Shakes are no longer just for athletes. They have become a hugely popular, readily available and easy way to top up protein, total energy or to help us cut Calories. They appeal to the super busy because they "give you complete nutrition" in the 30 seconds it takes to make it and the 60 seconds to guzzle it down. They seem perfect for our super speedy, I want it now lifestyle but are they?
Whether it's a fitness or protein shake or a meal replacement, they vary greatly in content and quality. Of course it will depend on what you want help with that will determine whether they are a suitable option. Here's my quick guide to the pro's and cons of shakes.............
Without a doubt, if you are short on time and need something quick, a shake can be ideal. Quick and convenient, but so is blending up a banana with a glass of milk............
They can be expensive! The most pricey will boast a gluten free, dairy free, vegan and organic shake providing dozens of essential nutrients, perhaps digestive enzymes, individual amino acids and the most natural of ingredients. At the end of the day, they are highly processed products and you are paying for convenience (which can be priceless!) and the brand.
You don't need to be good at math. Pre-calculated to give you everything you need in a single scoop means you know you are getting exactly what it says on the tin. If you are counting your macros and Calories they might be for you.
On their own, meal replacement shakes do little to educate us about our eating habits. You may find it hard to get in your fibre and 5 a-day without careful planning and if you have them to help with weight loss, there's the risk of putting any weight you lost straight back on again once you stop using the products.
Liquid meals and snacks are often easy to get down. If you are not a breakfast person or you have a poor appetite (can be due to illness or age for example), a drink can be much more appealing and a great way to get in some decent nutrition.
Liquid meals may have a lower satiety factor. This means the feeling of fullness you get after eating. So relying on shakes with a lower satiety factor, may actually increase your hunger and increase your Calorie intake. Some will have a higher fibre content and these are more likely to fill you up.
Balanced nutrition - often providing a good combination of vitamin and minerals. Handy if you know your diet is lacking. They can be useful for vegetarians and vegans beginning their journey.
You often get what you pay for and from my experience, the cheaper the shake, the higher the sugar or sweetener content. It's interesting how many of the shakes are marketed as replacements for our favourite desserts and biscuits. From strawberry cheesecake, to Oreo, to chocolate peanut butter flavours. Some of these shakes may just reinforce your craving for sweet things and mess with your head.
Before you decide if they are an option for you, ask yourself these questions:
Do I want to understand and learn how to regulate my appetite? Yes? I would give them a miss. Keep them for 'emergencies'
Do I want to make changes for the long term? Yes? I would give them a miss.
Am I doing the best that I can do with my current diet with the time I have? Yes, then these may help you get where you need to get.
Am I training for a competition or simply struggling to get my protein and energy in? Yes? They could be useful to ensure you meet your nutrient requirements.