If you’re a woman trying to increase her protein intake, you have most likely encountered numerous protein shakes on store shelves. They appear in the supermarket, health food stores and even in drug stores – all claiming to help you obtain the protein your diet may be lacking. In fact, these shakes were designed to provide an alternative to high-calorie, high-fat or high-carb (depending on your diet plan) snacks and meals. If you choose to add protein shakes to your diet, selecting a shake that is right for a woman’s dietary requirements is essential for maintaining your on-going health.
Increase Protein, Lose Weight and Build Muscle
Protein shakes have become popular amongst women because they not only provide the protein that the body needs, but they also increase satiety, which may aid weight loss. According to a 2008 study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” protein has a thermogenic, or fat burning, effect on the body. Researchers note that protein can elevate the body’s metabolic rate much more than carbohydrates or fats. In addition to contributing to overall weight loss, protein shakes can also help women improve their muscle definition because proteins are the building blocks of muscles.
Soy, Whey or What?
Protein shakes for women are essentially the same as those available for men. When making a decision between soy and whey shakes, the choice is typically left to personal preference. Whey protein is a by-product of making cheese, so it would not be suitable for vegans or vegetarians, or individuals with an intolerance to lactose. Soy protein, on the other hand, is made from soybeans and is completely free of lactose. While both types of shakes provide large amounts of protein, you’ll have to consider your specific dietary needs when choosing between them.
Protein shakes are available in a vast array of flavors, but they typically contain artificial sweeteners or synthetic sugars to make them palatable. Consistent consumption of these artificial sugars can cause a laxative effect, but this is typically mild in most women. Protein shakes marketed specifically towards women often contain iron, so read the label carefully before purchasing if you take a multivitamin that contains iron or an iron supplement. Too much of the mineral can be toxic.
How Much Protein?
Women aged 19 and up require about 46 grams of protein daily, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Protein shakes vary in the amount of protein they actually contain. For the best results, read the label carefully to make sure the product has a moderate amount of protein. Remember, if you regularly eat meat, dairy, soy or other foods high in protein, you won’t need more than one shake a day as a supplement. If you are a vegetarian or don’t each much high-protein food, you may require as many as three protein shakes a day. Consult a qualified dietician to help create a safe plan for your situation.
Making Your Own Protein Shakes
Although you can easily buy packaged protein shakes for women, you can also save some money by making your own at home. You’ll need a healthy source of protein such as peanut butter, almond butter, eggs or egg substitutes, and liquids such as fruit juice, yogurt or milk to complete the shake. For a quick, tasty and healthy homemade protein shake, combine 1 tbsp. peanut or almond butter, 1 cup skim or 1% milk, 1 small, peeled banana and 1/3 cup ice cubes in a blender. Process until smooth. You can easily adapt this recipe to your own tastes by using different types of fruit, an egg instead of the peanut butter and fruit juice or yogurt instead of the milk. Experiment and enjoy!