For those of you who know me I am a big fan of making “super shakes” in order to get a ton of nutrient dense foods in for the day. The fact of the matter is that we are so busy these days that many of us just don’t get enough fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, quality proteins, and other key nutrients throughout the day. I wish that there were a way that I could get all of my clients to eat a boat load of vegetables, clean proteins, complimented with healthy fats at every meal, but that is just not realistic. That is where making a “super shake” or 2 for the day comes in. You quickly develop an insurance policy for your body that gives you the quality nutrients you need for sustained energy, fat loss, muscle recovery and overall health.
With so many poor quality ready to drink meal replacements, and high sugar smoothies to purchase on the go, it can be confusing to what works best for you and your nutritional needs. You need to make your own meal replacement “super shake” to really get the best bang for your buck. There are 5 rules to follow when trying to construct a proper “super shake”. You can’t just throw in some milk, yogurt, and fruit juice and call it a day. It must have macronutrient balance, quality, and taste good enough to consume. Here are the five rules when orchestrating the best “super shake” possible.
Rule #1 High Quality Protein Source
For a high quality protein source the choices are pretty simple. It doesn’t matter what your goals are, you need to have some protein to help maintain blood sugar levels to increase energy, and amino acids to aid in recovery, fat loss, and muscle growth. SO start with your base and use a protein powder of some sort. I am not a fan of any yogurt, as it also adds sugar, and can be higher in lactose. Protein powders also have more branched chain amino acids and better overall amino acid profiles. Always look for protein powders that have minimal additives such as sugar and other fillers. Here are my favorite choices in order for carnivores and vegans alike.
- Whey Protein (isolate, concentrate, or a combination of both)
- Brown Rice Protein Powder
- Pea Protein Powder
- Hemp Seed Protein Powder
- Soy Protein Isolate
Related: Best Protein Powders on the Market
Rule #2 Green food Powder Supplements and Leafy Greens
Our consumption of green foods and vegetables is way down. Due to the convenience factor, cost, and the abundance of additive fast food and gas station food items, veggies just are not in our food chain as much as they should be. I admit myself that I don’t get as many veggies in my daily eating habits because I am so busy (yes that is just an excuse). The best way to get a boatload of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals in your daily nutrition protocol is to add a green food powder, or a couple cups of various leafy greens to your “super shake”. This will help make up for the lack of nutrients you are not getting from convenience foods, missed meals, or overcooked veggies when you eat out during lunch and dinner. Some people are very nervous about the taste when I mention that they should add some type of greens to their shake. I reassure them that you can easily mask the taste with some good fruit. If that is not enough you can add just a dab of agave nectar and that should help as well. It will taste better than it looks, I promise. I prefer green food powders as they can give you a better bang for the buck by having spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, and sea vegetables. These are nutrient dense foods that are hardly ever found in our regular diets, so I like them over leafy greens since we are more likely to eat those. I am critical about what types of brands to buy, so check out these brands.
- HealthForce SuperFoods Vitamineral Greens (my favorite) http://www.healthforce.com/shop?page=shop.product_details&flypage=garden_flypage.tpl&product_id=6&category_id=1
- Garden of Life
- Biotest Superfood
- Barleans Greens
- Athletic Greens
If you do not want to buy a green food powder, here are some examples of some leafy greens to add. I would shoot for 2-4 cups.
- Collard Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Dulse and other sea vegetables
- All other leafy greens
Rule #3 Healthy Smart Fats
We used to be a nation in fear of fat, but luckily the mainstream media has caught on to the fact that omega-3 fatty acids and other essential fats are critical for brain function, anti-inflammation, and other cellular functions in the body. It is true that not all fats are created equal, so you must choose the right one’s. In general, the fats that are found in nature and are not man made or pumped up with hormones and anti-biotics are very beneficial. Plant based fats and marine oils that are not processed and hydrogenated will work best for these super shakes. My favorite fats to add are cod liver oil, krill oil, and other marine oils. We are less likely to get these critical omega-3 fatty acids that are chalk full of DHA and EPA, the phytonutrients that have been clinically show to improve eyes sight, brain function, and cardiovascular health. So when you can, use marine oil. If you are against having fish oils the next best choice is ground flaxseeds. Make sure to buy your own seeds and grind them. The oil is too beat up and you lose out on the beneficial lignans and fiber that they provide.
