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Postcard from LA: The protein shake

August 12th 2013 / Kinvara Balfour

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Shake it all about: No longer just fuel for body builders, Kinvara Balfour documents the rise and rise of the protein shake

You can keep your granola and curd. Forget toast and eggs. And spare me that cardboard crap they call ‘cereal’. These days I down a protein shake when I wake. I need warrior fuel and I need it fast. In this mad world, I want intelligent, complex, easy-to-make, slow-burning rocket propellant that’ll keep my engine running at a steady pace for hours, complete with vitamins, minerals and all the other things I can never face swallowing in multi-pill form every day.

In the USA, everyone’s in on the protein shake phenomenon. In other parts of the world, people still regard it as specialist fodder for muscle-mad bodybuilders and professional athletes. Times have changed. These days we’re all busy bodies under pressure, racing around in an ever-changing, frenzied world. The protein shake – aka the meal in a cup – helps us do it. Fast.

In a protein shake, you get a complex, intense, nutritionally-intelligent mix of vitamins, nutrients, amino acids and other good things that really feed and nourish the body - not to mention the mind. All you need is 5 minutes spare and a shakey cup (Google ‘powdery supplement shaking cup’ for a gazillion options) in which to blend your drink, or a hand-held blender if you’re into add-ons (try blueberries, avocado, almond butter, cacao nibs, banana, greens powder, coconut meat, raspberries, honey, hemp seeds etc for an amazing smoothie).

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LA-based Dr. Steve Benedict, one of the best natural health doctors and holistic health educators in the world (take it from me, this man saves lives) first introduced me to the crucial benefits of a protein shake a few years ago. I never looked back.

According to Dr. Benedict, “Protein shakes have been undergoing a revolution of sorts in the last few years, evolving from simple protein sources and muscle-building formulas into comprehensive nutritional formulas designed to provide healing support to various metabolic systems and their organs.’

It’s all about ‘medical food’. “These shakes, sometimes even referred to as ‘medical foods’ have been formulated, for example, to support liver metabolism for increased clearance of environmental toxins, improve insulin signaling for increased blood sugar stability, and reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal system”, says Dr. Benedict. “Many of these ‘shakes’ are so packed full of nutrients that they can provide support to multiple systems of the body simultaneously and can even be used as a meal replacement.”

In the USA, one of Dr. B’s favourite ‘general support’ protein shakes (gluten- and dairy-free) is ClearVite-SF by Apex Energetics. Designs for Health makes an excellent pea protein-based PaleoMeal-DF, while Metagenics is known for its patented Medical Food line which targets specific health concerns. I stock up on all three whenever I can – I consider them modern-day medicine – because annoyingly they’re frustratingly hard to find in UK.

One of the only places in the UK currently taking the protein shake to the gourmet level it deserves is KX Gym to which I happily belong. Using Metagenics powders (Dr. B would approve), KX has a refreshingly forward-thinking range of quality shakes on the menu, whizzed up with goodness-rich extras like blueberries, cinnamon, peanut butter, flax seeds, coconut water and avocado.

My favourite is the SBC, devised by The Skinny Bitch Collective. Lomax Bespoke Fitness Nutrition & Wellbeing is also on the protein ball - they have several shakes on the make, with the most popular being the Post-Train Pina Colada – Reflex vanilla protein powder, banana, pineapple, yoghurt, coconut and cinnamon.

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It should only be a matter of time (come on, hurry up) before the likes of Soho House, The Wolseley, Daylesford, Claridge’s and other power-breakfast hotspots serve such intelligence on their menus.

For DIY at-home powders in UK, Victoria Health’s in-house pharmacist, Shabir Daya, recommends Lamberts Pea Protein Powder, while another great brand is Sunwarrior. And then there’s the Clean & Lean range from James Duigan’s Bodyism. All can be mixed with water and/or juice (cherry or blueberry is good) or coconut water and fresh fruit.

Shake.

Take.

And prepare for lift-off.




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