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Why a Protein Shake Makes the Perfect Breakfast (or Any Meal)

07/22/2015 02:29pm ET | Updated July 21, 2016
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Full disclosure and complete bias: I start every morning with a protein shake and think you should too.

Among its benefits, studies show a high-protein breakfast suppresses your hunger hormone ghrelin, curbs your appetite, and crushes cravings.

Breakfast often gets low priority among a million morning curveballs. A protein shake provides a fast, no-brainer meal to stay full, focused, and fabulous all morning.

A protein shake can also help you lose weight. One meta-analysis using six studies concluded a meal replacement "can safely and effectively produce significant sustainable weight loss and improve weight-related risk factors of disease."

Seriously, I've had clients do nothing else than a protein shake for fast, lasting fat loss.

Besides being fast, easy, and fat burning, protein shakes become a convenient, healthy option whether you're traveling, on the road, or stranded at your office.

"Protein powder seems to have grown in popularity as the competing demands on Americans' time has increased-because food preparation is time consuming," writes Registered Dietitian Anita Mirchandani, "and with the average work-week now clocking in at 50+ hours, eating healthy has become an obstacle."

Protein shakes also make a cost-effective alternative to room service, coffee stores, airport queues, and other food options. A serving of professional-quality protein powder costs less than an Americano.

In fact, the perfect shake begins with the right powder. Many powders contain whey or casein, both dairy-derived proteins that can create food intolerances.
Studies show whey can create an insulin-raising effect similar to white bread. And casein peptides behave very similarly to gluten: They can react with opiate receptors in the brain, mimicking drug-like effects.

Other powders use soy (usually as soy protein isolate), another food intolerance with numerous potential problems Dr. Joe Mercola discusses in this blog.

"Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein (TVP)," writes Mercola. "Chemical processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines."

Instead, look for a plant-based powder (blends like rice and pea work well) or a protein derived from defatted beef, which mimics whey's creaminess without dairy's reactivity.

Once you have your protein base, please don't turn your shake into an adult milkshake. To keep it low-sugar impact, focus on ingredients like organic frozen raspberries, flax or chia seeds, kale or other leafy greens, avocado, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk.

Be creative here. Cacao nibs, almond or other nut butters, coconut flakes, and other low-sugar impact ingredients give protein shakes added zing and a nutrient boost.

Easy, fast, convenient, cost-effective, and healthy are five among the many reasons I vote for a protein shake. While breakfast becomes ideal, you can whip one up to curb hunger, crush cravings, and dial up fat burning any time.

If you use one, what's your favorite protein powder? What ingredients do you blend into your shake? Share yours below.