One question I get a lot is: how in the heck do you know which protein is good versus which is bad? What is a meal replacement? Do I need one? It is all so confusing I know! I wanted to share a few tips with you so that when you are supplementing your diet, you are getting your money's worth and choosing a healthy, high quality option.
First of all let's define protein powder and meal replacement because they are two very different things. A protein is just that: protein. One single macronutrient. They are great post workout and can really help when you are short on protein for the day. Alone, they are low in calories and usually contain little to no carbs. I normally use them when I am having a plant based day and feel I need a bit more protein than I have consumed from my meals.
Meal replacement shakes do exactly that: replace a meal. Most are designed for weight loss, and are low in calories as compared to eating an entire meal, but contain all of the essential nutrients that your body needs from a meal. They contain vitamins and minerals, fiber, some carbs, fat, and protein, so that your body gets all three macronutrients. Meal replacements are a great tool when you are on a calorie restricted diet (as in weight loss) or when you are running short on calories (as in a treat meal day.) They also are great for subsidizing your diet when you are missing out on vital nutrients.
There are many types of protein: whey, egg, pea, rice and hemp to name a few. Whey is probably the most common but you may experience bloating and need to try pea or another type of protein. What I look for in a protein powder isr no added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, around 25g of protein and the lowest carbs and calories for that amount of protein. I like the fewest ingredients possible and definitely want to be able to pronounce the ingredients!
As far as meal replacements, I again look for no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. I carefully check the macros and not only focus on the protein but the carb content as well as the fat content as this is going to replace one of my meals. I also look at the grams of sugar. I typically use a meal replacement shake at breakfast as I am not a big breakfast food eater (with the exception of sausage gravy and biscuits!) I prefer a vegan meal replacement when I am feeling bloated (which is normally.) Definitely helps with that.
Hope this helps you when going through the millions of proteins. I know how difficult it can be. One rule of thumb I rely on is if I can’t pronounce it, I avoid it! If you need more help or have any questions, let’s chat!