When an individual decides they would like to shift some weight, many will ponder the questions – should I use a protein shake to do this?

My answer ….No!

To explain, my philosophy on health is ‘Energy in = energy out’ with a focus on good nutrition, and regular exercise. So the theory of remove food from your diet that you enjoy, and replacing it with a protein shake doesn’t fit well with me.

What’s in a protein shake?Shake

Protein shakes consist of powered forms of protein, usually a combination of soy or whey proteins (which is a by-product of cheese making). Many shakes contain ~ 20g of protein, and when the current recommendations for women is approximately 46g of protein/day. You only need 2 of these shakes to almost reach this level.

In addition to the fibre, some flavouring is usually added to make it taste appealing, along with an array of vitamin and minerals. Many of the products added for nutritional benefit also contain fibre, so the end product is often very fibre rich. The end product ends up tasking something like a flavoured milkshake.

Why protein?

Protein intake in conjunction with resistance exercises has been proven to assist with increased muscle mass. A person with a higher muscle mass, will usually have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the amount of energy that you burn at resting.

Some research has shown that a protein rich diet can assist with satisfying hunger levels, and help individuals suppress their appetite (ultimately avoiding snacking, and reducing total calorie intake).

Will I definitely lose weight?

To ensure that you do lose weight using these shakes, you need to ensure that you have replaced other meals with these shakes. Plus you need to ensure you are doing the regular resistance exercise to gain the benefits of the added protein.

Are they safe for breastfeeding mums?

There are some products on the market they claim to be safe during breastfeeding (there are also some, that are definitely NOT!).

My concern with any of these products, is they are designed to create large deficits in the amount of energy consumed. Our bodies use energy for everything we do, to walk around the house, climb stairs, etc. However more energy is consumed when we do activities like exercise, running, swimming etc. Breastfeeding falls into a category of using more energy.

If you starve your body of adequate energy (which is require to ultimately lose weight), then your body doesn’t have adequate energy to perform all the actions it needs to. So it either forgoes extra bodily functions, or it starts to access your fat stores as a source of energy. When the body starts to use fat stores as an energy source, your body has to work much harder. Often women will find if their body is utilising their fat stores for energy, a compromise is the quantity of milk they produce (particularly at the end of the day).

Ultimately this results in a grumpy, hungry baby. Which in my personal experience results in a grump, hungry mummy!!

So what do I suggest….

Balance, is very much the answer.

Mums need to realise that a balanced approach to their diet and exercise is imperative to a healthy recovery to their ideal weight. Ensuring a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Offset with regular exercise, that increases gradually with durations and intensity. You will see the results.

Turning to a quick fix for ‘fast easy’ weight loss, has a very high occurrence of bouncing back on once you resume your ‘usual’ eating patterns. So set yourself up for success, and make the right choices from the start!

Not only are you setting foundations that will serve you for life, but you are setting a fantastic example for your young baby.

Sally Muir – Dietitian

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