What are protein shakes and bars?
Protein shakes and bars are supplements that offer your body extra amounts of protein to keep up with your body's demands. Protein shakes and bars are very similar, however, protein shakes tend to be more pure and beneficial, while protein bars are much higher in carbs, and sugar alcohol, and are considered more of a "treat", and should not be relied on on a regular basis, but should be kept around as a back up. It is always better to consume a shake/bar compared to skipping a meal altogether.
What should I look for in a protein shake/bar?
You should look at the macros (protein, carbs, fat content).... you should fine a shake/bar that has at least 20g protein, but no more than 30g per serving, and the carbs should always be LESS than the total amount of protein grams. MOST bars sold in mainstream stores have higher amounts of carbs than protein... this means that they are mostly sugar and should be avoided.
What is the difference between a protein shake and a meal replacement shake?
There is a difference.... A protein shake is a shake that is mostly protein with only a minimal amount of carbs... say, 22g protein and only 2-3g carbs... along with minimal fat... A Meal Replacement shake/bar (also referred to as MRP's) is a shake or bar that is a total meal.... 20-40g protein, 20-40g carbs, and 3-12g fat... A protein shake can be combined with a food source of carbs, such as fruit to add flavor the shake, or a few slices of bread to balance the protein, but a MRP shake is meant to be consumed all alone... combining an MRP with fruit will put you over your limit of carbs, and should be avoided.
When should I consume a protein shake?
A protein shake is best consumed immediately after a weight training workout. The whey protein is the form most easily digestible, and keeps the body from breaking down precious muscle tissue following a workout. If you do cardio after your weights workout, you should consume the shake after the weights, but before the cardio. The shake should be consumed within 30 minutes of the weight training session, but ideally, immediately after... as in right after the last rep of your workout. Simply bring the powder with you to the gym in a shaker bottle, and add water and drink after your workout.
Another great use for a protein shake is as a meal replacement. Sometimes, it is not easy to eat 5-6 times a day, and it becomes necessary to supplement your diet with a non food meal... If you are going to use a protein shake as a meal, either use a MRP shake, that is complete with carbs, or simply add a piece of fruit to the protein shake to make it a MRP shake. You could also have the protein shake with a complex carb source, and just use the protein shake as a protein source.
Protein shakes are also a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
When should I consume a protein bar?
A protein bar should be consumed "in case of emergency"... when you are on the road, away from food, and your only choice is eating a bar or skipping a meal. A bar is always a better choice over skipping a meal. It will keep your metabolism revving, and keep your energy levels going.