Protein powder is popularly associated with bodybuilders and their bulging muscles, so you might not think it’s a viable weight loss aid. It’s true that downing protein shakes in addition to your regular diet won’t help you shed any pounds, but using shakes as occasional meal replacements may help you cut calories and gradually slim down.
If you’re going to make protein powder a regular fixture of your diet, you want a shake that tastes good. At the same time, if your goal is weight loss, it’s important to avoid adding a lot of high-calorie ingredients. If a basic mixture of a cup of water plus a scoop of protein powder isn’t flavorful enough for you, replace the water with nonfat milk or yogurt. For added sweetness and fiber, toss in half a frozen banana or a handful of berries.
Replace a Meal
You’re more likely to see weight loss progress if you use a protein shake as a daily meal replacement rather than as a dietary supplement. In a 2010 study published in “Diabetes & Metabolism Research & Reviews,” overweight and obese subjects who used protein-rich meal replacements lost more weight and more fat over a yearlong period than subjects who just reduced calories in their diets. If a shake alone won’t quell your hunger, combine it with a piece of fruit or a serving of whole grains.
Incorporating protein powder into a weight loss diet has another advantage because it encourages satiety. University of Texas researchers published a 2008 article in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” stating that protein more effectively produces feelings of fullness than either fat or carbohydrates. Endocrinologist Michael Tamber, Ph.D., told “The Herald” researcher Debra Smith that protein is actually the nutrient that tells the brain the body has had enough to eat. In contrast, foods high in sugar and simple carbs can trigger cravings and make you feel as if you need to eat more.
If you get enough protein without a daily scoop of powder, your new high-protein diet may present health risks. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states that most Americans get double the amount of protein they need, and the extra may put them at risk for osteoporosis, kidney stones, calcium stones and even cancer. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky recommends following a high-protein diet for no longer than six months and getting physician approval before you start.
References & Resources
- Diabetes & Metabolism Research & Reviews: Enhanced Weight Loss with Protein-Rich Meal Replacements
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management and Satiety
- HeraldNet: Protein Shakes Quell Hunger Pangs, with Differing Results
- The New York Times: How Carbs Can Trigger Food Cravings
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: The Protein Myth
- MayoClinic.com: High-Protein Diets – Are They Safe?