Shakes to lose weight - Sounds too good to be true!
March 5, 2011 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Using Whey Protein to assist in weight loss? Is this possible?

Back story: I have lost about 55lbs in the last 6 months through some substantial lifestyle changes and increased physical activity. I need to lose another 60 or so to be in a healthy BMI range. I'm very motivated and have no doubt in my ability to accomplish this.

The first 40lbs literally FELL off me with the lifestyle changes, however the last 15 have taken much longer, and even though I am at the gym 4 times a week, doing 30 minutes of cardio, weights, etc, my weight loss has almost come to a grinding halt.

My doctor recommended that I add a few supplements/vitamins. Chromium, CLA & Vitamin E, but what really surprised me is that he suggested 2 protein shakes a day.

So, my question is: have any of you had luck with losing a substantial amount of weight with whey protein? When do you suggest to take it? Share your secrets. I've searched endlessly online but so much of the information is sponsored that I have no idea where to find a reliable and trustworthy resource.

Lastly I would like to add that the shakes I have been mixing so far have been with "gold standard whey protein", which is 120 calories a scoop, ice, a cup of 1% milk, and a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Bonus marks for any low cal delicious recipes! Thanks!
posted by adamfunman to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
are you replacing meals with the shakes, or just adding the shakes to your existing nutrition plan? If you're just adding, you're just adding extra calories. Protein is good to help you build muscle, but only the most hardcore of weightlifters will truly need more protein that what a healthy diet will provide.
posted by modernnomad at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2011

It makes sense if you're replacing meals with shakes.

Whey protein, a few ounces of frozen fruit, ice, and water is low-calorie and delicious. One summer I lost seven or eight pounds without meaning too because I couldn't eat normal breakfasts and started drinking protein shakes instead.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2011

I would lower the shake's calorie count/sugars by using unsweetened almond milk(AlmondBreeze is good, the Silk brand is AWFUL NASTY DO NOT DRINK). Also, I'd do more cardio than 30 minutes if you can swing it!
posted by lettuchi at 3:49 PM on March 5, 2011

I have used protein shakes to ward off mid-morning or mid-afternoon hunger that might have otherwise led to less healthy food consumption. Protein satiates hunger and it tends to last for several hours.

If you are replacing carbs with a protein shake then it should be a good thing. Protein keeps away hunger longer than carbs.
posted by caddis at 3:51 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, casein protein seems to work best for me for staving off hunger for a longer period.
posted by caddis at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2011

I think the idea is that protein helps you feel full (like fat does), thereby preventing you from overeating. There isn't any special component of protein that just takes off the pounds - it works by reducing your hunger. I know that since I started eating breakfasts with more protein and fat, instead of cold cereal which is mostly carbs, I don't get hungry before lunch.

Since I do weight training, I will have some protein powder with a glass of water immediately post-workout, followed by my lunch after I get back to the office (I have a gym at work). That's the only time I use a supplement - the rest of the time, I just try to eat foods with a lot of protein such as fish, yogurt or nut butters.

Gold Standard is a good brand to get. I read an article in Consumer Reports a few months ago about how a lot of protein powders have significant amounts of various metals in them. Gold Standard was one of the top-rated brands for having very low amounts.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2011

Despite the marketing claims, a protein shake is not a magic formula, and has no particular use specific to weight loss other than serving to replace an inferior food you might otherwise have eaten.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 3:53 PM on March 5, 2011

Protein has a higher thermic effect than the other macronutrients. This means that high-protein diets have a metabolic advantage; which is to say, if two people eat a diet with the same number of calories, the person who consumes a greater percentage of protein will burn more calories and lose more weight. More info here.

The other advantage of a high protein diet is that protein and fat have a greater satiety effect than carbohydrates; meaning eating protein and fat tends to make people feel more full than eating carbohydrates, so people who eat mostly protein and fat tend to consume less calories overall. However, I don't know that this necessarily applies to whey protein consumed as shakes.

Whey is considered a fast-digesting protein, best used to get amino acids quickly after a bout of exercise. It's still good at other times of the day, and whey is significantly cheaper than casein, a slower-digesting protein, but that's when it's most effective.

If you're lifting seriously, by which I mean full-body workouts with near-maximal loads, your protein requirements will be much higher than a sedentary person. You should be consuming at least 1g protein per pound of bodyweight.

Also, you can get cheaper protein with lots of different flavors and options from trueprotein.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

If your doctor is wanting you to add the shakes to your current diet it could be they are trying to boost your metabolism by way of increased muscle mass.

You would best be served by consuming the shakes within 30 minutes before or after your visits to the gym. Both before and after would work too, but that is usually reserved for those specifically trying to gain muscle mass (see Anatoly Pisarenko's post)

If your doctor's strategy is to increase your metabolism you could also introduce (more?) caffeine to your daily diet via your preferred delivery method.
posted by tvjunkie at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2011

I usually have a protein shake for breakfast and find it really sticks to my ribs. I second the suggestion to use unsweetened almond milk (1 cup of my preferred brand, Blue Diamond, is only 40 calories and it tastes great). This is my preferred protein powder; I think the chocolate is delicious and use it to curb cravings sometimes in addition to my morning shake. I am not clear on why you're adding peanut butter; I agree that fat is good for you and will satiate you, but it also has a lot of calories so I would do this only if it's a meal replacement. For variety, I would add in almond or cashew butter sometimes instead, or if you have a great blender you could add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Also, a scoop of psyllium husks will add great fiber and fill you up even more.
posted by katie at 5:23 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Costco generally has 6lb bags of Whey for $32.
posted by mmdei at 6:34 PM on March 5, 2011

