Since my early studies in Naturopathic medicine, I've always been a strong proponent of whey protein, and frankly a fan of shakes, yoghurts and cheese. For the general population, dairy nutrition is an important foundation of the overall diet, and maybe even more so for active lifestyles.
But is there a 'Whey-Shake watch item' for Keto-Lifestylers? ... Lets take a look...In the beginning – there was Milk.
While I wont go into the intricacies of dairy nutrition here, whole-dairy is a complex food including quality fats, proteins low-GI carbohydrate and a myriad of minerals.
But lets put it out there, first and foremost, the core-purpose of mammalian-milk (humans or any other mammal) is to feed, and support growth of the new born infant. By design, milk is most fundamentally an anabolic food, and as new born off-spring we come ready with an innate appetite for it. That being said – humans remain the only mammal that continues to consume dairy throughout life, an interesting question that some have sort to answer.
Now we know, that insulin is the chief anabolic hormone (building up the body) which plays a significant role in protein-muscle (and fatty tissue) synthesis and repair.
So, what’s the concern for the Keto Lifestyler ?
As we’ve covered in some of our guides, Insulin antagonizes the breakdown of fatty acids (lipolysis) for use as energy, or in a low-carb setting, blunts ketogenesis.
Insulin secretion, can be triggered in a few short minutes once the pancreatic cells sense a rise in blood glucose, or amino acids (from proteins). Insulin once produced by the pancreas, continues in the blood for around an hour, with a small half-life (4-6mins) through clearance via the liver and kidneys.
Generally Keto lifestylers are well aware of the effects of spiking blood sugars and insulin secretion - however you may not be as aware that some proteins can also stimulate insulin secretion. While high protein foods like fish, eggs, collagen are less stimulatory on insulin, whey protein does have a stronger insulin stimulatory action.
"With this in mind, clearly the timing and use of whey protein needs attention for the Keto or low-carb lifestyler.
Morning Shake - for Active Lifestylers.
Most active lifestylers and athletes use a whey based shake as part of their post-workout breakfast regime. This makes good sense, as muscle contractions and subsequent muscle-tissue bio-markers trigger rapid transport of amino acids (from whey) from the blood to the muscle cells for protein-muscle re-synthesis and repair. Research has shown that Ketones, or BHB (Beta-hydroxybutyrate) can further offset the break-down (or oxidation) of muscle tissue (notably leucine), and suggests a protein conservatory mechanism of ketones(1). Further to the complete amino-acid profile of whey, additional Glutamine supplementation has shown to decrease markers of muscle damage in athletes (eccentric muscle contractions), with a balanced response of anabolic/catabolic hormones from exercise.
These three key nutrients of whey protein isolate (little/no lactose), BHB Ketones and Glutamine provide a comprehensive foundation to the active lifestyler and athlete looking to build/maintain muscle mass, and recover rapidly from workouts, while minimizing sugar triggered blunting of ketogenesis (and fat oxidation).
What about Morning Shakes for Non-Workout Days?
The popularity of the morning shake is likely a function of its 'on-the-go' feature - where a satisfying nutritious meal in a drink can be thrown together as you head out the door, for the day.
That said, the issue with most morning shake formulas is that they're formulated 'for workouts' not for 'non-workout days'. Most notably the issues can be related to,
- the level of sugar (and sugar alcohols) at times reaching multiple-teaspoons per serve, and,
- the amount of whey protein per serve.
The sugar issue is obvious to the keto-minded lifestyler - but maybe the high whey-protein level issue, is less obvious.
As highlighted earlier, whey protein does trigger a rapid insulin secretion - particularly in the high whey content formulas.
"In this 'more is always better' world we live in - it's easy to gravitate to protein formulas of 30-60grams or higher - and think its best. For intense physical exercise-training these may have a place. However, beware that consuming these high whey formulas, outside of exercise will trigger a material insulinogenic response, thereby blunting ketogenesis and fat oxidation.
Five Shake Tips - for Non-Workout DaysAs an alternative on-the-go shake for non-workout mornings, here's five tips to keep you in Keto -
- Hold off on the whey proteins and rather use a non-insulin triggering protein like Collagen peptides (or egg).
- Make your creamy shake on ketogenic fats, like medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), full dairy whipped crème.
- Keep sugars to an absolute minimum (<1Gram is best) in avoiding any further insulin response
- Similarly avoid sugar alcohols like sorbitol and sucralose, which can also stimulate insulin release, and/or degrade the gut microbiome.
- If you're adding fruit - stick with the berries, use the whole fruit, and keep to a level to acquire the taste of the fruit, not much more.
Non-Workout Day: 1 Minute Chocolate Shake Recipe
- 1 Scoop of SFuels Transform,
- 1/2 tablespoon of cocoa or cacao powder,
- 50-100mls of full/whipped crème
- 16 ounces cold water (and ice)
- Blend and serve.
SFuels Transform provides, 4grams MCT Fats (coconut oil), 3 grams Protein (collagen peptides), 1 gram Glutamine, Electrolytes, Monk Fruit - No Sugar, No Carbohydrates.
Lets get dairy back to its rightful place, and timed right to maximize its restorative potentials, and minimize any downsides for keto on-the-go lifestylers.
Be well, be healthy!
(1) Effect of beta-hydroxybutyrate on whole-body leucine kinetics and fractional mixed skeletal muscle protein synthesis in humans. K S Nair et al. The journal of Clinical Investigation. July 1988.