I'm a rarity as a holistic nutritionist. I don't sell any products. The key to a healthy lifestyle is to eat real food in reasonable quantities and to move your body frequently. Click on almost any Yelp page or business website for a weight-loss coach, holistic nutritionist, or health and wellness program and you'll see products like these offered for sale:
• Total body cleanses
• Vitamin and mineral supplements
• Fat burners and appetite suppressants
• Hormone pills
• Herbal products
• Packaged processed foods
• Protein bars and shakes
• Strict diet plans that eliminate entire food groups and severely restrict calories
I'm sure my fellow trainers and nutritionists would say that people need a jump-start on their weight loss and that supplements are necessary because their clients just won't eat vegetables. My perspective is that all these short-cuts and quick-fixes are a waste of money and sometimes even dangerous. Sadly, in the competitive business of promoting health and wellness, it's tempting to supplement your income by convincing your weight loss clients that these products work. Anyone who has ever been on a diet wants nothing more than for the fat to fall off immediately. Therefore, overweight clients are sitting ducks when a purported expert in nutrition assures them that if they use these magic products it will hasten the weight loss. Let's use protein shakes as an example.
What's Wrong with Protein Shakes?
They seem innocent enough. They come in chocolate, can be made in under a minute, and swallowed on-the-go. I've had quite a few clients who were sold on protein shakes for breakfast by their personal trainer or holistic nutritionist as a healthy way to ensure that they were getting enough protein.
Perhaps these well coaches have been listening to Dr. Oz. While many consider him to be a weight loss guru, I'd characterize him as a huckster who has used the credibility of his MD credential to enhance his personal wealth. He promotes protein shakes as a way to "drink yourself skinny." "Meal-replacement shakes are an effective, easy way to drop pounds. They teach you how to eat less and lose weight quickly and permanently--and the right shake can boost your metabolism by 25%. Who doesn't need that?"
My weight loss clients who are in the habit of downing a high protein shake rather than eating real food for breakfast have been told that they need extra protein either to lose weight or to build muscle. In my opinion, eating solid food that requires chewing is more likely to keep you feeling satiated. Studies bear this out. Also, a healthy breakfast should contain not only protein, but also fiber from complex carbohydrates which takes time for your body to digest, as opposed to the sugar rush created by a shake. Gulping a breakfast shake is very likely to undermine your attempts to lose weight because you will be very hungry at lunchtime and more likely to make poor choices or overeat. I know. I was once duped into such a regimen by my personal trainer and ended up gaining weight. It was not exactly the goal I was striving for. I learned that I didn't need to extra protein or calories. When I resumed eating my usual breakfast, the weight came off.
There are good reasons not to make a protein shake the first meal of your day which are never mentioned by the trainers who are racking up extra income.
1. Protein powder is a dietary supplement, which means it can be sold without FDA oversight or approval. A number of studies have shown that often supplements do not contain the listed ingredients and may contain dangerous contaminants.
2. You could easily consume an excessive amount of protein, which taxes your liver and kidneys. Most Americans get three to five times the amount of protein they need, even without supplements. Men need about 56 g of protein; women about 46 g. Some of these powders contain as much as 80 g per serving.
3. Even worse, excessive protein intakes can cause a buildup of ketones bodies, which can lead to ketosis. This can lower the body's pH to dangerously acidic levels, leading to a state called ketoacidosis. As your kidneys rid your body of these toxic ketones, you can lose a significant amount of water, which puts you at risk of dehydration, can make you feel weak and dizzy, give you bad breath, and lead to other health problems.
Skip the shakes and eat some eggs on whole wheat toast, with a side of fruit. That's a healthy breakfast!