I have been a huge proponent of protein shakes throughout my career. These delicious blends make a satisfying meal substitute to kick-start weight loss. They’re also a great midday snack to help sustain energy levels throughout the afternoon because they’re full of necessary nutrients. In fact, when I’m busy and on the go, and I don’t have a lot time for food preparation, I might drink two shakes in a day. Plus, I’m constantly updating my recipes, trying out different flavor combinations.
Of course, there are a variety of protein powders to choose from: some made from whey and others from egg whites; some are plain and some flavored, like vanilla or chocolate. But the real secret to getting the biggest bang from a protein shake comes from its base. This ingredient affects the shake’s caloric, fat and nutritional content and digestibility.
Cow’s milk can used, which is a source of calcium and protein, but it also contains fat. For example, 1 cup of whole milk holds nearly 8 grams of fat and 146 calories, nearly half of which come from fat. You can opt for a lower-fat version, like 1-percent milk, but 1 cup of this has 102 calories and 2 grams of fat.
The good news is that there are plenty of milk alternatives you can use instead. For years, soy milk was a popular substitute, but 99 percent of the time I choose almond milk. I really enjoy its nutty taste and creamy consistency, but even better, I appreciate the fact that it’s packed with nutrients.
Almonds are one of those super foods. They are low in cholesterol and sodium and high in micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals essential for good health. The nuts are good for weight maintenance, too. Not only are they often recommended as a smart snack, but a study found that people who ate an almond-enriched, low-calorie diet lost more weight and body fat than those who followed a high-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet.
Of course, the nuts by themselves are great, but almond milk really has become popular. In 2011, it surpassed soy milk in sales gains.
A lot of people drink almond milk because they like the flavor and its creamy consistency. You can buy it sweetened (usually vanilla or chocolate) or unsweetened, but be aware that the sweetened versions mean added sugar, which adds calories to what is naturally a low-calorie drink. An 8-ounce glass of unsweetened almond milk is approximately 60 calories, less than half of a glass of whole milk.
In addition to being low-cal, almond milk is low in carbohydrates. This is good news because carbs convert into sugars, which can set you off on the blood-sugar roller coaster. Because almond milk is low in carbs, that means fewer spikes in blood sugar so you won’t feel the resulting drastic drops in energy.
Also, almond milk is typically fortified with vitamin D and calcium just like cow’s milk. One cup serves up 25 percent of your daily recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D and 30 percent of calcium. Even better, it contains magnesium, which helps your body absorb the calcium. We all know calcium is critical to maintaining strong bones as we age, but it’s also necessary to contract muscles, like when exercising.
Another mineral found in almond milk is iron. This helps muscles absorb and use protein, which gives you energy and helps muscles repair after an intense workout. And remember, we lose muscle mass as we get older, so maintaining or building that muscle mass back up is very important to healthy aging.
However, almond milk by itself is not a huge source of protein—1 cup has 1 gram of protein versus 8 grams for cow’s milk and approximately 7 grams in soy milk. So if you’re switching to almond milk from either of those two, make sure you’re eating other foods high in protein, like lean meats and nuts. Or fix yourself one of my favorites, a shake with protein powder and almond milk as its base. I love how energized I feel afterward.
Other Milk Alternatives
In terms of other milk substitutes, soy is still a popular option. It has 100 calories per cup, but only 4 grams of fat, and as I noted, its protein content is comparable with cow’s milk.
There are also oat and hemp milk products. Oat milk is higher in fiber than other milks, and one Swedish study shows that it lowers total cholesterol, and more importantly, it lowers bad cholesterol (LDL).
Hemp milk contains the healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, says it’s a good option because hemp milk has 10 essential amino acids, making it a protein source. But it is not high in calcium.
Although not a “milk,” coconut water is extremely popular these days—my daughters love it. This isn’t the creamy coconut milk typically used for cooking; it’s actually is the natural water collected from immature coconuts.
What coconut water has going for it is that it’s low in calories—about 50 per glass—and high in potassium, approximately the equivalent of one banana. Potassium, along with sodium, helps keep you hydrated when sweating and exercising. Coconut water also helps replenish electrolytes, much like sports drinks, so it might be a good post-workout beverage.
