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Friday, April 04, 2003  

Protein Powders

A friend asked me about protein powders the other day, and so I thought I'd make a long answer of it, rather than just give her what she needs, a simple link to buy my favorite protein powder. Of course, you can save yourself, skip down, and find it below…

Why use protein powders when I'm always harping on a more natural, varied, simple diet? Ach. Well. Because there's the idyllic state, and there's reality, and while we move always toward that perfect place, we must live in our actual lives, which are often harried, hurried, too fast for grocery shopping and meal planning.

When life goes too fast, we need food we can grab fast that is good for us. Protein powder fills the bill. It allows you to make a fast shake, or add protein to your hot cereal, or roll your own breakfast bars without going broke or crazy or falling back on those Pop-Tarts and Krispy Kremes.

Okay, I would like to diffuse the great argument about just how much protein we need in our diets with my favorite mealy-mouthed position: You need what YOUR body needs.

Nutritionists will say your biologic need is .36 X your ideal body weight in lbs. for your total grams of protein. So a woman who ideally weighs 140 lbs. needs 50.4 grams of protein per day. Many would argue for more, especially if that woman is reducing her calorie load to lose weight. Bodybuilders regularly consume much more, as much as 1 gram per lb. of body weight to build muscle. I say, you'll find your optimum needs by experimenting and balancing your protein income with the other vital nutrients, fats and carbohydrates.

If you already have problems with your kidneys, talk to your doctor before supplementing with protein powders. The studies on high protein diets suggest that for people who already have kidney troubles, or are susceptible to kidney problems, a very high-protein diet is not a good idea.

If you experience constipation when consuming lots of protein, you have received a good sign to cut back.

Me? I aim for about 60 grams of protein a day, but more when I was losing weight to help me build and keep muscle, to keep my metabolism burning as hot as it can.

Getting that much protein in is hard for me while keeping calories down and fiber up.
There are lots of different types of protein powders out there featuring egg, soy, and whey proteins. Many are loaded with sugar. Obviously, I avoid these. All the reading I've done suggests that whey protein is the best quality protein, if you're not sensitive to milk-based products. (I know I should try giving up milk products to see if it makes my asthma better, but I can't quite get there yet.)

So my weapon of choice is Designer Whey, which comes in lots of flavors, but I standardize on the French Vanilla. Here are three ways I use it:

Homemade Protein Treats
I used to rely heavily on protein bars (and particularly liked the Atkins Cinnamon Swirl Breakfast Bar), but have become concerned about the sugar by-products used in those bars, which seem to have an anti-social effect on my system. So I've taken to using my protein powder to mix up protein snacks that make a fast grab-and-go breakfast. I make protein balls with almond butter, kneading in more and more protein powder until the "dough" won't take any more. This is a lot of protein powder, and takes awhile. I then form walnut sized balls, and rest them on wax paper in my fridge, ready to go. These are a little oily, but good with a big glass of water. Don't imagine you're eating fudge, or you'll be disappointed with the flavor. If you just have to have more sweetness, try adding stevia drops to this to make it more palatable, or you might roll these balls in cocoa powder to finish them and get a little kick of chocolate flavor.

My other protein treat starts with cream cheese instead of peanut butter, again kneading in as much protein powder as I can. I do add sucralose and a few drops of a flavoring oil like almond or lemon, adding to taste. I'd like to try it without the sweetener, because I don't like relying on sweeteners. This mixture becomes remarkably taffy-like. I roll walnut-sized hunks of these into string-cheese-sized sticks, held together by wax paper, and stored in the fridge. Very chewy. It takes a long time to eat these, which all by itself is satisfying.

These walnut-sized hunks are each about 150-200 calories and 20 grams of protein.

Protein Smoothies
I use a scoop or two of protein powder in a cup of soy milk with frozen cherries or peaches or blueberries. If it's too thick, I add cold water and ice cubes to loosen it up. We buy a lot of frozen fruit for these shakes, looking carefully at the labels to be sure we're getting sugar-free frozen fruit. Your calorie/protein count will vary depending on how much powder and what sort of soy milk you use, of course.

Protein Cereal
I add a scoop of protein powder to oatmeal in the morning. It adds a lot of body to microwaved oatmeal, and a nice vanilla punch.

It takes some tuning and trying to find the best way to use this sort of food supplement. Trial and error. I recommend it, though, particularly if you struggle to keep your blood sugar in check, and want to eat protein at every meal.

Good luck with it,


On Protein Powders
My favorite, Designer Whey
The Budget Bucket

posted by Julie |
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