your will reap the benefits. As for what will work best for you? Well, it depends… on YOU. Your metabolic tendencies, personal preferences and psychological sensitivities. But, here are a few pointers to help guide you in making your protein powder selection:
In general, I don’t stress too much on the macronutrient (carbs, protein & fat) ratios because, at the end of the day, a protein powder is still primarily protein just like peanut butter, though it contains some protein, is primarily a dietary fat. Instead, I focus my finite energy on the “bigger rocks” and in my experience, this gets even better results. Pick your nutrition battles. I do tend to look for something lower carb, but definitely don’t worry about grams, and with ~20-30g protein/serving.
And then, there are the ’it’ factors: QUALITY and TASTE.
There are a lot of products on the market that are loaded with fillers which means that you, the consumer, may not be getting as much bang for your proverbial buck as you think you are. And, taste. You have to enjoy it (remember what happens if you can’t sustain ‘it?’). I could recommend the protein with the cleanest label, but if you won’t eat it, then it’s not the best choice for YOU. Be your own detective and find what works for you. Don’t forget: you are the best expert in you! This may require a bit of trial and error, but life’s too short to both do things and eat foods that you do not love, no?
So, what is whey?
Derived from milk, whey protein is an animal-source protein that comes in two varieties: whey concentrate and whey isolate. Whey concentrate has low levels of lactose tolerated well by most lactose-sensitive people. Relatively low fat and low carb compared to your overall nutrient intake, whey concentrates tends to top best seller lists. Whey isolate is typically lactose-free, which makes it a better option for those who are highly lactose-sensitive. Virtually fat-free, whey isolate may offer a slightly better taste but, sans fat, has a thinner consistency.
Here are a few reasons we like whey:
- It is an excellent source of high quality protein.
- It is quick-digesting, which is especially great for recovery post-workout, if you can tolerate dairy.
- It suppresses the stress hormone cortisol, which can make us fat (among other negative health effects), if chronically elevated.
- It is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), among other amino acids, and elevates the “feel good” neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals GABA, serotonin and dopamine. This can suppress cravings and help us burn fat, not store it.
- It helps build and preserve lean body mass aka muscle. This increases metabolism. The more lean body mass you have, the more [calories] you burn at rest. Strength training can enhance these positive effects. This is especially important because muscle mass naturally declines with age, which increases both the likelihood of fat gain and risk of many chronic diseases.
- Highly satiating, whey protein tastes good and can help reduce hunger.
- Reduced caloric intake due to a suppressed appetite can, in conjunction with a responsive metabolism (see #5), help you lose weight while preserving muscle.
- It strengthens the immune system. Whey protein may enhance the body’s antioxidants defenses by promoting the formation of one of the body’s main antioxidants: glutathione.
What to avoid? Soy, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, fillers, preservatives and generally, any other ingredients you can’t pronounce. As always, do your best with what you can afford and with what’s available to you, but do not feel bad spending money on nourishing eats. You’re worth it and you only get one body in which to live; take care of it. It’s okay to be a food snob. ;)
If you’re overwhelmed by ALLTHECHOICES on the market, try a(n) individual serving/packet before purchasing an entire tub. Grass-fed and lactose-free are certainly not the end all, be all but definitely something to look for. SFH, Biotrust, Jay Robb and Metabolic Effect all offer high quality options.
Looking for portable whole food nutrition that packs a protein punch and more? All Vukoo bars are made with the highest quality, but still delicious ingredients on the market today, including lactose-free, gluten-free whey protein. And as someone who is highly dairy-sensitive, I can tell you that I enjoy these on the reg #understatement lol without a prob. My fave, if I had to pick, is SIGBU but I really love them all!