Drinking Problem?

Posted: April 16, 2010 in Nutrition

I figured I’d rerun this excerpt from an old Q&A, because I haven’t finished any new content today, and this one generated a lot of discussion when it was first published. Unfortunately some people with questionable reading comprehension skills took it the wrong way and thought I was “anti-shake”. Quite the contrary, I love protein/MRP shakes…but often times people don’t utilize as much of them as they could. The only time I’m “anti-shake” is if you’ve just gone to the bathroom and haven’t washed your hands. Then I’ll just opt for a head nod. So I’ve offered some simple solutions to maximize efficacy of liquid meals.

I first started looking into this phenomenon years ago after noticing that I could drink an 800 calorie shake and be hypoglycemic in 30 minutes…it just didn’t make sense, and it was pretty damn annoying. Although I seem particularly sensitive to this, I’ve constantly had clients complain of the same issue. Anyway…here’s the Q&A, and anyone that calls me anti-shake after this get’s a 50% off coupon for an ass beating.

Q: Am I really missing anything by having protein or meal replacement shakes instead of meals? Some days I have 3-4 shakes and not much food.

A: You could be missing out on a lot. There are two potential problems here, one is what the protein shake isn’t providing, and the second is what you’re not utilizing from the shake.

The first part is the simple answer.

Make sure you add things to the shake like healthy fats and fiber, both of which are almost impossible to find in a shake. And if you’re going to be consuming a lot of your calories from shakes, make sure to use quality proteins. Whether it’s whey, casein, or some combo, avoid the super cheap stuff. If it comes in a dog food bag, that’s who it’s for.

The second part is a bit less obvious.

Liquid calories pose a problem, a species related problem. A snake’s digestion process is initiated by swallowing, ours is not. Humans have a cascade of digestive activity that is initiated by chewing. This releases salivary enzymes (mainly responsible for starch breakdown however, not protein, but still used as a ‘kickoff’ for the whole process), then the esophagus uses peristalsis to move the food down to the stomach. In the stomach, food is bathed in gastric acid and partially digested, creating a mixture called chyme. This pretty little package is shipped off to the small intestine where the real action happens.

Bile and enzymes start breaking down the food to be absorbed as smaller nutrients through the intestinal walls. Now, unless you’re not mixing your shake very well, or using about 1oz of water, you’re not going to be doing much chewing while you suck down those calories. And without the chewing, this whole process doesn’t work nearly as efficiently. It’s like stuffing a Trojan Horse full of protein and sneaking it into your small intestine, your body just isn’t ready for it.

To think about it another way, let’s say you chug back 50g of protein in about 2 minutes (although it seems more common to slam it down in 30 seconds). This is the equivalent of about 2 small to medium sized chicken breasts, which would have taken a normal person a good 15-30min to eat, or more.

Believe it or not, digestion of food actually starts before the food even goes in your mouth. The first phase of digestion is called the Cephalic Phase, which is initiated simply by seeing and smelling your food. This is responsible for 1/5th of the total HCl release in the stomach. Guess what you smell when drinking a shake…mmmm aromatic plastic. Not exactly stimulating, and not sufficient enough to kickstart the Cephalic Phase with any authority.

If you’re the type to sip on a shake during your workout, this makes matters even worse. Exercise causes an increased epinephrine output, and many events happen in your body to facilitate the demand of energy output. Your body starts to pay less attention to unimportant tasks and directs its systems to the task at hand, and throughout this process, digestion gets reduced drastically. Now this can be somewhat alleviated with hydrolyzed proteins or BCAA’s, but it still helps to give your digestion a boost.

Of course, people have been drinking shakes for many years and still getting nutrients, so what’s the problem? Well, the problem is you may not be getting nearly as much out of liquid nutrients as you could be, and some people are far worse off than others.

Fortunately, there are some fairly easy options to fix this, and none of them involve giving up your shakes, or using protein IV’s.

  1. Digestive Enzymes: Always take digestive enzymes about 15 min before liquid calories. Digestive enzyme deficiency is extremely common, and if you’re blasting your body full of high speed calories from a shake, you can bet you’re not getting nearly as much out of it as you should be. Even if you’re not enzyme deficient to any significant degree, you will not be producing nearly the amounts of enzymes as you would be by consuming a solid food meal.Any generic enzyme won’t cut it, however. Use a plant based full spectrum enzyme that is designed to break down in varying pH’s. I personally use Garden of Life’s ‘Omega Zyme Ultra’ with myself and clients.
  2. Eat some food right before your shake: shakes always lack good fats, so have some nuts or natural peanut butter (chew the PB though, don’t swallow it like an oyster). A bit of organic beef jerky is another great option that’s easy to take anywhere you can take a shake. Anything really, that gets you chewing.
  3. Chew some gum: sounds silly, but if you’re in a pinch, throw a piece of gum in your mouth for a minute before you start sipping on your shake. It will trick your body into starting the digestion process. Continue to chew it while you’re drinking your shake if the flavors don’t excessively collide.
  4. Sip Slowly: don’t slam your shake down like it’s a race. Sip on it and give your body some time to adjust to the influx of calories.
  5. Drape a Bacon Air Freshener over the lip of your shaker cup: Really take advantage of the Cephalic Phase of digestion, Click Here. (Kidding, but feel free to send pics of you actually doing it).

And anybody that knows what movie that last picture came from gets my lifelong respect, and possibly a free bacon air freshener.

  1. Doron says:

    I never liked the excessive chewing that seemed to accompany Jerkey, but in this context a small peice prior to a shake makes a lot of sense.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where the Buffalo Roam

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