In this article:
- Benefits of protein supplements for diabetics
- Types of protein supplement sources. What is safest and most effective?
- Best protein powder options for diabetics and how to take them
Protein supplements are widely used. Athletes take them to build muscle mass, arthritis sufferers take them to soothe their joints, and others take them to grow their hair and nails. There are many people who benefit from protein supplements, especially diabetics. Our bodies need protein to create hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.
There are three main sources of energy: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Compared to carbs, protein takes longer to digest and is less efficiently broken down into glucose, causing fewer blood sugar spikes. This is a key factor for those managing type 2 diabetes.
Protein supplements may also help to support maintenance and weight loss by suppressing your appetite and helping you to feel fuller longer.
All of the below sources are considered “diabetic friendly” if you opt for a brand with clean ingredients and free of added sugars and flavorings. Each source is low in fat and carbohydrates, which can help you to reach a balanced diet and boost daily protein intake without additional risk in sugar and fat intake.
Whey: Whey protein is a very popular protein source. Whey was found to help decrease insulin resistance in those with healthy body weights but for those with obesity, it increased blood glucose levels. Typically, you'll find whey protein powder on its own or in flavored protein shakes and meal replacements. Whey can only be found in food such as milk and dairy products, alongside another type of protein called casein. Whey is much more bioavailable (absorbable) than casein due to having more branched-chain amino acids (BCAAS). Lactose intolerant individuals may have adverse reactions to whey. However, if you do choose to go the route of whey, be sure to pick a whey protein isolate supplement to get the most bang for your buck.
Collagen: Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. The human body creates its own collagen from inessential and essential amino acids including glycine and proline. It's a bit trickier to find collagen in the foods we eat, but it's easy to get your hands on collagen boosting foods, like foods high in vitamin C. When collagen levels are low, it can result in a host of issues from wrinkled skin to a slowed metabolism and severe joint pain. In one study conducted on people with type 2 diabetes, collagen was found to reduce levels of fasting blood sugar levels, fasting blood insulin, total triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, and free-fatty acids, but increased levels of insulin sensitivity index and HDL were observed. Additionally, the Alberta Diabetes Institute found low levels of glycine among people with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that glycine (the amino acid in collagen) is essential to insulin regulation and the prevention of diabetes.
Plant-based: Plant-based powders are sourced from a variety of things such as soy protein, peas, nuts, hemp, or brown rice protein. This is a naturally lactose-free form of protein.
When it comes to choosing a protein supplement for both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, your doctor or healthcare professional will know what's best. According to the American Diabetes Association, a high protein diet can have dangerous side effects for people with both diabetes and kidney disease, so for medical advice, you'll want to take an individualized approach with your doctor.
Here are a couple things to consider when adding protein, or specifically protein shakes, into your diet.
If you've gotten the go-ahead by a health professional to increase your protein intake, the best rule of thumb when shopping for a low carb protein supplement is "the simpler the better". Many protein shakes and meal replacement bars are filled with added sugars, harmful artificial sweeteners like stevia, artificial color, preservatives, and refined oils. Always read the supplement facts panel and ask questions if you need to. Since collagen is the most prevalent protein in our bodies, and because collagen deteriorates more rapidly in diabetics, collagen supplements are a promising option. Additionally, both gelatin and collagen have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels more effectively than other proteins.
Amandean's premium Marine Collagen Powder is flavorless, odorless, and free of GMOs, artificial ingredients, and sweeteners, making it an easy addition to your favorite diabetic-friendly recipes. It has no carbs and only about 35 calories per scoop to avoid blood glucose spikes, while still providing you with protein nutrition. Gelatin, a partially cooked version of collagen that will gel in cold liquids, can also be a great choice for diabetics who like to get creative in the kitchen. It's another pure collagen protein supplement to help you manage diabetes and insulin production without making significant changes to your diabetic-friendly diet.
When compared to whey protein, collagen sourced from fish is more flexible for dietary preferences such as pescatarians and restrictions such as lactose intolerance.
As always, the best advice we can give you is that your doctor always knows best! There is no single foolproof diet or magic supplement that will make managing diabetes a breeze, but you may be able to use lean, pure protein supplements alongside exercise to help you get there. If you have more questions about Amandean's protein powders, ask away!