Various nut butters also offer some great monounsaturated fats, and provide great taste to mix it up once in a while. You can use the whole nut which is even better since it is in it’s most natural state, but in my experience the nut butters tend to blend up a little better.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (EVCO) is also a great choice. EVCO has very unique properties as it contains and abundant amount of Medium-chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) that the body uses to produce energy. The health benefits include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.
Here is a list to choose from. 1-2 tablespoons should do the trick depending on your caloric needs.
- Cod Liver Oil, Fish Oil, Krill Oil, other Marine Oils (lemon or orange flavored)
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Almond or butter
- All Natural Peanut Butter
- Macadamia Nuts or butter
- Cashews or Cashew Butter
- Hazel Nuts or butter
- Brazil nuts or butter
Rule #4 Use Whole Fruit and not Fruit Juice
Using the whole fruit is a much better option that using fruit juice. When you use just the juice you miss out on all of the phytochemicals and fiber that the flesh and skin of fruits have in them. You are basically getting all of the fructose (fruit sugar), and just some of the health benefits that the fruit has to offer. Using just the fruit juice also can add up to a lot of calories fast, with almost all of the calories coming in the form of sugar. The only way you should use any fruit juice is to mask the greens food flavor, or to add a big burst of nutrients. To do this you would add 1oz. of tart cherry juice concentrate or pomegranate juice. These two juices provide a ton of antioxidants with less calories, so they do make the grade.
I like fruits that are low-glycemic, and provide a ton of nutrients. You must also go easy on the portion size. Depending on your caloric needs for fat loss and muscle gain, ½ cup to 1 cup should be plenty.
Rule #5 Skip on the Yogurts and Milks
Don’t get me wrong, organic plain yogurts, and milks such as almond, oat, rice, and goat milk provide you with some great nutrients. But when you are making a “super shake” you should pass on them and just use water and ice. For one, you will just be adding calories you might not need. Remember, unless you are trying to bulk up, you need to use the most nutrient dense foods to put in your shake without going overboard on calories. If you start to throw every health food you can think of in your shake, the calories will add up fast. I have made the mistake of letting my clients do this. I have seen some peoples shakes get up top 1,500 calories when they were eating another 1,500-2,500 on top of that. Not a prescription for fat loss.
I do have a couple of exceptions for you. If you are trying to bulk up and gain a fair amount of muscle, you can add some milk and yogurt if you choose to. I sometimes let vegans or vegetarians also add some plant based milk if they don’t use protein powder. Even then I still encourage them to use the plant protein powder the majority of the time.
A Few Examples
To get you started here are a few examples. The best way to blend a “super shake” is to use a Magic Bullet. It is much more convenient and an easier clean up than a traditional blender
Chocolate PB Banana
1-2 scoops Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
1-2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter
1 medium banana
1 scoop of green food powder
12-16 oz. of water and ice
1-2 scoops vanilla protein powder
2 cups spinach
1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
12-16oz water and ice
1-2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 cup of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries combined
1-tablespoon lemon or orange flavored cod liver oil
1 scoop green food powder
12-16oz water and ice
Make it Easy
It is hard enough finding time to get all of your meals in that contain the right amount of nutrients. Take the time to devise your “super shake” plan for the week, and you will build the habit of always making sure you fuel your body correctly.
Justin Grinnell is the Owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. State of Fitness opened up just four years ago and is already one of the leading training facilities in the Midwest. State of Fitness has over 450 members who train every day under his leadership. In addition to being a facility owner, Justin has his own blog at www.grinnelltraining.com (link below), and has been a featured writer for over 6 years in the magazine Healthy & Fit and is a writer for Muscle & Fitness.