Hi friends, before I begin, I want you to know that what I’m going to say is very personal to my own body and my own story. As a nutrition coach, who works with a variety of people, I believe that protein shakes, collagen shakes, or any other shake for that matter, can have it’s place in a person’s life – just not mine. At least, not right now, and as I see it, no time soon, but things can change. The reason I wanted to share my personal thoughts and story on protein shakes is the same reason I share any of my thoughts on this blog – perhaps someone else out there is having a similar experience that can gain a little perspective from someone else’s story. So here it goes…
To be honest, when I started drinking protein shakes it was at a time in my life when I desperately just wanted to feel normal again. When I say normal, what I really mean is, how I felt before kids. My youngest was close to age 2, I felt tired, weak, out of shape, and just all-around blah. Granted, I was still getting a up a few times in the night, was spending most hours of the daylight with two young children and was living the life of a very busy mama. Sure, I was holding on to a few pounds from both pregnancies, but honestly, weight-loss was never really a goal. I just wanted so bad to feel strong and energized again.
When I started drinking the shakes, I felt fine at first. I was maybe having one once a week. Plus, I thought since it had vitamins, minerals, and lots of other wonderful ingredients I was getting a ton of nutrition to go with it. I had even asked my nephrologist at the time if drinking these protein shakes would be okay on my kidneys (because I have PKD). He said it was fine but warned me that they contained stimulants. Not having the knowledge back then to even understand what that meant I dismissed it as no big deal. What I now know is that a stimulant is exactly what it sounds like. Something that may not be in the category of “caffeine” but still revs you up at the cellular level. Lots of things are stimulants: chocolate, certain “caffeine free” teas, cinnamon, maca, cayenne pepper, chia seeds, ginseng, ginko, turmeric….etc.). And if you are someone that gets anxious easily, check your cabinet for these ingredients…. small amounts are probably fine, but large amounts, or daily doses? Not so much.
Since it felt fine, I started drinking them more often. After finally removing them I could finally pinpoint certain issues I was having directly to the protein shakes:
For sure, they upped my levels of anxiety. I tried several different brands of vegan protein shakes and all of them contained at least 1 stimulant. Because they are not regulated by the FDA, I have no idea exactly how much of each ingredient was actually making its way into my system with each scoop. Consumer be warned.
I experienced bloat like never before! My stomach would get so round and so hard on the days I would drink them. I couldn’t figure it out. Part of me thought I was gaining weight, but the scale said otherwise. When I finally removed the shake, that hard distended belly went away.
I can now see they caused major gut related issues. Without getting too graphic but also being honestly real with you all I would have major bathroom attacks at random. I’ve talked before about how I wasn’t the best eater growing up, which resulted in a sore stomach. At first, I thought these shakes were solving that problem, moving things along. I was so wrong! It was creating a disaster in my gut. It wasn’t until I stopped the protein shakes and started focusing on real food from real sources that I can now say my stomach issues are no longer!
I lost too much weight and was eating a ton!! You might think, isn’t this the goal?! You guys, I felt an insatiable hunger while drinking protein shakes, and I ate ALL the time. Granted, it was also a busy time in my life with the kids, but my insatiable hunger normalized when I removed protein shakes from the equation. Protein shakes are supposed to satisfy you and repair muscles, and the list goes on. For me, it just made me hungry, a lot, and not for good stuff, for sugary treats!
Reflecting, I can see now that protein shakes were putting my body under a tremendous amount of stress. Between the anxiety, bathroom attacks, the stimulants I don’t carry the right enzyme for, and the horrible bloat, it was clearly doing more harm than good. This might not be you. Or maybe you see similarities. What’s most important with anything you place into your body is your awareness.
It doesn’t matter if its protein shakes or grilled chicken. We need to pay attention to our bodies and what our guts are trying to tell us. We all have a different genetic make-up. Our bodies will respond to different foods, stressors, workouts, and environment in different ways. Please stop listening to what the “diet, fitness, wellness” industry is selling you. If it makes your body thrive and feel good, then keep doing what you’re doing. However, if it doesn’t make you feel good and thrive, even though it’s what everyone else is doing, or what the headlines are currently selling, then don’t do it. It’s that simple.
For me, protein shakes were not the answer. I’ve also since learned, that my body currently likes lots of vegetarian whole food options, with non-vegetarian options mixed in. This might change. In fact, I’m counting on it. As I age, as we all age, things change. Our dietary needs change too. So, tune in, listen, and take comfort in the fact that you know your body and your body wants to love you!