Whey really isn't the best protein if you're looking to lose weight in my opinion. It goes through you rather quickly, leaving you hungry, so it makes for a great supplement for weight gain and maintaining a balanced high-calorie and/or protein heavy diet as you can add extra meals to a pre-existing meal plan. Casein is broken down much more slowly and keeps me hunger free for considerably longer periods of time gram-for-gram compared to whey. If cutting overall calories while maintaining a sufficient protein level to minimize muscle loss is the goal, I favor casein (ie for cutting). And I second Gold Standard brand.
posted by drpynchon at 8:28 PM on March 5, 2011

Using a Whey protein shake as a meal replacement is an efficient and healthy technique for keeping caloric intake in check. I've found during my low calorie days that if I consume a protein shake + an apple, and then gulp down a glass of water, it leaves me feeling full.

Side note: An effective method of breaking through your seeming plateau of weight loss is to stay on a calorie deficit (~1700 calories daily) for a few weeks - you will not lose any muscle as long as you are weightlifting in addition to your cardio, and you'll lose those remaining pounds very fast.
posted by Evernix at 9:16 PM on March 5, 2011

The most important reason for keeping a relatively high protein intake while dieting that nobody mentioned yet is to maintain lean body mass - if you cut the calorie intake too much while not supplying enough protein, you might end up loosing weight but actually increasing the relative amount of fat in your body. The shakes are just for convenience, as eating chicken breast two or three times a day might get tiring.

I'm not sure if I would recommend their specific approach to dieting, but is a good resource to learn the basics of physiology that play a role in dieting.

If you are going to follow this new nutrition plan, make sure it doesn't give you any gastric issues, as the protein shakes can cause them for a lot of people. In the end, perhaps it's better to introduce a respective amount of lean meat in place of the whey and regardless of that, it would be wise to eat lots of vegatables (the ones that are high in fiber but low in calories).
posted by jarekr at 12:54 AM on March 6, 2011

what everybody said, especially doing more cardio. The first 20 minutes dont burn any fat, so if you do 40 you're doubling your fat loss. Also make sure you eat your protein within 45 minutes of finishing your workout.

Fat loss progress will slow down anyway.
posted by 3mendo at 12:56 AM on March 6, 2011

Have any of you had luck with losing a substantial amount of weight with whey protein?

Yes, strangely enough in a very similar way to you. I lost 115 lb a couple of years back over 12 months. Six months and 60 lb down I plateaued. As a result I made a couple of dietary changes including taking whey protein. This kick-started my weight loss again, and I lost another 55 lb at almost the same rate as the first 60 lb.

I did the opposite of much of the advice given above - I did LESS cardio, went for whey protein and NOT casein, and had a protein shake IN ADDITION to my normal meals. For me, this was marvellously successful.

When do you suggest to take it? Share your secrets.

I made two dietary changes at the point you're at. Firstly, I cut all obvious sources of sugar out of my diet (no milk, no fruit, no sweets, no sugary drinks, etc.). Secondly, I started taking protein shakes (with water, not milk) immediately after my workout. I continued to eat all of my meals as normal, and did NOT replace a meal. That is, breakfast, workout, protein shake, light morning snack, lunch, light afternoon snack, dinner.

At the same time, I was learning more about correctly lifting weights. I did less cardio (2 days per week, 30 min MAX) and more structured weight training (4 days per week).

Finally, I took 1 day per week off - no exercise, no calorie counting, eat whatever I felt like.
posted by damian_ at 7:26 AM on March 6, 2011

I drink whey protein isolate (90%) in about a cup and a half of milk every morning before I do anything else including washing my face, brewing coffee, making the bed, etc. It has helped me lose weight, I think. Primarily by ensuring I'm getting enough protein, as in a full 20-30g shot 3x a day when the typical American diet calls for more like 30-50g max or really just one strong shot a day plus a snack maybe (your doctor sounds pretty refreshing to me WRT that) to help me be strong while I lift weights/exercise and curb carby junk cravings which for me anyway seemed the real culprit to all the weight gain.

If I drink the whey protein, I automatically feel more awake which also helps keep me from reaching for things like coffee/caffeine and sugar/carbs in search of a quick but unwise energy spike (unwise because of the way it wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels and makes me crash and feel hungry quickly). I told myself I'd only make myself do it during the work week and anything goes on weekends but you know what? I quickly discovered not drinking it on Saturday morning made me feel crappy compared to how great I felt on work days, and also made me hungrier throughout the rest of the day.

Days I drink it it's super easy to stick to a regular, well-meted-out and timed breakfast (sometimes I don't have anything beyond the whey protein and milk though to be honest depending on when I woke up as it keeps me full for well over an hour by itself, and I try to get a piece of fruit in at least for the sake of vitamins), lunch, and dinner (both are strong shots of protein with 2+ servings of usually non-starchy vegetables), with possibly a smart snack (usually not carby, maybe nuts or a piece of cheese or a glass of wine/cocktail or a splurge dessert), or if I'm going out on the weekend and I've had it in the morning I notice I don't think twice about taking over half my entree home with me as I'm not ravenous or crave-y. In other words, it seems to work well for me mostly because it helps regulate my hunger the rest of the day and it's so convenient/quick it's not something I ever put off or forget to do only to feel starving and binge-y crave-y for muffins or whatever a couple hours later. It's also not too expensive if you know where to look (you can get very pure without sugary flavor crap online for pretty cheap).
posted by ifjuly at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2011

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