23 Oct


My blog on post-workout nutrition, My Protein Shakes Bring All the Girls to the SHOP, turned out to be pretty popular and I’m hearing about more and more people drinking shakes out of the blender following their workouts.  I love it!

In that post I detailed the what and the why behind my famous post-workout shakes as well as providing my specific recipe.  As I mentioned in that post, I am continually experimenting with ingredients and different proportions of the same ingredients in order to optimize taste and, more importantly, to recover from my training.

Since that post was written, there have been four changes…some started out as little experiments that turned out well while others were merely out of necessity.  Regardless of the reason, those changes all proved to be worthy of the SHOP Shake:

  1. Spinach – added a lot
  2. Cacao Nibs (100% cacao) – added 2 tbsp
  3. Shredded Coconut – replaced Flax Seeds with 2 tbsp
  4. Oatmeal (gluten-free) – removed


  • Water / Ice (a lot…depends on desired thickness)
  • Protein Powder (one heaping scoop)
  • Cinnamon (a lot…about 30 shakes)
  • Green SuperFood (1 scoop)
  • Cacao Nibs (2 tbsp)
  • Shredded Coconut (2 tbsp)
  • Spinach (a lot…1 massive handful)
  • Berries (frozen) (1 cup)
  • Banana (frozen) (1 whole banana)

New Super Shake Components
Cacao Nibs (100% cacao)

cacao nibs 2
Cacao nibs are made from partially ground cacao beans, which are the natural source of all chocolate products.  By itself, 100% pure cacao has a bitter taste…that’s why makers of candy bars add sugar, milk, and a whole host of other crap into the mix.  While those things certainly improve the taste, they do more harm than good.  Fortunately, the SHOP Shake includes a few components that will counteract the bitterness without the negative consequences (frozen berries and a frozen banana).  The natural sweetness of these fruits fully mask the bitterness, leaving just a hint of rich, chocolatey goodness behind.

Now you might be wondering why you should consider adding these to your own shakes.  The answer is simple: cacao contains compounds called flavanoids (the type specific to cacao is called flavanols).  These flavanols are pretty powerful.  According to Dr. Jonny Bowden, flavanols “prevent fatlike substances in the bloodstream from clogging the arteries.  When you reduce the blood’s ability to clot, you also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.”  Reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke?  Yes please.  The benefits don’t stop there.  Dr. Bowden also mentions that cacao can decrease blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity.

Regarding insulin sensitivity, Precision Nutrition says the following:

You need insulin, but the trick is to learn how to balance the anabolic effects in muscle tissue against the fat storage effects. This can be done by increasing insulin sensitivity in the muscle while decreasing insulin sensitivity in the fat cells. Controlling insulin release during the day is important for long-term sensitivity.

WARNING:  a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar does not count.  This is nothing more than a sneaky (but effective) way for the food industry to fool consumers into buying candy bars.  A true dark chocolate bar will advertise right there on the front of the package what percentage of cacao is in the bar.  I recommend a minimum of 90% cacao.  100% would be even better.


Umm, no.  Not real chocolate.


That’s more like it.


I used to avoid putting spinach or other green leafy vegetables in my shakes because I was concerned that it would end up tasting like a salad.  I love salads, but I don’t love drinking them.  Luckily I decided to try it, and as it turns out it doesn’t alter the taste of the shake at all.  That was the only potential downside.  The upside, on the other hand, is worthy of its own post, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just give you the highlights…

Once again I turn to Dr. Bowden for the answers:

  • Spinach provides more nutrients than any other food on the planet on a calorie for calorie basis.
  • Spinach is one of the best sources of vitamin K, which is essential for bone strength and health (vitamin K activates a compound called osteocalcin that anchors calcium molecules inside the bone).  Contrary to popular belief, simply consuming calcium (as in drinking milk) isn’t enough.  Your body has to be able to use and absorb that calcium.  Plus, if you’re still drinking conventional milk instead of raw milk, read THIS.
  • Remember those flavanoids found in cacao?  Spinach has at least 13 different kinds that act as antioxidants and anticancer compounds.
  • Spinach is a rich source of both vitamin C and vitamin A, two antioxidants that help with everything from reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease to improving eye health.

I could go on for a lot longer about spinach, but if those reasons aren’t enough for you then I don’t think more bullet points will persuade you.  It’s pretty easy to add large quantities of spinach to your shakes without taking up a bunch of space in your blender.  When the spinach gets liquefied, it actually takes up surprisingly little space.

Interesting tidbit:  the spinach industry was actually on its way out in the 1930’s until Popeye came along.  A simple cartoon actually created a resurgence in this green leafy vegetable.  If spinach is good enough to make Popeye strong and huge, then it’s good enough for me.  Unlike Popeye, though, I recommend fresh spinach leaves over the canned variety (save the canned spinach for dinner guests and special occasions).

Another interesting tidbit:  you would literally have to eat a freakin’ barrel of spinach to equal the calories contained in one small serving of french fries.

Shredded Coconut
shredded coconut

Even just inhaling the aroma inside the bag is good.

I’ll be honest, the only reason I decided to add shredded coconut to my shakes is because I ran out of flax seeds.  Don’t get me wrong, I love coconut and I have used shredded coconut and coconut milk in plenty of meals.  I just never considered it as a potential component of my post-workout shakes.

Coconut, whether it’s shredded coconut, coconut oil, or coconut milk, was considered a bad food for a long time due to its high saturated fat content.  While it is true that most of the fat in coconut is saturated, this isn’t a bad thing.  The saturated fat found in coconut is classified as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s).  Research has shown that MCT’s are preferentially metabolized rather than stored in the body.  This means they are a potent source of energy for our bodies.  Also, most of the MCT’s in coconut are a specific type known as lauric acid, which is both antiviral and antimicrobial, making it valuable to improving our immunity.

If that wasn’t enough, coconut just tastes delicious.


I’m currently experimenting with a Muscle Mousse formula that is proving to be incredible.  Once I have perfected the recipe, I’ll post the details.  I have been eating this first thing in the morning either pre-workout or as my first breakfast.  Right before bed, I even think about how good it’s going to taste the next morning.  Given my history of over-doing things (pumpkin comes to mind here), this could become problematic…

Bowden, J., Ph.D. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Beverly, MA: Fair
Winds Press.


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