The Skinny On Smoothies – Or should I say fat?

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I was recently asked for my opinion on smoothies. I shared my thoughts and a recipe (below) and was published in The CrossFit Journal’s article Avoid The Smoothie Trap written by Hilary Achauer. The article turned out great and I was stoked to be mentioned alongside my friend Steph Gaudreau as well as childhood endocrinologist and author of Fat Chance, Dr. Robert Lustig. I’ve been a big fan of both Steph and Robert for a long time, so the article made me smile. 🙂 I actually wrote an article about Fat Chance back in 2013, be sure to check it out to see my admiration for Lustig’s work.

Without further ado, here’s my take on smoothies:

I’m not a big fan. While every food has it’s place (i.e. cookies on the first day of school, cake at a birthday party, etc…), smoothies should not be a part of your daily diet. Drinking, in general, other than water, should be limited as much as possible. Especially if leaning out, or weight loss is the goal. Consuming macronutrients as liquids immediately causes a blood sugar spike. Liquids provide a large surface area and the opportunity for your stomach lining to absorb carbs in mass. Now, you can use this to your advantage immediately following a workout (to restore glycogen quickly), but in general, drinking your food causes a beer belly effect. Once you start down the slippery slope of consuming carbs in this manner, it is difficult to turn the train around. If you start your day with a smoothie or a juice, even if consuming a Zone balance of protein at the same time, your blood sugar will spike, you’ll store fat, and you’ll burn through the carbs quickly leaving you hungry again in no time.

As an example. Let’s look at Jamba Juice’s Mango-a-go-go, size large.

Protein: 4g (.5 Zone block)
Carbohydrate: 112g (12.5 Zone blocks)
Fat: 3 g (1 Zone block)
The average person thinks that this is a healthy option while wading through the wicked world of food on the go. You’d be getting half of the daily carb blocks for a large man in a drink that you can suck down in 5 minutes and will be burned up not long after.

All of this being said, there is a time and a place for a smoothie. After all, Jamba Juice did $161 million in smoothies in fiscal year 2015 (down from $218M in 2014). Yesterday, I was at Denver International Airport. While I searched high and low for a quality meal, I decided to go with Jamba Juice. The reason? The calories are clean. While I may have found a more balanced meal somewhere else, my stomach would have been upset by low quality oils, gluten, etc… I could have added the “Boost Protein”, but it is low quality protein and only provides 10g at that. So, I went with the all fruit smoothie and ate some Sorpressata that I had tucked away in my backpack, which provided protein and plenty of fat.

How about Micronutrients? What if sugar is limited and we go with green leafies and other veggies? That might be a good idea. Here is a smoothie recipe that my friends shared with me recently. He cuts the banana and only adds it back when doing endurance workouts in the 1 hour range. https://www.foundmyfitness.com/reports/micronutrient-smoothie.pdf It has healthy fat, is low glycemic for the most part, and provides a powerful punch of micronutrients.

Here is another one by Rhonda Patrick, which discusses prebiotics, phytochemicals, hydrolyzed collagen, plant hormetic compounds, and the like. I call these “Hipster Smoothies”. They are expensive, are typically only found at home, and much less appealing than an Ice Age Meal!

In the end, I am a fan of whole food. You can go Jamba, you can go Hipster, but I always recommend going home and making some real food. In a pinch, make informed decisions, try to keep things balanced and remember that life is short. If drinking a smoothie every day is the worst thing that you do, then you’re still doing better than 95% of the population.

Here’s a recipe for my “Go To” smoothie:

  • 1 cup frozen mango (3 carb blocks)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (1 carb block)
  • 1 banana (3 carb blocks)
  • 2 scoops SFH Fuel (coconut) (Just under 5 protein blocks)
  • Just enough water to blend, but still provide structure (think “icy soft serve” consistency, something that doesn’t pour out of your blender, but slides)

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