Aug 282009

Protein_shakeA friend of ShrinkGeek approached me on my blog with a question about protein shakes:

I was wanting to know if you knew anything about Muscle Milk [Light].  I take it twice a day as part of my “trying to lose 30lbs and strengthen my heart” workout. I was looking for something to help recover after the workout as I was not in great shape when I started and felt weak at the end of the day. Because I was looking to lose weight I needed it to have a very low sugar count. This seemed like the best thing that wasn’t some scary Mc-Muscle powder from GNC. I’ve lost 10lbs in 6 weeks while toning my body in the process.

First off, congrats on the excellent progress so far!

Protein, not to put too fine a point on it, is what your body uses to build and repair pretty much everything from muscles to fingernails.  Making sure you get enough of it is a great way to recover after a workout, especially if you’re trying to build some muscle and tone up. There has also been some research that suggests adding protein to a healthy nutritional regimen can contribute to weight loss. (I’m not talking going all the way to Atkins-land, just getting a little more protein.) With that said, there is also a body of research that shows this isn’t the case. The waters are a little bit muddy on this point, to say the least.

The only hard argument against protein shakes would be if you’re allergic to any of the stuff in them, doing a seriously hardcore no-carb eating plan, or vegetarian. It’s not unusual for shakes to contain milk or soy-derived proteins (these are the most common sources), so make sure to check the labels if you’ve got food sensitivities.

I haven’t personally had Muscle Milk except on a couple of occasions (having migrated to mix-and-drink powders as opposed to pre-made, ready-to-drink ones). Mike, on the other hand, typically has a MM Light with or after his workouts. He says, “They taste kind of like Slim-Fast, but with protein.” The 8 1/2 ounce ready-to-drink version is 100 calories, contains 15g of protein, 5g of carbohydrates, and clocks in at 2 WW POINTS for those curious.

I initially assumed our reader was getting this stuff. (There is only a difference of only two grams of carbs between the versions.) Protein shakes tend to all be fairly similar — some have a more protein than Muscle Milk (up to about twice as much per ounce), but otherwise, it’s a matter of taste more than anything.  If you’re trying to build muscle, you’ll probably want to choose something that has more protein rather than less, obviously. Finding one that tastes decent, well – that’s a case of “shop around.”

Speaking of taste, there is one big commonality among all the protein shakes I’ve tried, and Mike backed me up when I asked his opinion of the MM Light: they all taste a lot better cold than they do at room temperature.  Some folks manage this by using refrigerated water (when mixing their own) and drinking them straight off. Another option is to whip them up with a handful of ice cubes. (If you have a blender handy, this is an excellent idea.)  Being dishwashing-averse, and frequently making them at the office, this isn’t my usual modus operandi.  I’ll get some cold water, a shaker bottle, and down it before it gets too warm (usually).

If you have a question about exergaming, healthy eating, fitness, or anything else that comes to mind, drop us a line at!

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