Chocolate peanut butter coconut mousse isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about healthy eating, right? Well, fortunately for all of us, there are a few intelligent and creative individuals out there who did something about it. I got the idea for a healthy, protein-filled mousse from Nate Green, but he borrowed it from Dr. Berardi of Precision Nutrition. (Anyone know what comes after sloppy seconds?)
not quite what mine looks like…
In Nate’s blog post, he didn’t use any measurements and more or less just combined seemingly random amounts of the ingredients in a bowl. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but my analytical mind just can’t handle that level of uncertainty and inconsistency. I wanted to know exactly how much of each item should go in there, but not so much for the calorie count or the macronutrient breakdown…I just wanted the recipe to be repeatable (and taste the same every time). If I just measure, pour, and blend, then I can make this concoction in about 3 minutes. If I’m eyeballing the amounts, it only adds time and brain power, and I won’t necessarily get the same end-product every time. Unacceptable.
I’ve posted twice now on post-workout nutrition (HERE and HERE), but unlike my protein shakes, this mousse is not intended for the post-workout window. As I discussed in those previous posts, the post-workout window is an optimal time for large quantities of protein and carbs to aid in recovery from your training. This Muscle Mousse formula is virtually carb-free, but it contains significant amounts of protein and healthy fats…not ideal for the post-workout period.
So when should you eat it? Pretty much any other time is fine. I’m always up early in the morning either coaching or training, so every time I open my fridge to find my pre-made muscle mousse, it’s like taking a present out from under the tree on Christmas morning. If I’m prepping for my training session, I don’t have to spend a lot of time (or any time at all) getting my pre-workout nutrition in order. If you’re always on-the-go, simply grab the cup and a spoon.
This concept of nutrient timing (protein and carbs post-workout, protein and fats at all other times) is based on the body’s carbohydrate tolerance. The level of carbohydrate tolerance will vary from person to person, but there are definitely some commonalities. Once again I fall back on Precision Nutrition and their article titled “All About Nutrient Timing”:
The body can better handle carbohydrates during and after physical activity, as well as when levels of fitness are high and body fat levels are lower (15% or less for men and 20% or less for women).
Perhaps the primary benefit of nutrient timing is its effect on nutrient partitioning, or in other words, getting the nutrients to go where you need them to go. For example, a high carbohydrate meal will result in elevated blood sugar and your body will then release insulin to bring your blood glucose levels back down to baseline. Insulin, which regulates nutrient entry into cells, will store these nutrients wherever they are needed. If you are in the post-workout period, then the glycogen stores within your muscles have been depleted and this high carbohydrate meal will replenish them (this is good). If you are not in the post-workout period, then insulin will shuttle these nutrients towards your long-term energy stores, or bodyfat (this is bad). And yes, this was an extremely simplified version.
The take-away message is simply to limit non-vegetable carbohydrates except for during the post-workout window (the 2 hours following your workout). The meals outside of this window, such as Muscle Mousse, should focus on protein and healthy fats, whereas post-workout meals should focus on protein and healthy carbs.
Enough science talk…on to the mousse!
Recipe (or Formula, as I like to call it)
- Plain Greek Yogurt (1 cup)
- Protein Powder (one heaping scoop)
- 100% Cacao Nibs (2 tbsp)
- Shredded Coconut (2 tbsp)
- Nuts (any variety; small handful)
- Natural Peanut Butter (2 tbsp)
Making a delicious pre-workout meal or anytime snack doesn’t get much easier than this. Are you ready? OK, here’s what you do:
- Add all of the ingredients into the blender
- Blend until smooth and creamy (very small amounts of water may be needed to help blend)
- Refrigerate overnight so that it thickens up and becomes mousse-like (you can actually hold it upside-down and it won’t even budge, but try it at your own risk)
Yep, that’s it. For efficiency’s sake, I make 4 servings at one time because one large container of Greek yogurt has 4 cups. That’s not working harder – that’s working smarter!
Muscle Mousse Components
If you are a strict disciple of the Paleo diet, this first ingredient will disqualify Muscle Mousse as a meal for you. That’s too bad because it’s really freakin’ good.
As Dr. Jonny Bowden puts it, “all health begins in the gut.” This simply means that digestion and absorption of nutrients is paramount when it comes to having a healthy body. Yogurt, and Greek yogurt in particular, is a valuable source of probiotics, otherwise known as good bacteria. These good bacteria can thrive in the gut and aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Additionally, probiotics help control chronic inflammation, which is now known to be one of the prime causes of degenerative diseases.
Even if you are lactose intolerant, you may still be able to consume Greek yogurt. The live cultures in Greek yogurt can actually break down lactose, therefore your body won’t have to suffer the consequences related to the inability to metabolize lactose.
Although many types of nuts share similar nutritional profiles, I’ll specifically discuss walnuts here since those are the nuts I used in my recipe. For starters, walnuts contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. Omega-3 fatty acids, along with omega-6 fatty acids, are classified as essential fatty acids. This simply means that they cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet.
These essential fats play a role in many factors of overall health, including cardiovascular function, nervous system function, and immune health. Research shows that low DHA consumption (and blood levels) is associated with memory loss, difficulty concentrating, Alzheimer’s disease and other mood problems.
Cells in the human body have a fatty layer. Essential fats have an integral role in promoting cell health. Cells require these fats for repair and regeneration. If the fatty membranes surrounding brain cells are relatively fluid, messages from neurochemicals such as serotonin can be transmitted more easily. Another benefit of omega-3 fats is the increase of insulin sensitivity in muscle cells with a concurrent decrease in fat cells. With this, more nutrients may be diverted to muscle tissue.
Finally, DHA and EPA can increase metabolism. With adequate consumption leading to increased levels of enzymes that boost calorie-burning ability.
It’s true that various types of fish contain far greater levels of omega-3 fats, but there’s absolutely no way I’m blending fish in my muscle mousse formula. Good luck with that.
Walnuts aren’t just a good source of fats – they are also nutrient dense and provide protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and manganese. They’re practically a chewable multivitamin, but don’t use that as an excuse to just eat the Flintstone’s variety instead.
Natural Peanut Butter
Peanuts are technically legumes, but their nutritional profile resembles that of nuts which is why they are often lumped together. Regardless of their classification, they are delicious and have many positive benefits. For instance, peanuts possess a surprisingly high amount of antioxidants…almost as high as some berries. In particular, they contain a high concentration of the polyphenol p-coumaric acid which has been shown to be both a powerful antioxidant and an anticancer compound.
Don’t be fooled by jars of peanut butter that slap the “Natural” label on there. The only surefire way to know that you’re getting true natural peanut butter is to look at the ingredients. There should be ONE ingredient, which, as you might have guessed, is peanuts. Occasionally salt is added to natural peanut butter, and I personally don’t mind this addition (although salt can exacerbate some issues with hypertension). If the ingredients list includes sugar or any form of partially hydrogenated oils, just put the jar back on the shelf and step away slowly.
peanut butter comprised roughly 80% of my diet as a growing boy
Muscle Mousse is certainly a delicious and healthy meal, but you could potentially run into a few problems if you’re not careful:
- Since it consists primarily of protein and fats, this stuff is very calorically dense. You can absolutely overeat this stuff, and it is definitely possible to gain bodyfat while only eating healthy foods.
- Muscle Mousse is rich stuff. Calories aside, if you eat too much you will make yourself sick (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience).
These potential risks are far outweighed by the benefits, so give it a shot and experiment with other ingredients. Just be sure to tell me if you find a better formula.
Bowden, J., Ph.D. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.