Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Using Protein Powder to help with weight loss

Mark Sisson's decision to encourage the use of and to sell protein powder, is viewed by some in the Paleo community as a somewhat controversial stand.   In many of his blog posts he talks about protein powder as a great product for the many fans of his who are involved in competitive exercise and body building.  He also recommends it as an alternative breakfast in a couple of his books.

Being totally honest, I have to say that neither of these options appeal or apply to me, but in the last couple of months I have discovered that there is another way to use protein powder that does. It can be a great aid for weight loss.

Much as I have tried to like protein shakes, somehow they have just never appealed to me, regardless of how many different recipes I've tried. Eventually I found I only used a small amount of the protein powder in baking (see my recipes for protein bars and muffins) and ended up giving the rest to one of my sons, for whom it really seems to work wonderfully. A great example of how we are all different. (More on that later.)

However I picked up a really good tip for using protein powder from author Jennifer Jolan, and I found it quite by accident. She has written a book on apple cider vinegar - a topic that I have been researching.  While reading her book I noticed she had several others and - as I find often happens - I got a bit side tracked and bought another book of her's on a totally different topic. I don't really worry about this trait of mine because I have found in the past that I often stumble on great information this way, and that's what happened this time as well.

It turns out she makes her living as a fitness and weight loss consultant. Even though what she recommends isn't Paleo, there are a lot of similarities. Many of the things she recommended in her book I have personally found to work, so when she recommended what she called "protein waters"  I thought I would give them a try.

What these are is just a small half scoop of protein powder mixed into a large glass of water or tea.  This makes more of a flavoured water than a shake.  She used these Protein Waters as a basis for several of her own diets, none of which I have tried, so I really can't comment on them one way or another.  However I have found that the Protein Waters themselves fit into my own diet plan very nicely in two ways.

First, they make great simple snacks, without the large amount of protein you would get in a whole shake.

If you really can't stand the thought of eating any more boiled eggs or meat slices or fish for a snack, Protein Waters are another way you can get some more protein into your body.  All the previously mentioned options make excellent snacks by the way, they just don't appeal to everyone.

There are many who would rather just have a drink they can sip while working, and that's what I do.  Most of my menu plans have sufficient protein, but sometimes - for a variety of reasons - I don't eat them quite the way they are set out and I find that I do need to add more protein of some kind if I'm not going to be hungry.  That's where these drinks really help.  And as an added bonus, they help to keep you hydrated as well - always a good thing.

When I need a pick-me-up I just mix some powder into water or cold tea. No need to plan ahead and stock my fridge, I just make sure I have the powder in my cupboard and I'm good to go. Simple, quick ... and about as easy as it gets.

The second way I use Protein Waters is to jumpstart my weight loss when I hit a plateau.  It's kind-of sort-of like a fast, but not really.

Most fasts require you to have just water or possibly juice - but that is it.  And most people who do these fasts are hungry, at least initially.  Jennifer Jolan has a diet plan where she suggests you rotate days of eating normally with days of just having Protein Waters.  This sounds a bit extreme to me, and I'm not sure it would really be healthy for any length of time, but as a kickstart when my weight loss has stalled it has so far worked like a charm.

I weight myself once a week, and if I find I haven't lost either weight or inches, then the next day I have just Protein Waters.  I start when I get up and have a drink for breakfast.  Then I have another 2 or 2 1/2 hours after that - more or less when it fits best into my schedule.  I have 8 or 9 of these depending on how long my day is, often having the last one an hour or so before going to bed.

And again, I have to say it works very well for me.  I've only done this a couple of times so far, but each time I've lost just under 2 lbs.  I go back to eating my regular plan the next day and I don't gain the weight back.  The two times I've done this I've lost another 1 or 2 lbs. by the end of the week as well.

And as an added bonus, not only am I not hungry at all when I do this water day, but I also feel fantastic the next day as well.  I am not a scientist so I have no idea why, but it works great for me and I like the extra feel-good benefit.

In fact, I think I'm going to do this whenever I have a heavy day of partying such as a long weekend or at Christmas.  After a day filled with too many treats, I think this kind of mini cleanse could be just the thing.

Now I have to say that I completely agree with Jimmy Moore when he says everyone has to find out what works for them, and I wouldn't think to recommend that everyone do this.  I have found that for me this has worked when I use it in these two ways.  For someone else it might not work at all.  But if you are in a similar position (needing to add more protein or needing to jumpstart your weight loss) it might be something to consider trying.

Now on to some specifics regarding the protein powder I use.

Even though I love using Mark Sisson's Primal Fuel, I have to admit that for these Protein Waters I often use Jay Robb's shakes as well.  There are a few more flavours to choose from, and if you are going to use protein powder on a regular basis it's good to have some variety.

