Written by Coach Tara
I am frequently asked about whether or not smoothies in the morning are a good breakfast. In recent years juicing has become quite trendy. We have seen an influx in fresh pressed juices and juice stands post “China Study”, “Crazy, Sexy Diet” and documentaries like “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” I am not here to argue whether or not juicing cures cancer. We certainly should all be aware by now that processed foods certainly are not providing optimal nutrition. We should also know that adding nutrient dense vegetables and fruits to our diets over pop tarts and slushies is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
As members at our gym, you have all made a commitment towards better health. For many of you that means working out 3-5 days per week! Once we have committed to our fitness, the next step inevitably (albeit, usually begrudgingly) is addressing what we are putting in our mouths. As highly motivated, busy people we are on the go at all times and finding what we consider healthy, fast meals is viewed as difficult. Step In: The Smoothie.
I would say questions about smoothies are one of my most frequent. In an effort to save time, eat well and (possibly) cure cancer we put a ton of good choices into a blender, mix and guzzle. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether or not a smoothie is your best choice:
–WHAT ARE MY GOALS? Is your goal post workout recovery? Gaining weight? Losing Fat? These three goals have very different answers when it comes to consuming your smoothie.
Recovery Meals should occur within 0-45 minutes after your workout. The goal is to utilize your body’s increased ability to replenish muscle glycogen. Your body is best at this within the 45 minutes post exercise. You want to provide some amino acids (protein) for muscle fiber rebuilding and some carbohydrate (glucose) for muscle glycogen stores. These carbohydrates should come from fruits and vegetables and protein from whey, egg-white, casein, hemp or plain Greek yogurt to accomplish this. A fat source is less of a concern for a recovery shake as you are trying to digest this fairly quickly and make these nutrients available to your body for recovery purposes.
I want to gain muscle. You are built like an endurance athlete and putting on weight (especially lean mass) is a feat for you. Typically your metabolism is high and appetite for you can sometimes be an issue. You physically cannot eat enough to put weight on before feeling too full. Smoothies are a great way for you to get excess nutrients and calories to put weight on. You would be best served to include fruit, nut butter, seeds, oats, sweet potato and a protein source in your smoothies and drink these between meals. You are trying to promote an excess in your overall calorie load and provide a dense amount of nutrients to build lean mass.
I want to lose fat. Smoothies are not what you’re looking for my friend. Typically if we are trying to lose fat then we are trying to create a calorie deficit. In that regard you will be happiest eating a high volume, nutrient dense diet where you feel full and satisfied. Drinking your food ain’t gonna provide that. If your smoothie is your first meal of the day, insulin sensitivity is exponentially higher due to fasting overnight. Insulin’s job is to pull glucose (sugar) from the blood into tissue to be used either as energy or stored as fat for later. Unfortunately, with higher glycemic (sugary foods) we get an excessive insulin response that pulls too much glycose from the blood. With a large insulin spike generally there is a corresponding blood sugar crash in which we feel fatigue and reach for more high sugar carbohydrates. The result is the sugar high and low rollercoaster we all ride throughout the day.
By blending something we are pre-digesting it. You’ve taken all the hard work out of chewing, enzymatic breakdown, etc. Your smoothie is available quickly and able to turn to blood sugar immediately. It does, insulin rushes in and stores excess calories (energy) as fat for later. When your smoothie is comprised of fruit (=fructose = sugar) this happens even faster!!!
If you are looking to lose fat you are best served by swapping out your smoothie for REAL, WHOLE food. You will also find that by trading out smoothies and juices for a more protein dense breakfast you will feel more satiated and energized for the longevity of the day. Give it a try for a week and see!
Want some one-on-one nutritional advice? Email us at email@example.com and we will get you hooked up with Tara our Precision Nutrition Certified Coach.