Originally published Aug. 13, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.
Open my file drawer at the office, and you’ll find a veritable plethora of protein supplements and convenience foods geared to helping me meet my protein requirements.
The vegetable bin of my refrigerator has also been converted into Protein Central. That’s where I keep all my ready-to-drink protein supplements.
If I seem a bit obsessed with protein, that’s because I am. With protein being the body’s building block, it’s important that I make sure to get enough of it. Protein is the key player in cell development, so not much happens in the human body without it.
I’ve been more focused on protein lately for a couple of reasons. One is the hair loss I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The body needs a sufficient protein supply to build hair and nails, as well as repair tissue. Not getting enough protein could prolong the hair-loss phase, and that’s not OK by me.The second reason protein has taken center stage for me is because I’ve discovered a host of convenient products to help me make sure I meet my daily requirement. Like most people, the easier something is for me to do, the more likely I am to do it.
How much is enough?According to the University of Iowa’s Hospitals and Clinics, we need 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. For me, that equates to 88 grams a day.Some doctors advocate using the formula with your ideal weight as opposed to your current weight. However, in the case of gastric-bypass patients, everything consumed is not necessarily absorbed. My doctors recommend that their surgical weight-loss patients consume at least 80 grams of protein a day in hopes that about 60 grams are absorbed and used by the body.The constraints of a 2- to 4-ounce stomach pouch make getting in 80 grams of protein a challenge, to say the least. Most protein sources — eggs, cheese, poultry, beef, fish, etc. — provide about 8 grams of protein per ounce. I don’t know anyone in the first post-operative year who can eat 4 ounces at every sitting. Most of us eat two very small meals a day and one larger one. For example, I generally can consume 2 ounces at each sitting. But at lunchtime, I’m often able to eat 3 or 4 ounces, especially if I’ve exercised that day. That means I fit in about 8 ounces of food each day. Even if I were to focus strictly on protein-rich foods, I’d be able to get only 60 grams of protein a day. That’s where supplements come in.
Protein supplements may not sound appetizing, but they are a great way to get in 30 or 40 grams in one shot. It seems supplements are getting tastier and healthier all the time.
Zero-Carb IsopureMy newest favorite is Zero-Carb Isopure’s ready-to-drink protein supplement. Similar in appearance and taste to Gatorade or Kool-Aid, Isopure boasts 40 grams of whey protein in each 20-ounce bottle — all for about 160 calories. My favorite flavors so far are alpine punch and mango peach, though apple melon isn’t too bad.Isopure is best when served well-chilled or over ice, and I like it because it’s not thick or milky like most protein drinks. Tracy gets too hot in the summer for me to stomach a thick, creamy shake in the mornings.Isopure’s punch-like consistency makes it something I’m able to drink throughout the day, instead of having to chug down all 20 ounces in one sitting. It’s even great to take to the gym in place of water, though I find it gets too warm too quickly in that environment.
Achiev OneAnother yummy, ready-to-drink supplement is Achiev One’s coffee drinks.The fact that they are made with coffee and contain caffeine makes them unsuitable for most bypass patients, including me. But I have tried a couple of their flavors, and I can attest to their tastiness.For 120 calories, Achiev One offers a fat-free, sugar-free version of the Starbucks Frappucino drinks you can buy in stores. The only difference is that the Achiev One drinks also provide 20 grams of protein. Not a bad way to get your daily coffee fix.
Convenience countsAside from providing a much-needed protein boost, supplements such as the two mentioned above also make getting needed nutrients convenient. When I followed Weight Watchers a few years ago, I discovered that I never had trouble eating healthy foods when I had time to prepare them. It was when I got busy that I’d get myself into trouble. Having gastric-bypass surgery didn’t change that about me. I’m still more apt to shelve good eating and exercise habits in times of stress or when I’m busy.Protein bars and ready-made drinks have become my salvation. If I oversleep, I grab a drink from the fridge to sip when I get to work. If I get too busy to take a lunch break, I reach into my drawer for a protein bar. Having such options helps me make sure my body gets what it needs and keeps me on the path to success.