Are Protein Bars and Shakes the Answer to Your Question?

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couponsI was going through the coupon section from this weekend’s newspaper and just about every other coupon was for money off of protein bars, protein shakes, and other items to help with weight loss resolutions. The ads for these items typically include some beautiful woman in a bikini or muscled up guy with a body to envy. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent in my Before Life on these things with the hopes that magically somehow they would help my body turn into a version of their body.

I think a lot of us believe the same thing or at least have hope that it’s true. As I pass desks at work on the way to the break room, I see protein shakes where I’ve never seen them a couple weeks ago. Someone brought in a box of fiber bars (now with added protein!) and put them in the breakroom to share. My previous hope that this was the solution to a great body has faded, and it’s now more of a wish at times that it was true. 😉

I have a protein shake just about every day. Throw the powder in a shaker and all I need to worry about is finding a water fountain when I get caught starving without a meal. Protein shakes and bars are great if you understand their purpose and use them as part of an overall fitness program. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Calories still count. Most shakes and bars are high enough in calories and nutrients to be intended as a meal replacement. You probably don’t need a protein shake and a meal. Make sure to read your labels so you know what you’re eating. If I have a high calorie bar with tons of protein, I only eat half of it at a time.
  2. Protein shakes and bars aren’t magic beans. You can’t eat or drink one and sit at a desk or on the sofa and get results. You still have to put in effort to workout and move daily. If you decrease your total calories below maintenance, you will lose weight but that rule applies whether you use shakes and bars or not.
  3. Shakes and bars are convenience foods to make getting a meal while out a little easier than trying to eat “real” food or find a microwave. You can get the same nutrients from chicken, beef, oatmeal, and other items. There’s nothing special about them regardless of what the advertising implies. They won’t suddenly turn on your fat burning furnace or I’d have burst into flames by now.
  4. Just like any food or meal, there is a huge variety of bars and shakes out there. The nutrient make up can vary depending on its intended purpose. Some are high in protein but low carb, some are high in fat, some are low in protein and high carb, and so on. There is no one size fits all. Again read the labels and figure out which one fits into your daily plan.
  5. This is based on my own personal experience, the better a shake or bar tastes the more likely it is to be a candy bar in disguise. Basic shakes and bars without all the sugars, flavors and fillers can taste pretty bad or bland at the very least. You can obviously take a plain shake and jazz it up by adding fruit, peanut butter and other ingredients. I do that quite often if I’m near my blender, but make sure to refer to rule #1 – calories still count.

You really can’t beat a shake or bar for the convenience while on the go and there are plenty of options out there to meet your dietary needs. Shakes and bars are a great way to save time and effort but like anything, make sure you understand the big picture and set realistic expectations on what they can and can’t do.

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