I didn’t really want to make this post because protein shakes could be made of anything, REAL food or not, and they work super well for some people. If you’re loving yours, do your thaaang.
TBH, I also have had weird experiences with them, so I’m super hesitant to recommend brands of protein shakes to clients and any of my followers who ask.
But I’m going to do my best because this is a VERY commonly asked question and I want you guys to have my real opinion as a health coach (especially one who advocates for plant-based nutrition).
SO here’s the deal: If you can keep your ingredients REAL, plant-based, and organic, that’s obviously the best combination for any food, not just protein shakes.
I’m not a fan of adding shakes or powders to smoothies for extra protein, and here’s why:
- We usually overestimate how much protein we need. If you’re eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, your body is already getting enough protein, and the BEST protein for lean muscles and overall good health. Protein deficiency is not really a common thing. Animal agriculture-backed companies also love to play the protein card to almost scare you into not thinking you’re getting enough. I found this clip from one of my favorite documentaries, What the Health, specifically about how much protein you need. So basically, if your smoothie has plant-based sources of protein from whole foods, you’re getting enough to satisfy a full meal’s worth.
2. Processed shakes and powders, by nature, have extra preservatives and chemicals you don’t need. I’m a big fan of cutting those corners… remember, if you’re looking to burn fat or build muscle, you want CLEAN fuel, not the extra stuff.
3. If you’re packing a smoothie or shake with lots of ingredients, chances are it’s pretty high in calories. I don’t count calories, but I recommend only putting the amount of food you’d actually eat WHOLE into a shake. So if you wouldn’t eat a whole banana, a cup of almond milk, a spoon of peanut butter, a cup of spinach, etc. all in one sitting, maybe edit the amount you’re putting into the smoothie so that it satisfies you rather than over-fills you. Shakes and powders add extra calories of something (protein) you don’t necessarily NEED extra amounts of, which can actually slow you down from hitting your goals if you are overeating (or overdrinking).
With that being said, obviously your doctor is the main authority here. AND…
If you have made the choice that you DO need the extra protein and are looking for a great way to include that, I have some of MY guidelines that help me make the best informed decision:
REAL FOOD ONLY! There are sooo many options to choose from when it comes to shakes and powders, so a great guideline is to make sure you can read (and pronounce) as many ingredients as possible.
PLANT-BASED IS KEY. If you can find a vegan/plant-based protein powder that basically just pulverizes real plant protein sources, I’ll give that the OK. Back when I drank them, I was a big Philosophie girl and added this one to my shakes all the time.
KEEP IT SMALL. That is, keep your powder portions small. Remember, anything processed is awesome if you use it to SUPPLEMENT your whole foods, plant-based diet. So a little bit here and there is nothing to worry about, and it’s great that you’re making the effort to be mindful, right?
EXPERIMENT W. WHOLE FOOD OPTIONS: Here’s my favorite tip. I make protein shakes alllll theee tiiiiimeee! Except what works best for ME is to get my sources from as many plants instead of shakes as I can so that the energy in my body is clean & easy to digest.
Because I’m all about doing it this way, here are some of my favorite plant-based protein sources to mix & match and add to my shakes & smoothies instead of powders:
GROUND FLAX SEEDS: 6g protein per serving.
CHIA SEEDS: 4g protein per serving.
PEANUT BUTTER: 4g protein per serving
SPIRULINA: ~4g protein per powder serving (it tastes BAD but is one of the best plant protein sources)
SPINACH: ~2g protein per 2 cup serving
CACAO NIBS: 4g protein per serving
SILK PROTEIN NUTMILK: ~10g protein (an awesome way to add extra if you want to!)
So obviously, you have options. Do what’s best for you, listen to how you FEEL after you experiment with something, and stick with what makes you feel good.
I hope these options and reasoning helped you make the best decision for you!
As always, any questions, just comment below & let me know how I can help you out.
Thanks for reading, babe!
Certified Holistic Health Coach