So many products today claim to have miraculous effects for those living active lives that it can be difficult to sort the real from the fake; this is doubly true for athletes, many of whom rely on the food and drinks they put in their bodies to power them through tough workouts or practices. So how do you know if the snack or shake you grabbed on your way out the door will help or hurt you?
There are a few ways to tell, the simplest being that you should check the ingredients and nutrition facts on the packaging. Keep reading as the sports nutrition experts at ENU explain what ingredients athletes should look for in meal replacement products.
Healthy Ingredients in Meal Replacement Bars and Shakes
Some ingredients stand out over others as top choices for meal replacement products. To an extent, the preferences for this category are predictable — natural ingredients are better than their processed brethren, and some types of macronutrients are better for you than others. And as in all things, balance and moderation are key. Athletes should be aware of what ingredients to look for and view each product with a discerning eye, thereby improving their overall diet.
The importance of protein, for instance, is hard to overstate. Almost every type of this essential nutrient is beneficial, though to varying degrees. The most popular type, whey protein, is available in grocery stores and supplement shops the world over. Whey is that rare type of ingredient that is both readily available and effective to use; it is a natural byproduct of the cheesemaking process and carries a whole host of health benefits, not the least of which is that it boosts muscle synthesis and is relatively easy to digest. Soy can be a good alternative for vegans or those averse to lactose, as it is also easily absorbed and is a complete protein to boot.
Though they tend to get a bad rap, carbohydrates and fats are also a necessary part of any active lifestyle, as long as they are from healthy sources. For carbs, look for unrefined sources — whole grains instead of sugar, for instance. Some fats are actually healthy for your heart; look for unsaturated forms, such as olive, coconut, or sunflower oil.
Without an adequate amount of carbs in your diet for your body to use as a ready source of fuel, your system could be forced to break down muscle tissue instead. The downsides of this are fairly obvious — loss of muscle brings a loss of strength and endurance, for one thing — but it’s a problem that can be easy to avoid. Fats are another readily available source of energy, plus they help your body absorb the vitamins and minerals that offer so many benefits. But again, remember that balance and moderation are important, so try to avoid too much of any one macronutrient (especially carbs and fats) instead focusing on a mix of all three.
Ingredients Athletes Should Avoid in Nutrition Shakes
For decades, nutrition labels were packed with difficult-to-pronounce ingredients and unhealthy additives, but recent years have seen an increased push for natural food products. Still, there remains a risk with any product that it could be riddled with any number of preservatives or harmful ingredients whose effects on the body are dubious at best. Checking the label is a must for those who want to avoid consuming excess chemicals or heart-clogging additives.
One of the most pervasive and harmful ingredients on the market is corn syrup and its evil older brother, high-fructose corn syrup. Both of these ingredients can be found on many a nutrition label, often as the first ingredient listed — meaning that they are the single biggest constituent of the product. Often manufacturers of meal replacement shakes will use corn syrup to boost the calorie count of their products and improve the taste with little regard for the nutritional implications of its inclusion. Athletes — and all other consumers, frankly — should avoid this ingredient as much as possible.
Keep an eye out for unhealthy fats as well. Saturated fats and trans fats have been proven to be quite bad for you and can significantly impact your health in large amounts. While they have become less widespread in recent years, they can still be found in a variety of products and should be avoided, as they can damage your heart and undercut your fitness efforts.
ENU Nutrition Shakes Featuring Natural Ingredients and Balanced Nutrition
Between practices, workouts, and healthy dieting, athletes have enough to worry about without needing to check every aspect of their meal replacement shake for corn syrup or the proper amounts of protein. ENU meal replacement shakes make this process much easier by offering 17 grams of protein from whey and soy, plus complex carbs, healthy fats, and a blend of more than 20 vitamins and minerals. To learn more about ENU shakes and how they can help you, visit our meal replacement shake shop online today or call (855) 266-6733.