Saturday, April 17, 2010

Let's Talk About Protein Shakes

I have a whole series of educational, research-based blog posts about protein. Here's the summary page. But not long ago I wrote this message on the OH forums as sort of a "Newbie Protein Primer" --- shorter message for each section, but links in case you want to learn more. Today's lesson will focus primarily on protein shake and why it's so important for our good health to get protein.  Enjoy!

So, let's talk about protein, shall we?

I've noticed a lot of questions in the past week or so from people who are struggling with protein intake - or looking for ideas of how to make protein shakes tastier. And yes, there's even been a fair amount of whining and bellyaching going on. So I wanted to share some information with you. Consider this a whole semester of protein education packed into a single post. Pencils ready?

As a general rule, we want to use Whey Isolate Protein supplements or a high quality Whey Concentrate protein - or a combo/blend of the two. We want to avoid collagen-based protein (like those 3oz test-tubes of protein - those are collagen. here's why they're bad). In rare cases, some people can not tolerate whey protein - other options for protein supplements include soy, rice and egg protein. For more details about the different types - click here.

There are literally thousands of different brands and flavors of protein supplements. Some taste delicious, some taste gross. But whether it's delicious or gros is completely subjective -- so what I think is great, you might think tastes like monkey butt. Therefore, asking for recommendations of "the best tasting protein" is pointless. The only way to know for sure which flavors YOU will like is to try a bunch of different flavors. And to KEEP TRYING different flavors until you find what works. Do not buy a big jar of protein powder until you know for sure you like it - that would waste a lot of money. Instead, try samples. I had to try 4 dozen different brand/flavors before I found a couple that worked for me. It took me about 4 to 6 weeks of constant experimenting. Here's a list of online and local resources for finding protein samples.

The label on the back of a jar of protein powder will tell you to mix 1 scoop of powder with 4 or 8 ounces of water. Gee, that sounds delicious, huh? How about we skip that suggestion and go straight to a more tasty approach, ok? I like to add stuff to my protein shake recipes to jazz it up a bit. Or mix the protein powder into other food-stuff to boost the protein levels. Here's a list of 25 ways to mix a single scoop of vanilla protein powder. As our dear friend Cleopatra_Nik says, "There's never a reason for you to drink a nasty shake." -- delicious shakes are just a recipe away. Check out these sources for shake recipe ideas: My Protein Recipe Book -- Nik's Bariatric Foodie -- Eggface's Blog -- Or just Google it.

I had a conversation with a 5-month-post-op last night who was only getting about 20g protein a day. He was scared to eat real food. He complained that he didn't like the taste of shakes (he'd tried only 3 different brands). And he was also complaining that he was weak and had lost a lot of his muscle strength, had no energy to do anything but sit all day, always shaky and was having trouble with his balance. Can you say malnutrition? If you don't get enough protein in your diet (from food or shakes) your body will get the protein it needs by eating its own muscle. Your heart is a muscle too, remember. When I hear people say they don't like protein so they don't eat it... my response is: tough luck! You NEED protein. This is not a matter of choice. It's a matter of survival. Think of protein as medicine, it's essential. Chronic protein deficiency is a dangerous condition with a lot of very scary symptoms .. and that list of symptoms includes death. More info here. SOOOo.... drink the shake. Chug it if you have to. Hold you nose if you must. When it's a choice between malnutrition / death... or drinking a protein shake that's not entirely delicious... Drink the shake.

For normal people, with normal digestive systems - they need about 50g per day. But that's based on a diet that's high in carbohydrates and low in protein (the FDA food pyramid recommends 60% carbs, 25% fat, 15% protein). But we, as RNY folks, are eating a high protein, moderate carb diet AND we malabsorb a certain amount of the maconutrients we eat. The typical nutrient balance recommendation for RNY patients is 40% protein, 35% carbs, 25% fat. And that's where the recommendation of 60-80g protein comes from.... although a more realistic recommendation is actually 80-100g protein per day. Here's more info about protein recommendations for normal people compared to bariatric people.

I find that when I understand the "WHY" behind something, I'm more apt to be compliant with a rule or guideline. I also find it fascinating to understand exactly how my body works. Like, what exactly happens inside my pouch and intestines when food enters and how is that food or nutrient used in the cells of my body? I like knowing that stuff. Maybe you don't want to know that much detail, but it's still good to think about it sometimes - just so you know why we're eating a high protein diet, for instance. So if you want to dig into more info, here's some links:

The Mechanics of Protein Absorption

What does the ASMBS say about protein? (see page 20)

Debunking the Myth of 30g Max Absorption of Protein per Meal

Protein and the Bariatric Patient

Understanding PDCAAS - Protein Quality Scoring

A few more links to protein research sites.

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