Shake it Up
Whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight or simply trying to up your nutrition, it’s just as important to look at what you’re drinking as it is to track what you’re eating. As ReShape subscribers, you get access to some of my favorite recipes, including my protein shakes. So grab your blender, choose your base, and start mixing.
One of your secret weapons for weight loss is keeping a journal.
A big component of my plan is your journal. You’ve most likely heard this advice before, but today, let’s put it into action and take journaling to the next level for ultimate results. Keeping a journal is a great way to review your day, making not of the people, places, and things that may have triggered hot flashes, stress and emotional reactions. My journal has been my constant companion in my fitness lifestyle. I find that the act of writing itself releases anxiety and clears my mind of negative thinking.
Keeping a journal is a surefire way to stay on track because it holds you accountable to yourself. In fact, it’s been proven time and again that those who track their progress achieve far greater results than those who don’t. As a ReShape member, download my free Health Journal here (from my 30 Days of Summer e-Book).
Get Down To The Nitty-Gritty
In your journal, record the following information:
Foods: Keep track of what you eat every day
Workouts: Enter what workouts you do. Be sure to include all physical activities because they all have n impact on your fitness level and weight loss. For example, record that you took the stairs rather than the elevator or that you walked instead of drove to the store.
Hunger levels: Record your hunger levels before and after meals. Use a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means “stuffed” and 5 means “starving.”
A 3 is “normal,” and that is where you want to be most of the time.
Emotions: Record what’s happening in your life too. Write down your thoughts, what mood you are in, what life events are most affecting you, and so on. Were you happy and lighthearted or edgy and annoyed? Your mental attitude has a lot to do with your physical energy and you can learn to use happiness as a motivator in your success.
The Bad Day Barometer
If you feel “ruined” by a day of overeating and little or no exercise, it is especially important to record your thoughts and the happenings of the day. There could be days when you are on the go and do not pack a meal. So you go to a fast-food joint. When you feel tired and overworked, you may fall prey to comfort foods that are high in fat and calories. Be sure to make the entry, even if you would rather skip it or pretend it did not exist. Seeing these difficult days charted on paper will help you identify behavioral patterns, pitfalls and roadblocks that prevent you from being a successful eater. It can help explain why and when you eat certain foods. And this in turn will help you make positive changes.
What’s Your Rhythm?
All aspects of our well-being flow in cycles. Yet, I’m always surprised when someone hasn’t figured out her own energy rhythms — when she hasn’t noticed, for example, what time of day her body is most “ready” for exercise, critical thinking, creative work, sex, sleep, and so on. Coming to terms with your energy cycles is one of the most basic levels of body awareness and can only be done by observing your body.
When people ask me the secret to living fully in their bodies, I tell the honestly: It’s all about trial and error — especially error! It’s about learning to spot the patterns. It took me years of being on the road, with the stress of travel and performance, to learn exactly what I need to do to keep myself going at my peak.
For example, I’ve had several times in the past month when my glands were a little swollen. Now, that’s a small thing, sure. But I’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s something I need to listen to — it tells me I’m under extra stress. By being sensitive to small things, I can adjust my life in small ways to keep myself healthy.
Part of keeping a beneficial journal is tracking your goals. Take a moment to print off the my Goal-Setting Guide here and write down your goals, whether it’s:
– Weight loss
– Lowering your blood pressure
– Increasing energy
– Getting more enjoyment out of life
This is an important part of the process and should not be overlooked. Put this list in a place where you’ll see it regularly (the fridge, the bathroom mirror, on your desk) so you can keep coming back to remind yourself why you’ve made this choice.
Remember, the goal here is to make progress. Every important journey begins with a single step, so let’s take that all important first step together.
This week, focus on:
– Goal setting, and focusing how helpful it is when it comes to identifying your patterns
– Being patient with yourself as you reflect on what’s happening in your life.
Remember, that day-by-day, you’re making baby steps to not only remodel your body, but also your entire life.
It’s important to understand what kind of eater you are. You may find that you fit neatly into one of the categories listed here, but you probably fit into more than one category depending on your circumstances. Don’t worry! It’s all about indentifying your own behaviors and understanding why they exist and how you can manage them.