What are protein powders?
Protein powders are consumable food products which have been synthesized from animal or plant foods, existing as concentrated forms of the protein nutrient. The protein can come from any natural source, usually already existing as a food which contains the nutrient, such as eggs, dairy, peas, rice, etc.
Protein powers are perhaps most popularly used by people seeking to build up muscle mass, a practice which has made the bodybuilder somewhat synonymous with those famous protein shake bottles used to mix the powder to make the drinkable shake to be consumed. There’s a very good reason for this, which is the fact that protein powders are very effective in aiding the process of building muscle. However, protein powders can also be to the benefit of anyone seeking to use them as a meal replacement option, specifically as part of an effective weight loss regime.
In the case of using protein powders to build up muscle, these would likely be used in addition to an existing or specifically modified meal plan designed to provide the surplus calories and other nutrients required to build muscle, but for meal replacement purposes the protein powder shake is essentially consumed in place of the regular meals. As suggested, it could be for the specific purpose of aiding in the process of weight loss, but it can also just make for a direct way to replace the regular meals you take perhaps for lifestyle and convenience purposes, such as how a vegan might still want to enjoy the benefits of getting all the nutrients their body requires without having to plan and eat solid meals.
In addition to vegans or vegetarians, anyone else who might be predisposed to a condition or who is experiencing a problem that has them struggling to account for all their protein needs through regular food can use protein powders as a meal replacement option. Typical examples would include the elderly or sick, amongst quite a few others.
There are three common forms of protein powders, namely: protein concentrates, protein isolates, and protein hydrolysates. However, what’s important is the composition of the protein powders as this is what has a bearing on the reason you’d be looking to use them. In the case of meal replacement and specifically for weight loss, the powder would be anywhere as close to being as pure as something like a protein isolate, which has about 90-95% of the protein nutrient.
Rather, you might be looking towards protein concentrates, which are produced through the extraction of protein from whole foods, with the use of enzymes or heat and acid. As a result, these contain about 60-80% protein, with the remaining composition of 20-40% containing carbohydrates, fat in some instances, or any other combination of nutrients which fortify the meal replacement shake in line with the identified goal you’d have for taking meal replacement powders. So it might contain vitamins and minerals such as calcium, although the main composition remains that of protein.
For weight loss in particular, the best protein shakes are those which are synthesized from whey protein, casein, egg proteins, and plant-based sources such as pea protein and soy protein. Typically, the shakes based on these proteins would be fortified with fiber, caffeine and other ingredients which have been known to aid in the process of weight loss.
Protein powders comprised out of a combination of whey and casein protein are perhaps the best option if looking for supplementation to aid the process of weight loss, because they’re great at inducing a feeling of satiation while stimulating weight loss.
Whey protein is extracted from milk, remaining as the liquid from the process of cheese-making, the other component of which is the curds (separated). Although very high in protein, it also contains lactose, which of course is the milk sugar which has many people struggling to digest it.
For that reason, usually an isolate version is made, which has the whey protein containing very little lactose.
Whey protein digests very quickly otherwise, stimulating a rapid and sharp rise in amino acids that in turn help in the process of building muscle mass, but it is in its appetite inhibiting capacity that it promotes fat loss and therefore makes for an effective weight loss protein shake.
Casein protein, like whey, is extracted from milk. In stark contrast to whey however, casein protein digests very slowly and is therefore absorbed slowly. Its effectiveness in the weight loss process can be attributed to its slow-digestion, forming a gel upon contact with stomach acid and subsequently slowing down the process of amino acid absorption.
The resultant calorie restriction naturally catalyzes a loss of fat.
Egg protein makes for a great alternative for people who are lactose intolerant and as the name suggests, it is extracted from eggs – particularly egg whites. Egg protein is made through the processing of dehydrated chicken egg whites to form a powder.
Egg protein would only really be used as an alternative to whey protein or casein on account of difficulty digesting dairy products, because while it can aid in the process of weight loss, it’s not quite as effective.
All nine amino acids are contained in pea protein, thereby rendering it a complete protein. Pea protein powder is extracted from yellow peas, making for a great source of a weight loss protein powder for people who may be allergic to or intolerant of milk, egg or soy.
Pea protein is great at inhibiting appetite, coming in second only after casein, but it tastes nothing like smashed peas. Being hypoallergenic, pea protein is a favorite amongst vegans as well, but makes for a great source with which to create a protein powder because it causes none of the digestive or allergic difficulties dairy or egg could cause. It’s specifically good for weight loss as opposed to building muscle mass, simply because although it does contain all amino acids, in some of the essential amino acids it comes in rather low – especially in comparison to dairy based proteins.
