MY PROTEIN SHAKES BRING ALL THE GIRLS TO THE SHOP
MY PROTEIN SHAKES BRING ALL THE GIRLS TO THE SHOP
You just finished your first SHOP workout. Trap bar deadlifts, heavy barbell push presses, glute-ham raises, and ring pushups while wearing a 75 lb. weight vest…not too shabby. Oh yeah, and it was capped off with Battling Ropes. What do you do now? Sit on the couch and take a nap because you’re completely exhausted? Well, if that is your post-workout strategy, then you’re completely missing out on the other HALF of the equation. That’s right…working out makes up only 50% of the process. Recovering from your workout makes up the other 50%. And there’s no better way to start the recovery process than with proper nutrition.
A friend of mine recently e-mailed me a question regarding post-workout nutrition…specifically my Super Shake recipe.
A few months ago, after a very intense SHOP workout, you made me a smoothie that was both delicious and incredibly effective for providing recovery nutrition. I'd like to add such smoothies to my ongoing nutritional regimen – what do you recommend I toss into the blender and why?
-Getting Huge in Houston
Dear Huge in Houston,
Before I dive into the components of my post-workout shake, I should probably discuss why post-workout nutrition is important and how quickly it should be consumed following a workout. To quote Precision Nutrition, my cathedral for all things fitness and nutrition, from their article titled “All About Workout/Post-Workout Nutrition”:
Athletes/exercisers are typically trying to accomplish three things…they want to replenish their energy stores and increase muscle size and/or muscle quality. And in doing so, they want to increase performance and/or improve their appearance.
Following a workout, your muscles will be primed and ready to accept nutrients so that they can begin the repair process (inhibiting further damage, stimulating protein synthesis, and replenishing energy stores). The key, though, is to provide these nutrients to your muscles in a timely fashion so as to maximize the replenishment of glycogen and protein synthesis. If possible, consume your post-workout nutrition as soon as you get home from the gym. If for whatever reason this isn’t an option, do your best to get something down the hatch within 2 hours. The reason that timing is so important here is that blood flow to your muscles is greatly increased during your workout and for a period of time following your workout. By taking advantage of this elevated nutrient transport you will begin to recover faster, which allows for enhanced performance in subsequent workouts. Better workouts equals better results.
I have been a fan of PN for a long time (in fact, I’m going through their certification program right now), and I have found that they are always on top of current research and always produce results for their clients. In other words, when they speak, I listen.
Now, as to the specifics of the Super Shake recipe, this is something that I have been modifying on occasion over the last 7 years. I look back and question some of the ingredients that I used to include (more on this later), although I think my current concoction is pretty damn good.
- Water / Ice (a lot…depends on desired thickness)
- Protein Powder (one heaping scoop)
- Flax Seeds (2 tbsp)
- Pumpkin (1 cup)
- Cinnamon (a lot…about 30 shakes)
- Oatmeal (gluten free) (1/2 cup)
- Berries (frozen) (1 cup)
- Banana (frozen) (1 whole banana)
- Green SuperFood (1 scoop)
Super Shake Components
Water / Ice
Water acts as the foundation of my shake, but perhaps more important than the fact that I use water is the fact that I don’t use another liquid such as orange juice (aka “sugar water”). Although some may argue that the fast-acting carbohydrates from orange juice (i.e. sugars) are ideal in the post-workout window, I would counter by saying that added sugars are never a good idea. As you’ll see below, my shake does include plenty of fast-acting carbohydrates (gluten-free oatmeal, berries, and a banana), but they all come from natural, high quality sources rather than heavily refined sugar.
As for the ice cubes, they give me volume and thickness (no one likes a runny shake). So how much water and ice? It depends on how big you want your shake…mine takes up my entire blender…seriously.
Regarding the importance of protein intake (from Precision Nutrition):
Beyond the basics of preventing deficiency and ensuring a baseline of protein synthesis, we may need even more protein in our diets for optimal functioning, including good immune function, metabolism, satiety, weight management and performance. In other words, we need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.
Now I firmly believe that natural protein sources such as grass-fed meat and wild fish are a better choice than protein powder, but I haven’t figured out a tasty way to add those into my blender. Protein powder, on the other hand, is great for blending as long as you don’t buy a product that is loaded with sugar and other crap (Optimum Nutrition is a good one). One heaping scoop ought to do the trick.
