Protein Shakes and the Slow Carb Diet

Protein PowderWe got this question from Donna H:

Hi, I’m about to start the four hour body diet for the second time. The problem I had last time was that I REALLY struggle to eat breakfast and end up only managing a very small amount of protein! I’ve seen that some people use protein shakes which I would find much easier to tolerate but I’m not sure which you recommend. I live in the UK and the one I have heard others talk about ‘primal fuel’ doesn’t seem to be available here, could you please advise what I should be looking for? I know shakes aren’t ideal but at least I’d manage to get some protein down!  Thanks.

I completely sympathize. I was never a “big breakfast” kind of guy (unless we’re talking a massive brunch with eggs benedict and waffles on the weekend, and I’m still a fan of that on cheat days!), so transitioning to eating big breakfasts shortly after waking up was definitely a challenge. Frankly, although protein shakes are a “third choice” according to Tim, I think everyone would agree that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of good here. It’s far better for you to be at least getting the protein than skipping it altogether. As Tim said in the story about his father who was postponing breakfast, when he postponed breakfast his weight loss dropped to 5.5 pounds per month; when he started consuming the protein again, it more than tripled to 18.75 pounds per month. And that was with the protein shake!

The the protein shake that Tim’s father drank in the book is Myoplex. This is really convenient: you can get it off of Amazon (both in the US and UK) and is ready-to-drink. It has a ton of protein (42 grams) and comes in a couple flavors. And as protein shakes go, it doesn’t taste bad. However, it is no longer considered “on” the slow-carb diet, since it supposedly has a number of things (sweeteners, dairy, higher carbs) that are not slow-carb friendly in it. The hard-core slow-carbers now recommend Nature’s Best Isopure Unflavored. This doesn’t have the additional vitamins and minerals that Myoplex has, but it also doesn’t have any carbs, sweeteners, soy, etc. And since it’s virtually flavorless, I’ve even heard about people adding it to their coffee in order to get their protein!

You’re not just limited to these two. As a general guideline, look for whey protein that:

  • Is unsweetened
  • Does not come from soy or dairy sources
  • Has little to no carbs
  • Has 30g of protein per serving (or at least really close)

That said, these two are good ones to get you started. As Tim says, The 4 Hour Body is intended to be a manual and starting point for self-experimentation, so try these out and see what your mileage is. Some people can’t drink Myoplex and lose weight, while others (like Tim’s dad) can. But if you do give protein shakes a try, come back here and let us know what works and doesn’t work for you!

(Updated 04/07/15: fix the confusion about non-dairy whey protein which obviously doesn’t exist — sorry for the mis-type!)

Update 03/10/18: We’ve had a LOT of readers talk up using a BlenderTop for their protein shakes. I’ve checked it out and definitely like it! The one I like is the BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle – super easy to use, cleans well, and it’s cheap 🙂

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30 Responses to Protein Shakes and the Slow Carb Diet

  1. DonnaH

    Thanks for the advice, that’s really helpful! I’ll update you when I’ve tried it.

  2. Elaina

    Besides the Pre-mixed Muscle Milk shakes, I’ve been unable to find a protein shake that doesn’t make me sick. I’ve tried Muscle Milk powder, Pure Protein pre-mixed shakes, and Biochem. I’ve tried whey protein and egg protein, and unfortunately soy protein frightens me because of the breast cancer history in my family. This stuff isn’t cheap, so I hate to keep trying these shakes, but I have terrible ADHD and mornings are all but impossible for me. Breakfast within 30 minutes/1 hour is literally impossible without something quick and portable. Do you know anyone who has had this sort of problem or do you have any suggestions for me?

    • Eric Oliver

      @Elaina I’m really freaked out about soy as well (ever since we were in a pinch and gave our baby some soy formula — only 3 or 4 servings of it! — and it caused a mini-menstruation!). When you say they make you sick, is it the flavor? If so, it sounds like a good last test would be that Nature’s Best Isopure Unflavored; you can add it to water, tea, or coffee without much distortion to the flavor.

      It may be, however, that protein powders just aren’t your thing. In that case, I would suggest resorting back to some real foods that you can prepare in batches in advance and then just heat up or eat cold on your way out the door. You can hard boil a dozen eggs all at once, put them in the fridge, and then have ready-to-go eggs. You can do a whole beer can chicken the night before and have a lot of chicken ready at your disposal in the morning. You could also grab some smoked salmon. And whip up a batch of Carin’s bean salad. You could do all these things on a Sunday and then have a variety of options to mix and match from all week long.

      The nice thing about real foods is that it doesn’t take much to hit your protein mark. Eggs have 6g each. A cup of chicken has 35g of protein. Salmon is packed with protein: one ounce has 5 grams in it. Beans have around 2.5g of protein per tablespoon on average. So with all these items, you see that an egg or two plus a reasonable amount of food that has already been premade should give you a quick, easy, portable breakfast.

      Come back and let us know how your further experiments go!

    • Casey

      Total lean at gnc

  3. abigail

    Hi I am also in the UK and I use the protein shakes all the time on the diet, because a) I cannot stomach breakfast 30 mins after waking and b) I am always rushing out of the door as to beat the traffic I generally have to leave at 6am! I actually found a Pea powder in my local muscle head store which is a fantastic protein provider and was unflavoured with no added sweeteners, I add it to my green smoothie in the mornings.

