Key Ingredients & Nutrients to Look for in your Protein Shake Supplements

Key Ingredients in Protein Shakes

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Here are some of the special nutrients that can spike up your protein supplements. Some are already added to current protein supplements, but you can add them yourself for an extra boost.

L-glutamine or glutamine peptide We think that the inclusion of glutamine in protein products is a very good idea. The only question is which form is better. Glutamine peptide is your best bet because of its enhanced stability; however, shakes that are relatively thin leave the stomach quickly, in which case L-glutamine is OK. The rule here is the same as that for protein intake: Just do it! Ingest at least five grams for each shake you drink, and don't hesitate to take five to 10 grams between meals.

Creatine Bodybuilders are very familiar with creatine, but from time to time we all wonder how much to take and for how long. Load if you will, and some of you will, but do you really need to? We don't think so. We think you can get away with taking considerably less than the longtime conventional wisdom dictates. Several meal-replacement powders (MRPs) contain two to five grams per serving, which is a pretty good kick, especially if you're drinking a couple per day. In addition, creatine is now being added to whey protein to enhance its protein utilization efficiency. We think creatine piggybacked with protein and carbs will produce the best results, but adding it to a pure protein product isn't a bad idea, especially if you can increase insulin without causing a drop in blood glucose.

Hydroxyeitric acid (HCA) Theoretically, HCA improves carbohydrate tolerance by decreasing the conversion of glucose to fat in the liver. Studies supporting this mechanism are pretty thin; however, recently the Journal of the American Medical Association published a negative study. Many bodybuilders, though, believe it works. Addition of HCA to an MRP that contains a typical amount of carbohydrate may be important to those individuals who are trying to lower or otherwise manage their carbohydrate intake.

Hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB) We've always thought HMB was a good high-protein, low-carb supplement. The biochemistry seems right, and some studies show that it increases lean mass with a concomitant decrease in fat mass. So, using HMB makes sense to us - either in a protein powder or as a separate.

Zinc and magnesium formulation (ZMA) This formula comprises zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. Why ZMA is included in some protein supplements is a mystery to us. ZMA is a calcium-sensitive supplement. Since there is usually a significant amount of calcium in protein supplements, adding ZMA to a formula seems pretty strange. Not that it wouldn't work - it might, if the calcium content of the supplement isn't too high. However, ZMA was designed to be taken on an empty stomach before bed. Clinical studies strongly suggest that ZMA consumed according to those recommendations produces positive results, such as maintaining normal serum testosterone ranges and improving the quality of sleep. Both are important factors in exercise recovery. Use a protein supplement that contains ZMA if you like, but even if you consume it that way, take it in capsule form on an empty stomach before bed.

Nonfiber nutrients Non fiber nutrients that enhance viscosity and improve mouth-feel have just begun showing up in MRPs. If you have trouble digesting soluble fiber but you like thick drinks, this is the way to go.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and other special fats These are good for ketogenic high-protein diets. It's not a bad idea to increase your intake of MCTs on a high-protein, low-carb diet.

Aspartame-free sweeteners We think the aspartame scare is just that. Public opinion rules, though, so hats off to the supplement makers who have successfully sweetened and flavored their powders without aspartame. Enhanced protein content The new standard for protein content appears to be 50 grams per serving. Good! Protein, protein, protein. The more the better!

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