What Makes a Good Protein Shake?
Confused about protein shakes? You certainly aren’t alone. It’s tricky to tell what’s healthy to sip and what will lead to a calorie overload. Here’s how to build a healthier shake with all the nutrients your body needs (and nothing it doesn’t) after exercise.
The best time to have a protein shake is after a workout, since in the hour immediately following exercise, your body is craving nutrients and fluids to help replenish energy stores and allow worn-out muscles to recover. A beverage can be a perfect delivery system, but that doesn’t mean you can just toss anything into a blender. Your muscles require a balance of carbohydrate and protein, ideally in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. In order to achieve this nutrient goal, choose from some of these star ingredients.
Fruit : Fresh and frozen fruit add natural sweetness as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to help fight inflammation after a hard workout.
Dairy: Yogurt adds tummy-pleasing probiotics and a creamy texture. Greek yogurt is also high in protein and adds bone-building calcium.
Nondairy milks: Experiment with milk alternatives like almond, soy, coconut and rice milk. They feature different flavor profiles, and most are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, another important nutrient for bone and muscle health.
Liquid: Every smoothie needs some liquid, and 100% fruit juice can be a good choice, but too much can make a shake overly sugary. Good old water will do the trick, but you can also try plain coconut water for a boost of flavor and a dose of potassium, an important electrolyte.
Protein boosts: If you want to boost the protein content, nut butters, silken tofu and protein powder are good choices. But be sure to combine them with an adequate amount of carbs. When choosing a protein powder, simple is best. Opt for a clean and uncomplicated ingredient list such as that found in EAS 100% Whey Protein or biPro Whey Protein Isolate. If you’re looking for a plant-based option, try powders by Bob’s Red Mill made from soy, hemp or peas.
All these tasty smoothies feature the proper balance of carbs and protein for optimal recovery.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc. , which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.