When implemented into your diet properly, protein shakes, smoothies or the meal replacement shakes found on purepathessentialoils.com can be a great help towards gaining muscle mass. You’ve probably heard of protein powders, you may have even tried them – but do you know how to take your shake to the next level?
There are plenty of different types of protein powder on the market, and all are – unsurprisingly – packed with protein. Do your research into this if you are looking to try using protein powders as a supplement for other protein products. Also, remember, there are powders out there for everyone and their different needs. So if you are a vegan, you could look into a site like veganproteinlab.com/best-vegan-protein-powders to help you make an easier decision as to what powders to begin with. Your body needs protein after a tough workout, due to protein breakdown in the muscles. So which should you choose, and when should you be drinking them? We break down 3 of the most popular – but there’s endless kinds, so make sure you try them out to find which one works best for you.
- Whey protein is very quickly digested for the body, which makes it great post-workout for quickly aiding recovery in damaged muscles.
- It has key nutrients that stimulate muscle growth, plus it increases blood and oxygen supply to your muscles – something they’ll be craving after a gym session.
- You can also drink whey protein pre-workout for a muscle-boosting hit of nutrients.
- Casein is much slower to digest than whey, meaning that it can provide a steady flow of nutrients over a longer period of time – this makes it great for recovery!
- It helps to take casein before you go to bed, so your body is constantly nourished – casein can even increase your metabolism as you sleep, lending itself to fat busting.
- A combination of whey and casein proteins has been shown to result in larger muscle gains, so if you’re really serious about gaining muscle mass, a combination of the two is perfect.
- Egg protein is also best taken before bed – it’s digestion speed is somewhere between whey and casein.
- It helps speed up your recovery time and gives you a protein hit.
- It has less carbs than whey protein, but you may want some carbs to fuel you pre-workout!
- Egg protein is the best choice for those who are sensitive to dairy – it’s lactose free, so lactose intolerant people who want to gain muscle mass can rejoice!
How to pimp your protein shake
Protein is all well and good when you’re trying to buff up, but don’t neglect other areas of your health. There are plenty of other protein-rich foods you can add to your smoothies (although don’t overload on it!) If you replace breakfast with a protein shake, you want something a little more filling and interesting than just diluted protein powder – we’ve collected all the best elements for the perfect protein shake, so take your pick!
Mix it up
The biggest contenders for mixing with your protein power shake are milk and yoghurt – don’t worry, there are options for the lactose-intolerant of us! To make life really simple, you can just mix your protein powder with water.
- Cow’s milk – for muscle building, cow’s milk is great – it has the necessary calories needed to really gain muscle mass, but it’s also full of protein.
- Soy milk – Soy comes in at a close second in terms of protein content, making it a great choice for those who are sensitive to cow’s milk.
- Almond milk – If you’re trying to boost fat loss, almond milk is the way to go, as it has the lowest calories of the bunch.
- Greek yoghurt – Great for adding thickness to a smoothie, Greek yoghurt is also high in protein, potassium and calcium. It’s heavy enough to fill you up whilst still being low fat, and it contains probiotics – your digestive system will thank you later!
Boost your energy with heart-healthy fats
Fat doesn’t always have to be the enemy! Heart-healthy fats are a great way to boost energy and give you those extra calories needed for muscle gain.
- Nuts/Nut butter – Nuts are packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which is perfect if you’re trying to gain muscle! An easy way to send your smoothie nuts is to include nut butter.
- Chia seeds – Also full of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, most of chia seeds’ carbs come from fibre. The body doesn’t digest this fibre, but it does lend a helping hand to your digestive system! Another great thing about chia seeds is that they expand in your stomach, increasing your feeling of fullness and curbing your appetite – which is great if you’re using your shake as a meal replacement.
- Coconut oil – Not only will this miracle worker give you a steady stream of energy and fuel fat loss, it’ll even help your body absorb all those nutrients that it longs for. If you close your eyes, you could even pretend you’re drinking a pina colada poolside (if you’ve got a particularly vivid imagination!) To avoid the coconut oil clumping, try melting it before adding it to the blender.
Get your fruit on
Fruit will not only create a great-tasting shake, it’ll also pack a big vitamin and mineral punch! Not all fruits are created equal, but here are a few that’ll lend themselves well to your protein shake:
- Avocado – Avocados are packed with potassium, which is great for your heart health – which you’ll need if you’re going hard at the gym! It’s also low carb and can greatly increase your feeling of fullness, which can aid in fat loss.
- Banana – If you’re not a fan of avocados (god forbid!), bananas are a great substitute. They’re high in potassium like avocados, but they have the added benefit of being rich in fibre, which is often linked to fat loss. Why not try both together for a super potassium boost!
- Blueberries – Well known as a superfood, and for good reason! Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fruit, as well as being full of fibre and vitamin C. The antioxidants found in blueberries can speed up your metabolism and lower your blood pressure. The great thing about using blueberries in protein shakes is that they can aid in muscle recovery, as they have anti-inflammatory properties. All that and they taste amazing!
- Strawberries and Raspberries – Berries in general are loaded with antioxidants! Strawberries are great for protein shakes, as they’ve been shown to reduce inflammation in joints. Raspberries are another great choice, as they’re great for the immune system and contain manganese, a mineral that boosts metabolism.
- Apricot – Another anti-oxidant rich fruit, apricots contain catechins (the antioxidants found in green tea!). They’re great against inflammation and even promote fluid balance in your body, leading to less bloating!
You definitely want to be adding veggies into the mix – especially iron-rich ones! Here are a couple of options (but don’t feel limited to just these!):
- Spinach – Low in fat and cholesterol, but full of vitamins and antioxidants, especially iron! Iron is great for you as it keeps you energised, and prevents muscle fatigue. Lack of iron can cause a whole host of problems – fatigue, poor performance and mental ‘fogginess’ to name a few. The great thing about spinach is that due to its mild taste and high water content, you’ll barely even know it’s in your smoothie – so get your Popeye on!
- Kale – The most famous of superfoods, kale is low in calories and even lower in fat. In addition to being packed with antioxidants, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence! High in iron, calcium and vitamin C, it’s great for healthy bones, maintaining joint flexibility and preventing muscle fatigue. If your muscles could talk, they’d be asking for kale!
- Matcha powder – We’ve raved about the benefits of matcha powder before, and for good reason! Try adding a scoop to your protein shakes for an amazing antioxidant boost.
There we have it – a long, but not comprehensive, guide to pimping your protein shake. Don’t go mad and try adding all of these elements at once; you’ll just end up with a big old mess. Chop and choose, experiment with different ingredient combinations to find the perfect protein shake for you.
Let us know of any particularly delicious combinations in the comments – we’d love to hear them!