    You can also get your protein from cottage cheese or gelatin (not for vegans!) and make your own smoothie. I tend to juice veggies and blend in my protein source, cinnamon (extra brownie points) spinach and flavouring (that could be an couple of shots of coffee or grated ginger).

    • Jon

      Body Fortress is so cheap because they spike it with aminos, rather than actual protein. Lab analysis shows it does not contain the protein that it claims on the label.

  4. Thomas Stewart

    Here is my recommendation for morning shakes.

    First off i understand that drinking calories is a NONO BUT, drinking protein powders with water is nasty business and normally leads me to feeling ill if i can even keep it down

    I opt for non sweetened Almond milk. very low calorie so i really dont worrk about that aspect.

    as for my Protein. Here in denver we have a natural grocer callled… Natural Grocers! and they carry an organic unflavored un sweetened RAW Whey protein! its gross by its self so here is what i reccomend

    1- 1lb bag of un flavored un sweetened protein powder.

    1/4-1/2 cup organic Cocoa or cacao powder
    and 1/8-1/4 cup Vietnamese Saigon cinnamon.

    the cinnamon makes it sweet , the cocoa makes it taste like chocolate. and its YUMMY!!!!!

    the cost also comes out to be about 18 bucks for almost one months worth if you are eating it every single day.

    P.S. try adding your own spices and using rice milk instead and make it taste like Horchata!

    • Eric Oliver

      Thanks for this recipe, Thomas — really good stuff!

  5. Madelyn

    I’ve been avoiding any whey protein products because whey comes from dairy. How can a whey-protein drink have whey that “does not come from … dairy sources”? This is incredibly confusing!

    • Eric Oliver

      Sorry Madelyn! This was a mis-type — when protein drinks powders all come from dairy sources. But not all protein products come from whey (you can get hemp protein powders, but I haven’t found any without sugar). The Isopure is a “whey protein isolate”, which means that although the protein comes from a dairy source, they’ve stripped out all the lactose, fat, carbs, and cholesterol. So it’s basically lactose-free, which is how slow carbers justify taking it. Experiment and see how it affects your weight loss!

  6. Lee Roselli

    I have been on the Four Hour Body diet for 6 months and it took me from 138 down to 128. It was a struggle. I purchased Isopure and Advantedge Carb Control it has 17 grams of protein. I just got back on the diet after the holidays and went up to 133 lbs. I am starting again and hoping as I hate eating in the morning that this will help. If I didn’t have a shake I put the Isopure in my coffee,I hate eggs, but try to eat one or two every now and then. Then had homemade refried beans and chicken, steak etc. and veggies and that is all I ate until cheat day. We just put a pool in and I will be turning 51 this april. Yikes. Always had a good body and hate getting old so need to keep my weight down. I am still a size 6 but would love to get back into my size 4’s. Any advice???

  7. Shawn Michael

    Look for whey protein that does not cone from a dairy source? Is that a joke?

    • Eric Oliver

      Whoops! Not a joke, a mis-type 😮 I’ve fixed the article. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. DEB

    USE UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK – VANILLA IS AMAZING WITH THE PROTEIN POWDER rOBBS – GOT ON AMAZON

  9. Genevieve

    Has anyone tried BioTrust protein shake? They’re low carb, but do have a tiny bit of sweeteners. I’ve been on the diet for a week now and no weight loss, however I think I’m consuming way too much calories for my own good.

  10. Karin

    Hi guys, what about egg white protein instead of whey? j. robb makes a good one though its a bit pricey.

    • Eric Oliver

      Heya! As long as you use the Unflavored Egg White protein from J.Robb, it looks like a really good option! I’m going to update the article.

      • Orlando

        Why does it have to be unflavored?

        • Eric Oliver

          The other flavors have sweeteners like stevia which are verboten on Slow Carb 🙂

  11. Lori Nixon

    Hi folks, Thanks for all the great information.

    I just found a protein shake at Costco that I wondered if anyone knows about. It is called Orgain – Organic Protein Blend (Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Sprouted Chia Seed, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Pea Protein), Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Organic Erythritol, Organic Rice Dextrins, Organic Cocoa, Organic Acacia Gum, Organic Inulin, Organic Natural Flavors, Organic Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Organic Rice Bran Extract, Sea Salt, Organic Stevia, Monkfruit, Rosemary Extract.

    It has 21 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar alcohol, 1 gram of sugar.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Eric Oliver

      Hi Lori! Unfortunately, that one has a lot of sweeteners in it: erythritol, rice dextrins, and stevia are all sweeteners and should be avoided if you’re doing the Slow Carb Diet.

  12. Tanner

    I noticed that the Isopure protein you recommend has Soy Lecithin, but that the article says that this powder doesn’t have soy. Is Soy Lecithin something different? Is it okay to use on the slow carb diet?

  13. Emily

    can you explain why stevia isn’t allowed? Thanks!

  14. Tracy

    Has anyone looked in to quest protein? Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Micellar Casein), Natural Flavors. Contains less than 2% of the following: Cellulose Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Steviol Glycosides (Stevia), Salt, Carrageenan, Sucralose.

    Is this allowed??? This is one of my favorite protein drinks to have in the morning for breakfast.

    • Eric Oliver

      Unfortunately, Stevia and sucralose are both things that you should try to steer clear of on the slow carb diet 🙁 That said, I would experiment with and without it to see if there’s a significant effect on your weight loss — if this is the easiest way for you to get your morning protein and it doesn’t negatively affect your weight loss, then rock on!

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