Did you know, after age 65 we need up to 50% more protein than we did when we were younger?
That’s about 20-30 extra grams per day for healthy older adults – more if you’re physically active.
(You can find your estimated protein needs with this online calculator tool.)
For many of us, getting enough isn’t easy to do. A convenient way to get more is to supplement your diet – with high protein shakes.
What are High Protein Shakes?
These are ready-to-drink beverages or powder mixes that are often chock full of nutrients. Some are geared toward a certain diet or need: if you have diabetes, you might want something with less added sugars; or, if you’re trying to gain weight, you might need a nutrition shake with more calories.
High protein shakes, especially the grab-and-go kinds that you can take anywhere,can pack a lot of nutrients into a single serving.
When Would I Drink High Protein Shakes?
A high protein shake is like a delicious nutritional supplement. It’s meant to complement your diet and give you nutrients you may be lacking.
The best times to drink one down are:
- With a meal. A smart strategy to make sure you’re getting enough protein is to include it throughout your day. Aim for about 20-35 grams at every meal. A nutrition shake can round out an otherwise protein-poor meal.
- After exercising. Muscles break down a bit when exercising (it’s a good thing, really!), and they need protein to build them back up again and make them even stronger. Having a nutrition shake immediately after exercising helps prolong the muscle-building benefits, so pop a ready-to-drink bottle in your gym bag or have it waiting for you in the fridge or a cooler after a walk or hike.
- As a snack. Rather than grabbing a bag of chips or a cookie, which provide mostly empty calories, a nutrition shake helps you meet your protein goals for the day while also supplying vitamins and minerals and helping to keep you satisfied until your next meal.
- As a treat. A nutrition shake is better for you than a bowl of ice cream or coffeehouse calorie bomb. But you can still enjoy it in a variety of dessert-inspired flavors, from chocolate and vanilla to strawberry and mocha.
Which High Protein Shake is Best?
A quick search of nutrition shakes will come up with a lot of suggestions, so how do you know which is the best for you? Here are some things to look for:
- Amount of protein. This can vary widely from one nutrition shake to the next, so consider how much you’re going to need, and when. Are you drinking it with a meal, or by itself as a snack? You might want more protein in a between-meal nutrition shake and less if you’ll be having it with food.
- Calories (and Serving Size!). The calorie content of nutrition shakes can be wide-ranging, so if you’re counting calories as part of a weight-loss strategy, look for high protein shakes with fewer calories per serving. If your goal is to to gain some weight, choose a higher calorie, high protein shake.
- Source of protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Animal sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs are considered "complete" proteins since they contain all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need.. Look for words in the ingredients list such as “milk protein” or “whey protein” as a high-quality, complete protein source.
- The whole nutrient package. Make that beverage work hard for you and choose one that packs in important vitamins and minerals. In addition to protein, many older adults need more calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, for example. The Nutrition Facts label is the best place for you to find this information.
Not Just a Drink – Also Great as an Ingredient
One last thing – that tasty beverage can also pump up the nutrition in your favorite recipes! Use it in place of water for homemade oatmeal or in smoothies. Non-flavored shakes can even make an appearance in savory dishes, like casseroles and quiches.
Talk to your healthcare provider for questions or concerns about any diet or lifestyle changes and to find a plan that's right for you.