Which Workout Foods Are Actually Worth the Money?

By Sarah Winfrey on 23 April 2015 0 comments

So you want to lose weight, or get stronger, or have more energy, or feel better. Well, there's probably a supplement for that. Be it a protein bar, a meal-replacement drink, or a meal supplement, there are a million products out there that claim to help your health.

But these products are usually more expensive than plain old food, and almost everyone you talk to will recommend something different. So how do you know what will work for you? How do you know what actually works, period?

Well, checking out the list below is a good place to start.

Protein Bars

Why in the world would you want to eat a protein bar? Well, studies show that weightlifters who eat three of these bars a day will gain significantly more lean muscle mass than the ones who don't. So if you're looking to gain muscle — as many of us probably should be — protein bars can probably help.

But there are a million types of protein bars out there, even more that claim to be healthy but aren't necessarily focused on protein. How in the world do you choose the ones that will help you and not tank your entire self-improvement project?

When it comes to protein bars (or any bars, for that matter), the biggest danger is sugar. Many of these bars, even the ones loaded with good protein, have as much sugar as a candy bar. While these will taste good, and the protein might help you, no one needs that much added sugar in their lives.

You also want a protein bar that contains high quality protein. Some experts recommend whey protein, or a blend of whey and casein. They claim that soy protein is often easier for manufacturers to get and is usually cheaper, but it can be harder for your body to utilize. Studies, however, show that athletes consuming soy protein have muscle mass gains, too. So look for whey, casein, or soy protein, because the best bars will be full of these.

When you want to buy a protein bar, the best thing you can do is read the label. Make sure the bar actually focuses on protein, doesn't have too much sugar, and is made from quality ingredients. If you need some help, there are a few websites out there that recommend particular bars or offer a comparison or ranking. If you can find high quality bar that helps you meet your goals, these are definitely worth your money.

Shakes and Drinks

Shakes and drinks can fall into several categories. First, there are the ones focused on delivering protein. These are basically protein bars in a can (or a glass or shaker). As such, they should be examined and purchased based on the parameters outlined above. Avoid sugar and poor quality ingredients, and you're good.

Other people use drinks or shakes as meal replacements, often in order to lose weight. Drinking a shake can be easier than eating, especially if you end up skipping meals because you're always on the go. They also provide you a set number of calories, so you don't have to think about calorie-counting or recording detailed data about everything you eat.

If you decide to buy some meal replacement beverages, there are some things you should think about:

  • Sugar. Once again, many of these drinks only taste good because they're full of sugar.
     
  • Fake ingredients. If eating clean is important to you, most of the drinks on the market won't qualify.
     
  • Price. Some meal replacement beverages are very expensive. Unless they offer something that another drink doesn't, avoid these.
     
  • Your long term plan. Do you want to buy shakes forever? Will you eventually transition back to food? And how do you plan to not regain weight if you make that transition?

If you decide to look for shakes in order to lose weight, you can get some guidance online regarding which ones might be healthiest for you. Check them out for yourself, though, before you buy a case, to make sure they are worth your money.

Meal Supplements

We talked about the bars and shakes above, but any other meal supplements you choose will be based on your overall health and physical goals. For instance, if improved weightlifting is your goal, you may want to try creatine or caffeine. If your joints hurt, glucosamine may help you reach your goals. Many doctors recommend vitamin D to almost everyone, because most of us don't get enough.

Speaking of your doctor, before you start any supplements, it's a good idea to give him or her a call. Sure, everyone says that, but we say it because it's true. Some supplements can be hard on your kidneys or liver (like creatine), especially if you have a history of problems or tend to be sensitive to supplementation. And if your doctor has concerns about a particular supplement, they may be able to offer you another option that will work better with your body.

Do you use any of the products mentioned in this article? How do you decide whether they're worth your money?

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