Disclosure – This post features a product that has been gifted to me in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and my own.
Protein shakes have always been something that I have heard about but never actually considered taking myself. I have always been an active person, but my focus has been on exercising to stay generally healthy and in shape, rather than on building muscle, which is what I always associated protein shakes with.
Despite this, a few weeks ago I entered the world of protein shakes when I was kindly gifted two Arbonne protein shake powders by the lovely Natalie, who is an Arbonne independent consultant. Arbonne is a vegan and cruelty-free company that sells a wide variety of wellness products including skincare, make-up and nutrition. The chocolate and vanilla protein shake powders that I received fall under their nutrition range.
Exercising during lockdown
At the moment, I am in lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation. Ever since the lockdown started, I have been doing more exercise than usual. I’ve been making the most of the daily exercise allowance by going for a long walk every day. I am lucky enough to live in the countryside so there are a lot of nice footpaths to walk along without encountering too many other people. Alongside the walks, I have been following along with Yoga with Adriene’s videos on YouTube, some of which are more intense than others.
I realised that it would actually make perfect sense for me to take protein shakes during this time, to support my body with this extra activity.
What did I expect from the Arbonne protein shakes?
These protein shakes claim to ‘deliver 20 g of vegan protein with 20 vitamins and minerals and all essential amino acids to help support normal muscle mass’. They supposedly ‘contribute to a growth and maintenance in muscle mass and maintenance of normal bones’. These sound like great benefits for anybody, regardless of the intensity of exercise they are doing.
As I was gifted only 2 samples, one chocolate and one vanilla, I didn’t expect to notice a huge difference in the way I felt. I think the improvements in muscle and bone health would become more apparent after taking the protein shakes for several weeks. But I was open-minded to the possibility that I might notice a difference after only two shakes.
I have been gradually transitioning to a vegan diet over the past months and years, and I am pretty much 100% there now. Although I make sure to incorporate plenty of protein into my diet anyway, I was interested to see whether a boost of protein would affect how I felt overall.
Related post: September 2017 Challenge – Vegan Diet and Writing Poetry
Mainly though, I was interested in the experience of taking protein shakes as it is something I hadn’t done before. I was curious to know what they taste like, and whether they were an enjoyable drink or just something to gulp down for the benefits.
Making the Arbonne protein shakes
I wasn’t sure whether to have the protein shakes before or after exercise. There seems to be some debate on this topic, with some people saying that it really doesn’t matter either way. I decided to have my shake about half an hour before my daily yoga session, and I also planned to go for a walk later on in the day.
I went for the chocolate flavour protein shake first, which is unsurprising as I am a big fan of anything chocolatey! The instructions said to ‘add 1 packet to 270ml of cold water and shake’.
My first obstacle as a protein shake ‘noob’ was that I don’t own a shaker. I improvised by pouring the contents into a mug of water and stirring it with a spoon. I was worried that there would be lumps this way, but with a thorough stirring, all the lumps dissolved and it was smooth. At least it seemed smooth – I later found a few lumps at the bottom. I need to invest in a shaker!
A couple of days later I tried the vanilla flavour shake before my yoga session and walk. I followed the same method but stirred it even more thoroughly to remove all the lumps.
What did the shakes taste like?
My first impression of the chocolate shake is that it tasted very sweet. However, it wasn’t a classic sugary-sweet – it had a salty tang to it. I checked the ingredients and salt is quite high up in the ingredients so that might explain it. It reminded me a bit of salted caramel. New flavour idea, Arbonne?
I suppose the proteins and vitamins all have various tastes that need to be covered, so that might be why it is so sweet. Although the powder smelt chocolatey, I thought the actual chocolate flavour was quite mild. It certainly wasn’t a rich, chocolatey drink, it was more of a sweet drink with a hint of chocolate.
The consistency of the shake was quite thick, but not as thick as a smoothie. It had a slightly gritty texture – I suppose it might have been smoother if I had shaken it or used a blender.
The vanilla shake tasted very similar, but obviously without the chocolate. I wouldn’t say it tasted very strongly of vanilla though – more of a general sweet taste. From checking the ingredients, I could see that the formula is almost exactly the same for the vanilla and chocolate flavour. The only difference is that the chocolate flavour has cocoa powder in it, whereas the vanilla just has natural flavouring. As cocoa has health benefits of its own, it seems like the chocolate version may have a slight advantage nutrient-wise.
Overall, the chocolate flavour was my favourite but I liked the taste of both shakes. They were quite refreshing and more-ish. Once I started drinking them, I wanted to carry on. Experience-wise, I would happily drink this shake on a regular basis. 270ml felt like a decent yet manageable portion size. If I had to drink 500ml or a litre at once then it might have been difficult to finish.
Did I feel any different afterwards?
During my yoga workouts and walks after having the shakes, I didn’t notice a difference in how I felt. It would probably take longer to see or feel results from taking protein shakes. I did, however, feel quite happy and energised in the evenings after drinking these shakes. This could have been related or could have been a coincidence!
Are these protein shakes a healthy choice?
When I first received these protein shakes, I was concerned by the description on the packet saying it contained sugar and sweetener. On further investigation, I was relieved to find that it contains natural sweeteners, rather than artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and Acesulfame K which I wouldn’t want to consume.
Sugar is high up on the list of ingredients in this shake, coming second after the protein blend. There are 7g of sugar per 20g of protein, and the serving is 42g in total. The shakes left a sweet taste in my mouth after drinking them. I suppose they added the sugar to make the shake taste nicer, but considering that it already contains sweetener, I don’t know why they couldn’t just add more sweetener instead of sugar. I suppose there must be a reason for this in terms of taste, consistency or ingredient balance.
Although it is a small amount of sugar in comparison to eating, say, a cake, I would still be concerned about the cumulative effects of sugar on my health, particularly dental health, if I consumed these shakes regularly. I would probably have these shakes between meals rather than as a meal replacement, which means it’s an extra hit of sugar on my teeth.
Related post: Sugar-Free Challenge – March 2017
What about ethics?
All Arbonne products are vegan and cruelty-free which is fantastic from an ethical point of view. They are also gluten-free and GMO-free. According to their website, they are an environmentally responsible company, committed to sustainability.
The protein shake samples came in plastic sachets, and it looks like the full-sized version of the product comes in a plastic bag too. This is not ideal environmentally, but according to the website they have changed the formula of their protein shakes to make them more concentrated, in order to decrease the size of their packaging. This shows that Arbonne are making an effort to make their products as sustainable as possible.
Would I buy more Arbonne protein shakes?
As mentioned, this is the first time I have ever tried protein shakes, so I don’t have any past experience to compare these to. However, it was a positive experience! The shakes tasted nice and were pleasant to drink. I have no doubt that the protein and vitamins in them have done me good, even if it wasn’t enough of a difference to be noticeable after just two shakes.
The protein shakes are expensive, at £64 for 30 servings if you pay full price. Because I am not serious about building muscle at the moment, I don’t intend to purchase any more shakes for the time being. However, if I did feel a need for protein shakes in the future, I would seriously consider these because they are a healthy and ethical option as well as tasty so I feel it would be worth the money.
If you like the sound of the Arbonne protein shakes and would like to try them out, you can get in touch with Natalie via her website and she will help you to get the best deal.
Do you use protein shakes?
Do you, or have you ever used protein shakes? What brand do you use, and what was your experience with them? Do you have your shakes before or after exercise? Do they make a difference to your body and/or the way you feel? Let me know in the comments below.