If you live in the gym, then you know the value of a good shake. Don’t think that you have to make the same shake every day. Follow these rules and you’ll see shakes in a whole new light!
Long-gone are the days of boring protein shakes. You remember them. They were made with water and powder mixtures that tasted like your grade school’s chalkboard. But, that’s all changed. Today’s shakes are full of flavor.
Thanks to the antioxidant-rich fruits, fibrous seeds and essential fats from nut butters.
By including a range of whole foods and healthy ingredients in your shakes, your body can benefit post-workout from a variety of nutrients. Here are the 10 new protein shake rules you need to know. Your body will thank you later.
# 1 Choose High-Quality Protein Sources!
Protein powders help give nutrients to muscles and maintain blood sugar levels to aid in shedding fat and building muscle. They also help your body recover post-workout. High-quality protein powders will help keep you feeling fuller, longer. At the same time, they will assist you in achieving that ripped physique you crave.
Avoid highly refined powders, added sugars or fillers. Also stay away from anything containing soy protein isolate (big source of GMOs). Whey protein powder is a popular and reliable (not to mention accessible and cheap) source of protein for your shakes. A dairy-based supplement, whey protein is best consumed within two hours of completing your workout for best effectiveness.
Specialized whey proteins may also advertise the words isolate or hydrolyzed. The former refers to a purification process by which the whey is broken down into its most basic form. This causes it to have an exponentially higher protein content than normal whey powder (14% versus 90%). Whey protein isolate is particularly good for those who are lactose intolerance and can’t handle the lactose inherent in whey protein.
Pea protein powder is a great option for vegetarians or vegans who want a punch of protein, but none of the animal cruelty. It is also a fine choice for those with gluten or lactose intolerance.
#2 Use Fresh Fruits, Not Fruit Juices
With the exception of antioxidant-rich fresh cranberry, pomegranate or tart cherry juices, most fruit juices pack a lot of sugar. That means they have a lot of calories. And, they don’t have a whole lot of nutrients to back them up. Keep away!
Choosing whole fruits over fruit juices also bumps up your heart-healthy fiber intake. This assists in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, as well as helping to keep you feeling full. Choose fruits with a low-glycemic index to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
One-half cup to a cup of berries such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, or tropical fruits such as pineapple, kiwi, papaya and banana are always great choices. They add nutrients and great flavor to your shake. Experimenting and switching up your fruit choices will help you get a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, fight intestinal inflammation and assist in the prevention of certain types of cancer.
Who knew berries packed such punch?
#3 Get Your Greens!
Shakes are the universe’s most perfect way to get your daily dose of leafy greens. Once blended up alongside other tasty ingredients, greens add a vibrant color and barely perceptible taste. And, that’s not to mention a sack-full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
With the high density of fast food restaurants and convenience stores, making smart choices and eating whole foods can often seem a chore. Healthy shakes are a quick and easy way to pack nutrient-dense greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens and turnip greens in your daily diet.
If you are not into the idea of drinking your spinach, there are a wide variety of green food powder supplements available on the market. Sea vegetables, chlorella, spirulina, and wheat grass are all healthy greens that are available in powder form and can add considerable nutrient value to your shake.
#4 Choose Heart-Healthy Fats
Naturally occurring, plant-based fats are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also add substantial flavor and richness to your shake. Important for optimal cell functioning, essential polyunsaturated fats are good for weight loss, healthy digestion and relieving stress.
As omega-3s have proven to be highly useful at reducing inflammation, they are an ideal source of nutrients for athletes by helping speed up post-workout recovery. They have also been shown to increase blood flow to muscles. This helps improve range of motion and decrease muscle soreness after a strenuous exercise session. It can also enhance insulin sensitivity, thereby improving fat loss.
Nut butters such as Brazil nuts, hazelnut, almond and cashew butter all offer a great source of monounsaturated fats. They can be blended up in your shake to produce a great taste and texture. Extra-virgin coconut oil is another option that provides a good source of medium-chain triglycerides. Now that’s a great source of energy.
#5 Make Your Shakes At Home
By making your shakes at home and avoiding smoothie mixes and pre-bottled shakes, you can up your nutrient consumption while also avoiding added sugars and preservatives. As well, you can control the amount of calories, fat and protein that are in your shake. An at-home shake also gives you the chance to test out a wide variety of ingredients, increasing the spectrum of vitamins and minerals in your daily diet.
One thing to consider when making a shake at home is whether your shake is intended as a post-workout snack or meal replacement. If you are consuming a shake in place of breakfast, lunch or dinner, you may want to consider increasing the caloric content to ensure that you are getting the right amount of energy to recover from your workout. If the shake is intended as a snack to hold you over until mealtime, you may want to opt for a low-fat, low-calorie recipe to avoid unintentional weight gain.