Soy protein also contains all nine essential amino acids, like pea protein and it’s a plant-based protein. A favourite amongst vegans, soy protein also makes for a great protein source for weight loss protein shakes for people who are lactose intolerant or have problems digesting dairy based products.
People specifically targeting belly fat as part of their weight loss goals will delight in the effects of soy protein, boasting the property of being the protein most efficient in reducing appetite.
Differentiating between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes
If any technical distinction is going to be made, there is definitely a difference between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes, something which was touched on a little earlier. A protein shake can also exist as a meal replacement shake, but a meal replacement shake doesn’t necessarily have to be a protein shake as well.
So, the ingredients contained make for the main difference between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes. While a protein shake would typically be comprised out of a high percentage of whey protein or any of the other proteins discussed, a meal replacement shake is more balanced in the nutrients it contains so as to account for the nutritional value of a more balanced meal that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with protein-based nutritional benefits.
Even in the case of using a protein shake as part of a diet geared towards weight loss, that protein shake’s protein-dominant composition has it designed to supplement the balanced meal someone like a weightlifter might want to consume. So, by design, a protein shake used for weight loss isn’t typically produced for that sole purpose. This doesn’t mean it cannot be effective, however. In fact, that’s exactly what makes protein shakes effective as weight loss shakes – they contain the nutrients required to maintain muscle mass and other body organ tissues (like calcium for a healthy bone density), while delivering those nutrients in the most biologically efficient way that eliminates a lot of the other calories that would otherwise form part of a meal containing similar nutritional value.
To get into more detail about the differences between protein shakes and meal replacement shakes, typically, a protein shake would contain about 25 grams of protein per serving, with very little much else in the way of fiber or carbohydrates, which are some nutrients responsible for the synthesis of energy. The biology behind this composition design functions to stimulate the body to look towards alternative sources for its energy supply, such as the fat reserves you’d have. This is why they’re so effective in aiding the weight loss process.
In contrast, meal replacement powders can contain anything from 10 to 40 grams of protein per serving, but that’s not universally typical. The key is for the protein to form part of a balance of nutrients to be delivered to the body per serving.
Where protein shakes are similar to typical meal replacement shakes is in their amino acids composition. While a protein powder will have fewer calories than a meal replacement powder, both would typically contain amino acids, which have been shown to possibly aid weight loss as well, but are factually known to help the body build and repair muscle fibers. On average, a prepared protein shake (mixed with water or milk) would contain around 100-120 calories, while a meal replacement shake would typically contain around 200-400 calories per serving.
This brings into focus the manner in which you’d use a protein shake versus a meal replacement shake. Since protein shakes are somewhat calorie-negative so as to stimulate the body to shed some mass, by digging into its own reserves for the missing fiber and carbs content, that would suggest that they’re not meant to be used for prolonged periods of time as meal replacement shakes. You have a specific goal you want to hit along your weight loss terrace, after which point your attention would turn to maintaining that weight and also adjusting your diet in order to get the appropriate balance of nutrients required again. If you use the right meal-replacement shakes on the other hand, this could make for a more long-term lifestyle element, because the best-quality meal replacement shakes can deliver satiation while accounting for all the nutritional needs which help you fend off cravings, maintain a good metabolic rate, repair your muscle fibers following a workout and maintain adequate energy levels to get you through your day.
Vegan protein powders
Vegan protein powders come into focus as a specialized type of meal replacement shake, because a vegan protein powder needs to contain a nutrient-composition that is effective in supplying the body with essential amino acids aiding in the synthesis of protein. That said, vegan protein shakes that are synthesized specifically also exist, but naturally we’re getting into somewhat of a super-specialized territory here.
Typically, grains, seeds and legumes are the only remaining sources of plant protein, since of course vegan protein shakes would have to have their protein content extracted from no animals or animal products. The protein component is usually isolated through the removal of carbohydrates and fats, with powders commonly made from hemp, soy, brown rice and peas, as well as seed proteins which are becoming more popular, such as chia, sunflower, sacha inchi, and pumpkin.
Either way, in any protein shake that is sold to aid weight loss or as a meal replacement, the nutritional composition varies by brand, so you’ll need to check the labeling of the package in order to ensure the one you add to your diet plan best fits your needs. The typical terrace followed would be one along which you consume a protein shake that’s suited for weight loss for a definite period of time, after which time you’ve shed the weight you wanted to lose, you would then possibly switch to using meal replacement shakes for a more rounded balance of nutrients.
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