I've tried all of them - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, pina colada and Tropical orange -  and I love them all. He uses Stevia as a sweetener so there is no sugar, and the whey protein used is from hormone-free and mostly grass fed cows, so I think as far as a healthy option to Mark's shakes these rate pretty high.

As far as making the Protein Waters, you can mix them with water or brew some tea, let it get completely cold, and then use that.  This gives you more flavour options - especially when you are using the vanilla powder.

Being the caramel lover that I am, here is one of my favourite "recipes".

I brew a strong pot of Lipton's caramel tea (2 or 3 bags to one large teapot) and leave it overnight.  The next day I use it with half a scoop of vanilla powder to make a protein water in the afternoon when I feel like a bit of a boost.  It not only peps me up but it gives me that lovely caramel flavour that I've missed since giving up sugar.

It says on the label that they use caramel powder, but there is no sugar on the nutrition panel so it can't be a huge amount.  Obviously this has to fall in the 20% non Paleo indulgence category, but when you really, really crave some caramel, this is a great reasonably-good-for-you fix. (If you decide to buy this from Amazon right now there is a $2.00 off coupon on the page you can use.)

At this point, if any of you reading this post believe in eating strict Paleo, you are probably ready to shout "Hey, what's all this about protein powder and flavoured teas? This isn't Paleo!"

Well, I disagree.

If you're understanding of Paleo means you can't eat anything that Palaeolithic man didn't eat, then obviously this isn't for you.  After all the only "protein powder" our ancestors had were the crumbs of dried beef that got stuck in their beards.

But I believe that eating according to the Palaeolithic diet today isn't about copying the past.  After all there is no food available to us in today's society that is exactly like what they had.  None. Even the polar bears at the North Pole now drink polluted water.

I believe when you eat Paleo you keep in mind what our ancestors ate and didn't eat, and, using those as guidelines, you make the best choices you can from the foods that are now available to us.

Eating Paleo is about making the best choices possible given the situation in which you find yourself. After all, isn't that exactly what Palaeolithic man had to do to survive? Even if his father and his grandfather before him ate pigmy elephant, if the only elephant available in his time rivalled tyrannosaurus rex in size, do you really think he was stupid enough to insist on it?  Believe me if he had been, we wouldn't be here to debate this now.  He made do with caribou or rabbit .... or whatever else there was instead.
The way I see it we have just as many dangers to deal with as they did - if not more.  Maybe we don't have to keep watch for lions or tigers, but we do have to keep watch for an even greater enemy.  One that is trying to kill us by poisoning our bodies. Whether this is intentional or not, really doesn't matter, the end result for us is the same - sickness, obesity, and premature death.

Palaeolithic man had to hunt for animals and edible plants. In our reality we have to "hunt" for organic pesticide-free non GMO foods in a world overrun with poisons.  When we do find something edible in the tiny part of our giant supermarkets that's labeled the "health food section " (as opposed to the non-healthy food found in rest of the store?), it's up to us to make the best choices, even if those foods are not exactly what Palaeolithic man would have eaten.

There is also another concern some of us have to deal with. If we are just now waking up to the fact that the food we've been told to eat is actually killing us, we not only have to change our diets, we also have to deal with the effect that years and often decades of eating "healthy whole grains" has had on our bodies.

As Jimmy Moore at Livin'La Vida Low Carb often says, some of us have metabolisms that are so screwed up we may never be able to eat normally again.  Those of us who fall into that group have to do the best we can, and if protein powder helps, then that's what I think we need to use.  It may not be strict Paleo, but it's heads and shoulders above the normal SAD diet, and isn't that all that matters?  Don't all babies have to learn to walk before they can run? Hopefully most of us will eventually be able to heal enough to go back to regular Paleo eating, but meanwhile we have to do what we have to do to keep on the path to our goal.

I didn't actually mean to get on my soap box today, but as I've said I do tend to digress.  However, since I've started, let me just say one more thing.


As I have said before in past posts, I think it's really important if you're going to blog about something to talk about all sides - both the good and the bad.  I completely believe in Paleo eating and especially in Mark Sisson's version.  But I also believe as Jimmy Moore says over and over again in his podcastspeople are different.

And any specific person can also have different needs at different times in their life. What works for you for a certain period of time, might stop working at a later date when your body changes. This is why we need to constantly monitor ourselves and be open to trying different things.

I don't mean you need to be obsessive.  Just keep yourself informed by listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and picking up the occasional book. And when something stops working for you, be prepared to change it. Try something else - or at least a different version of what you are doing, and keep trying until you again find something that works well for you. Great health is worth the effort.

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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