The word smoothie has a lot of people salivating at the thought. A well earned treat after a hard workout or a snack in the day. With the broad partnership of smoothie rewards for exercise at Virgin Active gyms nation wide the smoothie sales have spiked significantly. There is a perception that all smoothies are healthy and that they definitely are earned post exercise. However the actuality versus the perception is a fair distance apart.  Lets take a look at some well known Kauai smoothies and place them in context.

Small Peanut Butter Bliss 408 Calories
34 grams of  Sugar – The large serving  contains close to 50 grams of sugar.
15 grams of Protein and a nice 20.3 grams of fat while the large one is 18 grams of protein and 23 grams of fat
That shows you immediately that the smoothie does not grow in proportion to size, the larger one just contains more net carbs in the form of sugar it also sits at around 511 Calories. I see many people going for the larger 500ml smoothies and I think to myself you just trained now you putting on weight as you walk out the door. Add to that the fact that the smoothie wont satiate you for that long and you will add in additional calories quite quickly after that. It’s an earned smoothie for sure, not a comfy gym session smoothie.

Probably one of the most popular smoothies is the Peanut Butter Bomb.
24 grams of protein, 29 grams of carbs and around 22 grams of fat sitting in at around 407 Calories. This is the small smoothie. The larger one contains  35 grams of protein 40 grams of carbs and 24 grams of fat rounding out 513 Calories.

Looking at the low fat protein shakes we definitely looking at low fat, which I hate by the way as fat is good for you. However take the low fat shake and then look at the sugar portion which sits in at around 12-20grams depending on the smoothie size and of course a person deems that to be good from a health and weight management perspective but if you worried about weight then this is not the correct smoothie for you.

The purpose of the above is not to knock Kauai smoothies, they are delicious and serve a purpose. The question I am posing to you as the reader is do you actually know the nutritional breakdown of what you are consuming in the form of protein, carbs and fat. Do you know what your body actually needs? Most people drink smoothies because its healthy right? Wrong, too much health is not healthy. Just because ingredients look healthy does not mean the desired result will be one of health. A smoothie needs to be constructed to purpose not just consumed because it tastes good ;-).

I will never forget once I was in the gym and a mother was ordering a smoothie for her daughter who was around 6yrs of age. She asked the daughter what smoothie she wanted and the daughter chose a smoothie which I know very well contains around 630 Calories nearly half of what I sometimes eat in a day in a single serving. I turned to her and said very politely I don’t think thats an appropriate smoothie for your daughter and tried to explain. She snapped back at me saying mind your own business. I responded to her saying its a little difficult to mind your own business when I see child abuse happening and in your case the food you are giving such a young child is damaging to her health but by all means go ahead and destroy her health its none of my business. Its a fact that one of the biggest growth rates of diabetes is in the 9-12 year old category and over and above that the obesity rate of young children is climbing at an alarming rate due to poor nutrition. Bad food choices only lead to long term health issues eventually. I am not the type of person that stands idly by and ignores this I try to pass on the knowledge to others so they are better informed to make the correct decisions.

Ok, enough rambling on about the bad of smoothies, because smoothies are awesome in actual fact. When you make a decent smoothie that you know is healthy you just cant go wrong :-).

So the idea of this blog is to give you the low down on how to make a decent smoothie and ensure its the correct smoothie for you.

As I did with the plan your plate blog last week ( In case you missed it just click here ) you can also plan a decent smoothie 😉

I put together this diagram to make it easier to visualize how a smoothie can be properly constructed without guess work.
Just start from the bottom up and build your smoothie according to your needs. Lets take a look at the image I constructed below to use as guidance.

Protein selection is one you need to get right. Total protein should not exceed the 25-30 gram mark rather go to the lower end as some of the other additions to the smoothie might have additional protein content and this is something you want to try to get correct. Protein comes in many forms and when it comes to smoothie creation I way prefer going the plant based route to keep it really healthy. My protein of preference is a pea protein isolate, although hemp, rice and soy protein are also just fine. If you insist on an animal protein then go for a whey isolate or albumin protein.  I personally feel plant based proteins are king and pea protein isolate is according to the world health organization the closest matching protein to human muscle requirements from an amino acid profile perspective. I will deal with proteins in a separate blog as it’s quite a debate :-).

If you are going to make a smoothie make it count. I like to use a variety of nutrient dense foods which are high in minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants to add some nice power to the smoothie. Natural foods like spinach, watercress,  kale, moringa, spirulina, matcha, cinammon, turmeric, cayenne to name a few but this is basically something of value which has no major impact on the total caloric value of the smoothie.

