Monday 11 April 2016

Face Up Fitness: Protein Shakes – What’s All The Fuss?

Protein shakes have become as ubiquitous at the gym as dumbbells and medicine balls. If you don’t see tubs of the stuff stacked high on shelves behind the reception desk, you’ll find a whole range of ready-to-drink ones on sale in vending machines next to the weights room.

If you’re a gym regular, you will almost certainly have seen members (men and women alike) walking around with shake bottle in hand, guzzling the contents before or after their workout.

So what is it with protein shakes?  

Well, it’s all do with muscle growth, or lean muscle to be more precise (the athletic sort, as opposed to the Arnie). If you read my feature on protein last year here, you may remember that protein is the building block of muscle tissue.

When it comes to building muscle, the right sort of weight-training is key, absolutely. But, so is diet and supplementation. A number of personal trainers have told me that a fit physique is 70% diet and 30% training!  Taking supplements is seen by them as non-negotiable!

Protein shakes haven’t featured on my radar, despite the seriousness with which I approach my fitness training. I had always viewed them as optional – i.e. you can get your protein requirements from the food you eat. That you certainly can, but there are many cases when supplements are just so convenient!

I was recently sent a batch of shakes and a shaker by USN, one of the leading sports nutrition specialists. They also sent a handy 48-page kick-start guide ‘Transform Your body and Achieve Greater Results in Less Time’. It is packed full of seriously useful info for the fitness enthusiast.

So protein supplements! They come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, from huge tubs of powder to instant drinks and capsules. Some are to be taken in-between meals, some instead of meals, some before bed, others upon waking, and yet more before and after a workout. It’s a protein fest!

Here I’m looking at three shakes:  two are lean protein to support and maintain muscle growth, and the other a meal replacement to support weight loss without losing muscle mass.

USN Core Series Ultra Premium Pure GF1 – 6-Stage Lean Protein 

What’s it for? Building and maintaining muscle growth
How often? 2-4 servings daily
Ideal Time? After workout
Instructions: Mix with 300ml of cold water and shake for 30 seconds
Protein content per 56g serving? 40g
Calories per 56g serving? 211Kcal
Carbs per 56g serving? 5.4g, of which sugars 3.5g

Chocolate Cream Flavour

This mixed well and easily. It is thick in texture (think very creamy yoghurt), and tastes extremely rich and uber chocolatey. It is also very sweet – a little too sweet for my liking.  Its powerful flavour meant that I could only drink in small sips. But If you like chocolate and you like it very strongly flavoured, then this would certainly get your fix in a fitness protein format.

Strawberry Cream Flavour

Not as thick in texture as the above and not as sweet. I much preferred this flavour. It too is smooth and mixed well using the shaker provided (you can mix in a blender but it’s not necessary or convenient if consuming at the gym). Strawberry is the dominant flavour here; it’s much less creamy than the chocolate version.

USN Body Makeover Premium MRP Diet Fuel Ultralean Nutrition Shake 

What’s it for? Providing essential nutrients during weight loss management
How often? 2 servings daily
Ideal Time? Mid-morning and mid-afternoon
Instructions: Mix with 200-300ml of cold water and shake for 30 seconds
Protein content per 55g serving? 25g
Calories per 55g serving? 200Kcal
Carbs per 55g serving? 17g, of which sugars 2.6g

I was sent Chocolate Cream Flavour to try. Note the much higher carb value here, compared to the Pure GF1. It’s also much thinner in consistency, less sweet and not as creamy – something you might expect from a weight loss/diet version.

I actually preferred the flavour of this though!!  It blends easily in the shaker, has a smooth consistency and as the chocolate flavour was more subtle I found I could knock this back quite quickly.

A 2.28kg tub of USN Pure GF1 costs £39.99 and is available in eight flavours. A 1Kg tub of USN Diet Fuel Ultralean costs £28.99 and comes in five flavours. More here.
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