Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shakeology or other Protein Shakes - Worth it?

One of my challenge group members asked me to do a post on this topic, and I think it is a common question.  The reality is that protein shakes in general, and shakeology in particular, seem expensive, and we all want to make sure we're spending our money wisely.  SO, here's my take on it.

First, how much do they cost?

* There’s a $40 signup fee to become a coach, but they waive that fee if you buy/have-bought a Challenge Pack, like the 21 day fix challenge pack. 

Here’s how I think of it (and you know I ended up on the right side of that table, but I went through some of the other squares first):
  1.  Should you have a protein shake when you are working out consistently? Probably yes. If you are doing any strength-training, even body-weight or light dumbbell-based strength training, then the answer is probably yes.  And you should be doing strength training!!  Even if your focus is on more cardio-intensive activities like running or biking, that strength training is going to give you a more well-rounded strength and reduce your risks for injury.  It will also help as you age. 
          So why do I say “probably” yes?  Here’s how it breaks down:
a.       You absolutely need a post-workout snack that contains a mix of fast-digesting protein and carbs within 20 minutes of your workout.  No matter what source you read, this is true.  Running books will say more carbs in that mix, and weight-lifting books will say more protein, but the basic fact is that this snack helps your body.  The carbs replenish the glycogen in your muscles which you just used up, and the protein helps your muscles rebuild.  The speed is key here.  And that’s where a protein shake can help – its fast!  Could you make a snack of cottage cheese and fruit and eat that quickly right after your workout? Sure, but a shake is probably more realistic.
b.      You probably need a lot more protein than you think.  Unless you’re coming from an Atkins-style diet, you are probably eating too little protein for the average person.  Once you add in strength training, you need even more protein.  And so you are going to have to eat a lot of protein.  Let me put it this way: as an itty bitty 110-lb woman, which puts me in a pretty low calorie bracket, according to the 21-day-fix diet, I should eat the equivalent of 32 egg whites a day.  Yup.  32.  So, unless I’m really going to eat about the equivalent of almost 3 dozen egg whites a day, a protein shake can help to fill the gap – gives some quick, easy, and convenient extra protein. 

  1. Should you have a protein shake? Probably Yes.
  2. Should you take extra vitamins when you are working out consistently? Yes. I don’t have to say “probably” on this one, because the reality is that you should be taking extra vitamins even if you aren’t working out!  And of course, as usual, getting the right nutrients is even more important when you are demanding more of your body, like you are when you are working out consistently.  Here’s a quote from the Mayo Clinic: “Although a wide variety of nutritious foods are available in the U.S., Americans don't eat enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products. As a result, dietary intakes of several nutrients — potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D — are low enough to be of public health concern for both adults and children.”  A public health concern!  And for many other nutrients, it might not be quite so bad to be a public health concern, but we will feel better and our bodies will function better if we have enough.  
  • The reality is that we are all lacking in something.  No matter how healthy and varied of a diet   we eat, we are probably lacking in something. Taking a good multi-vitamin helps.  But there are caveats.  For example, did you know that your body can’t process calcium and iron together?  So chances are, your multivitamin has one but not the other.  There are other helpful things we can take that our bodies need – like added fiber, probiotics to help our gut health, extra B-vitamins for energy, extra vitamin C and certain other immune-boosting vitamins especially during cold and flu season.  Those don’t all fit into a multi-vitamin.   
  • For a while I was trying to put all of this together myself, and the reality is that it takes a lot of time and energy, and the cost really adds up fast (1$ a day for multi-vitamin, $1.50 a day for probiotic, $0.30 a day for B-complex and C vitamins, $1.00 a day during cold-and-flu season for some extra C and zinc, $0.25 for my quick-dissolving benefiber, …).  I still remember having breakfast with another health-conscious professor a few years ago, and we both pulled out a little pile of vitamins to take with our breakfasts.  We had a fabulous conversation about the benefits of different vitamins, and he convinced me to start fresh-grinding flax seeds every morning.  J  The quality of the nutrients is higher when you do this piecemeal approach, because you can get the best probiotic, and your iron can be in a form that is good for you to digest, you can time the taking of your calcium supplements, etc.  But it is a pain!
  1.  Should you have a protein shake? Probably Yes.
  2. Should you take extra vitamins when you are working out consistently? Yes.
  3. So, here’s where Shakeology can be super helpful.  You get that extra protein you need, the vitamins, fiber, probiotics, etc.  It’s super convenient.  And since it has carbs too, it’s a perfect post-workout snack.  You can tweak the protein/carb mix by adding more fruit or adding some greek yogurt when you’re blending up your shake, or just drink it as is.  And of the half dozen or so protein shakes I’ve tried, I’d say Shakeology is the best tasting.  That's also helpful when you're trying to eat healthier, because it can be your daily treat.  I still take my daily multi-vitamin, but I've cut out all the rest of that stuff, and I still feel better than before I added all of those in.
  4. The biggest drawback of Shakeology is this single big visible cost.  While it doesn’t seem like much when you consider the combined costs of the ingredients, and the benefit of the convenience, it’s still a big number.  That’s where signing up for a coach account can be worth it.  If you’re going to be buying it on an ongoing basis and you want the extra discount, might as well sign up for the coach account!  Like everything else at Beachbody, you can cancel at any time.  I've canceled a few of the free accounts (like the free trial of streaming), and it has always been super easy.

The reality is that protein shakes are marked up a good amount, so are vitamins, and so is Shakeology.  It is the reality.  But so is pretty much everything we consume.  And this is a pretty darn good-for-you one to pay the markup on.  I’d much rather spend the money on something that helps my body than, as good as it smells when I walk by it every morning on my way to the office, a cup of fancy high-cal sugary Starbucks.

Hope this helps!

Here are a few helpful links:
And finally, if you're interested in signing up to coach, to get that discount, let me know and I'll walk you through it (for example to make sure you get your fee waived).

1 comment:

  1. When you workout and gain muscle, the muscle burns more fat. When you workout your legs, Craig