Flax seeds, which cannot be digested in their whole form (either grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or buy them pre-ground), add a great nutty flavor to the shake. They also provide a host of beneficial compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of ALA, not DHA and EPA which are found in fish and grass-fed meats), lignans (help protect against certain cancers), fiber, and monounsaturated fats. Together, these compounds promote cardiovascular and colon health, can boost immunity, promote healthy skin, and help stabilize blood sugar.
Although flax seeds are a good source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, the human body cannot directly use ALA and must convert it to other forms (EPA and/or DHA) before it becomes useful, and unfortunately the conversion ratio is low. This doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to consume flax seeds, but it may mean that additional supplementation with fish oil is in order (a quality fish oil pill as part of your daily vitamin regimen will go a long way…Costco makes a good, affordable product).
How much? Two tablespoons is a good amount.
(Please note that I no longer include pumpkin in my shakes because I overdosed on it…again)
For those who have the willpower to keep their pumpkin consumption below toxic levels, it will make a great addition to your shakes. First of all, it tastes delicious, and it’s also a great source of beta carotene, fiber, potassium (more than bananas), as well as lutein and zeaxanthin (compounds known as carotenoids which are important for eye health).
Before I turned myself orange (my hands still have a slight tint), I added 1 cup of pumpkin to my shakes.
Aside from the fact that it tastes incredible, cinnamon is loaded with benefits, and I have yet to find the upper limit at which point it becomes toxic. Cinnamon is excellent for the moderation of blood sugar, and it contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help control pain and inflammation of muscles and joints. I probably add 25-30 shakes of cinnamon.
Oatmeal (gluten free)
Amidst all of the gluten drama, I switched to gluten free oats to see if I noticed a difference. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and intolerance or sensitivity to it is the cause of celiac’s disease. So far I haven’t really noticed a difference, but that could simply mean that any intolerance I have is just at a very low level. Nevertheless, gluten is not an essential item in anyone’s diet, so I tend to avoid it. Back to the oatmeal…I primarily use it in my shakes because I like the flavor that it adds; additionally it includes a good amount of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) which helps keep the digestive system in proper order. One-half cup is plenty.
Berries provide the primary flavor to my shakes, and I typically use a blend of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. These berries contain a plethora of compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (inflammation and oxidative stress are the primary drivers of just about every killer disease from Alzheimer’s to diabetes and heart disease). That’s more than enough reason for me to include them. I use a full cup of frozen berries.
Bananas are certainly a healthy food, although when it comes to nutrients such as potassium (what bananas are well known for), there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that contain significantly greater amounts. So let’s be honest…I add them to my shakes because I love the flavor. And adding them frozen enhances the texture of the shake.
This greens supplement is basically fruits and vegetables that have been condensed down into powder form. Just as with protein powder, I think consuming actual fruits and vegetables is far better than the powder, but I think I would have to buy a new blender every week if I start trying to mix broccoli and carrots into every shake.
My primary reason for including a greens supplement is for the alkalizing effects (you may recall this from high school chemistry: bases (or alkaline substances) help neutralize acids). And to quote Precision Nutrition again, “regular exercise training can increase acid production in the body due to repeated muscle contractions. Recovery can be enhanced with alkalizing foods, along with protein. However, if only high amounts of protein are consumed, acid production can be compounded – thus the importance of alkaline foods, like greens supplements.”
Well, that’s my not-so-secret recipe. I always have a Super Shake after my workouts…always. And since I workout 6 days per week, it’s pretty badass that my first blender (from my wedding registry) lasted me over 6 years.
What NOT to Include
The list of what not to include in a post-workout shake is longer than my…well, let’s just say it’s a hefty list. This could easily take up several posts, so I’ll keep it simple and just give an abbreviated list:
- Orange juice (or other fruit juice that has been bastardized…just eat the damn fruit)
- Meal Replacement Powder (this is different than protein powder and often times includes tons of added sugar and fat)
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or regular yogurt (usually intended to make a shake thicker, but ice and frozen berries accomplish that part without all the crap)
- Artificial sweeteners (do I really need to explain?)
Bowden, J., Ph.D. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Beverly, MA: Fair
Bowden, J., Ph.D. (2008). The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth. Beverly,
MA: Fair Winds Press.