#6 Sweeten Things Up
If you live in an area located at least 40 degrees above or below the equator, chances are that the fruits found in your local supermarket are not at their peak sweetness 365 days a year. To fight the lackluster flavor of out-of-season produce, certain products can be used. These can add a little life to your shakes, without the obvious health implications of refined sugars.
Honey, maple syrup, coconut syrup and stevia are all natural or naturally derived sweeteners that do not come with the threat of a sugar crash half an hour after consumption. Making a date puree to use in your shakes is as easy as soaking the dates in hot water for five minutes until soft and then blending them smooth in a blender or food processor.
Real, whole maple syrup is also a great sweetener for shakes. It’s rich in minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Coconut syrup is extracted from coconut palms and has a very low glycemic index of 35. This makes it ideal for diabetics or for those who are at risk of developing diabetes.
#7 Make Probiotics Your Pals
While alternative milk products such as almond, cashew, and hemp milk are all great choices for a healthy shake base, probiotic-rich dairy products such as kefir and yogurt are excellent ways to infuse gut-healthy probiotics into your diet.
Kefir is easily digested, improves nutrient assimilation and provides healthy bacteria and yeast. It also comes with complete proteins, vitamins, and minerals. As well, it provides the building blocks for a healthy immune system, keeping you in the gym and off the couch. By making your body more balanced and nourished, kefir can help you lose weight by reducing food cravings.
For those who avoid dairy products, coconut kefir (basically fermented coconut water) is a great source of probiotics and is quite healing for the liver and digestive system. It encourages hydration and the growth of beneficial microflora. That’s what makes coconut kefir a great addition to shakes! And, if that weren’t enough, it also helps repair some of the cellular stress caused by exercise.
#8 Reach For The Seeds!
Chia, flax and hemp seeds are all great shake additions. Why? They bump up your energy and improve your skin. Hemp seeds can be added whole or in ground form. They are great for strengthening your immunity and providing your body with fiber and trace minerals. Coming with a satisfyingly nutty flavor, hemp seeds are also an anti-inflammatory food source. That means that they are excellent for muscle recovery and repair post-workout.
Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, calcium and selenium. They are beloved by athletes for their energy-giving powers. In fact, ancient Aztecs called chia seeds “the running food.”
Due to the energy boost they give, as well as their ability to retain water and electrolytes. The omega-3s in chia seeds improve mental energy while their inherent complex carbs break down slowly to deliver energy over an extended period of time.
Flax seeds are an anti-inflammatory just like hemp seeds. They are also touted for their high antioxidant and B vitamin concentrations. In fact, flax seeds contain the highest concentrations of lignans (potential cancer fighters) found in nature. Flax seeds expand five times by bulk in the stomach. Thus, they help to keep you full while stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
#9 Smooth It Out
One great tip for improving the overall nutrition, flavor and texture of your shake is to use frozen fruit in place of ice. Not only will your shake be less watery, but also by using frozen fruit you can make the most of the available space in your glass nutrient-wise.
Frozen mangoes, peaches and bananas make for especially rich and smooth shakes. As a bonus, they provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. You can combine fresh fruits that are available local to you year-round with frozen fruits for an optimal balance and variety of nutrients.
Another good option to make rich, velvety shakes is avocado. Avocados are a great source of healthy fats in the form of monounsaturated omega-3s. They are even higher in potassium than bananas, and are a great source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and fiber.
Baked sweet potato and pumpkin can also be scrumptious additions to shakes, providing complex carbs, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C and other trace minerals. Once baked soft, these veggies will give your shake a deliciously silky, pie-filling texture and beautiful orange color.
# 10 Include Healthy Fiber
Since we can’t digest fiber, it acts as a sort of little scrub brush that cleans up our intestines for improved digestion. Diets high in fiber are also linked with lower blood sugar and cholesterol. There are many ways to up the fiber content of your shake, and the previous rules outline a variety of fruits, veggies and seeds that do the job superbly.
If you are still seeking a little extra fiber boost, oatmeal is a great source. It also comes with five grams of protein per half cup. Processing the oats in a spice grinder or food processor before adding them to your shake is a good way to minimize clumping and ensure a smoother smoothie. Another way to soften oats is to soak them overnight in nut milk before adding them to your shake. The fiber in the oats will help to keep you fuller, longer and will add a rich texture to your shakes.
By including fresh fruits, leafy greens, nut butters and heart-healthy seeds in your shake, you can create a well-balanced meal supplement that is full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats. That’s not to mention the added taste. Sounds like an easy choice to us.
By Lillian Dumont