The types of fats I use are always looked at from a beneficial and quantity point of view. It’s always dependent on the session duration and intensity. It’s important to note that the fat volume will be determined by what you are going to add from an earned carbohydrate perspective. If the earned carbs are going to be high, then the amount of fat I add is proportional so it will be less fat content. If the earned carbs are going to be lower then the fat portion can be slightly higher. Earned carbs are generally higher on longer harder sessions and lower on easier shorter sessions.
The types of fats I like for my smoothies are avocado, nut butters, nuts, coconut, mct oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds etc. Another excellent fat I often add to my mix which also helps with flavor is cacao.

These types of carbohydrates are those with a higher net carb value and of course being a smoothie will have a higher sugar content usually due to the addition of fruit. The types of carbs I use for my smoothies need to have value as well in the form of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and mostly I look at high quality fruits such as berries, mango, kiwi, papaya, banana, melon and pineapple. Another option of an earned carb is some honey. Remember this portion needs to be measured, in the amount of total carbohydrates you are requiring from the smoothie. Other additives such as an avocado for example is a dual food having a fat and carb content so remember to take that into account when deciding how many carbs you want in total and which carbs to add.

There are a few additives I look at when making a smoothie and its to make sure that if I am going to have a liquid meal I make it count. Glutamine is one of those and its immune system properties are excellent it also aids the digestive system and of cours recovery and more. I also add collagen powder to my smoothies as its a joint aid and as we age especially athletes its something to ensure is kept resilient and strong.  Something I love to add is caffeine in the form of coffee and I do this to help speed up glycogen replenishment but of course this is done after hard sessions and definitely not at night before bed.

What you use for your smoothie base will ultimately depend on what you want from a macro perspective. Generally I use almond or rice milk and occasionally soy milk. If you are not lactose intolerant then normal milk or yogurt can make a good base filler. Of course water and ice is a decent way to keep it simple and clean and after a very hot training session there is nothing better than having crushed ice in there.

Below is a basic list of some smoothie ingredients you can use, work from left to right and create your best smoothie. Below are some of my favorite smoothie recipes give it a try.

This smoothie is typical after a long or harder session:
1 x 20 gram serving of pea protein isolate
1/3 cup blueberries
1/4 cup mango
1 tsp raw cacao
1/2 cup raw baby spinach
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tbsp nut butter (macadamia or almond)
cup rice milk
1 serving glutamine
1 x 5gram serving collagen powder
1 TrueStart Coffee Sachet
1 Teaspoon Raw Honey
Macros for this Smoothie:
Calories: 439
Protein: 27 grams (Pea Protein and Collagen are primary contributors)
Carbs: 56 grams
Fiber 7grams
Fat 9 grams

Typical after a lower intensity session
1 x 20 gram pea protein isolate
1/3 cup blueberries
1/4 avocado
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tbsp nut butter
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1tsp mct oil
1 cup almond milk
1 5 gram serving collagen powder
1 serving of glutamine
Can add some mint leaves for flavour
Macros for this Smoothie:
Calories: 397
Protein: 29 grams
Carbs 13 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Fat: 22 grams

Recommended after a long hard session
32Gi Recover (Chocolate Flavour) x 2 scoops
1 Sachet TrueStart Coffee
1/4 Cup Frozen Mango or granadilla
1 Teaspoon Peanut Butter
250ml  water and or crushed ice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Macros for this Smoothie:
Calories: 313 (3 scoop Recover serving is 408 calories)
Protein: 18 grams (3 scoops Recover serving is 25 grams)
Carbs 47 grams (3 scoops Recover serving is 59 grams)
Fiber: 5 grams (3 scoops Recover serving is 7 grams)
Fat: 5 grams (3 scoops Recover serving is 6 grams)

Keep going, stay motivated and earn those smoothies

Mark Wolff is an endurance, nutrition and physiology expert with over 20 years experience. An endurance multisport athlete with a triathlon, mountain biking and weight lifting background, he works extensively with professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports disciplines as well as those just wanting to change their lifestyles. He firmly believes that a person can only reach their full potential when their health and nutrition is down packed. Mark’s focus on nutrition and physiology is not just on training and racing, but he places major emphasis on recovery, immune system health, emotional stability, stress management and performance. Mark is co-founder of 32Gi, a sports nutrition company, focused mainly on health and endurance nutrition. He is a certified sports nutrition expert as well as a marathon, track, triathlon and cycling coach. He spends most of his time guiding athletes with a very holistic approach to blending training and nutrition for performance and health

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