POW! POWer POWders for my Smoothies!
July 25, 2007 7:52 AM   Subscribe

What can I add to my smoothies to get some bonus health benefits?

I recently got a Magic Bullet because I looove smoothies, but I haaate overpaying for them.

Meanwhile, I'm on a health kick, and desperately eager to lose some weight in the next month. This is mainly through better portion control, smarter food decisions, and increased exercise.

Bringing it together: What powders can I buy to add to my daily smoothie? I hear and read about protein powders, vitamin powders, etc. etc., but don't know where to look for what. I just figure I have the opportunity to healthify my drinks, so I may as well.

Some things about me:
I don't eat enough veggies or healthy foods. I am about 15 lbs. heavier than I'd like to be. I'm 24. I'm more generally sedentary than active. I'm male. I'm paunchy, but want to be muscley. I'm balding too early.

Some things about my smoothies:
I usually throw in some combination of -- fresca, OJ, grape juice, ice, frozen strawberries, frozen raspberries, lemon juice, lime juice, sorbet, ice, Crystal Ice lemonade, and more ice. (But not more than two or three of the above at a time, the list is just my arsenal).

I'm intrigued by the protein powder idea. Because it seems people who drink them are ripped. But I assume there's some other steps involved. Where should I begin?
posted by prophetsearcher to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
If you could become ripped by drinking smoothies, being ripped would become a lot less valuable, and smoothies would become a lot more so. The other steps, which is to say the only steps, are diet and exercise.

That said, my local smoothie place offers bee pollen, brewer's yeast, whey powder, vitamin C, wheatgrass, spirulina and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.
posted by box at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2007

Try yoghurt before any powders. The probiotics (of live cultures), calcium, etc have to be better for you than any powder.
posted by Gungho at 7:58 AM on July 25, 2007

I'd cut-out the Fresca, sorbet, and Crystal Ice, for starters. Your smoothies are already sweet from the fruits. If you absolutely must add sweetener, try a little honey.
You could also dd some plain yogurt for additional nutritional benefits (and a smoother smoothie)

Add a banana to your mix.

The protein powders and whatnot will only add weight. They don't miraculously add muscle. The people who drink protein powders are ripped because they live in the gym, lifting weights (which is where the rip comes from...not the drinks)
posted by Thorzdad at 8:01 AM on July 25, 2007

Best answer: Protein powder is an excellent idea. You'll want to treat that as a replacement for other calories you're getting from fat or carbs, though. So add in a scoop of protein powder (~20g of protein, about 100 calories) and cut back a little on fat/carbs in other meals to compensate.

When you lose weight you want to lose fat but not muscle. Most people get far too little protein when they diet, which causes their body to metabolize their muscle to make up for the calories they're not eating. If you up your protein intake, though, your body will stick to burning fat rather than muscle. Combined with a good dose of exercise, of course, that'll get you the thin and ripped look you want rather than thin and flabby.

And bonus: protein is really good at keeping you full and will make it that much easier to cut down your daily caloric intake. You should not be hungry for a while after downing a protein shake.

(A good guideline for men exercising and losing weight is to get 1-1.5g of protein for every 1lb you weigh. Women should aim for 0.5-75g per pound. This turns out to be a LOT of protein--200g per day for most men! Protein shakes are a great way to get protein without all the fat that comes along for the ride with a big burger or steak.)
posted by Khalad at 8:09 AM on July 25, 2007

Best answer: The protein powders and whatnot will only add weight. They don't miraculously add muscle. The people who drink protein powders are ripped because they live in the gym, lifting weights (which is where the rip comes from...not the drinks)

Agreed. Protein powder should replace other calories in your diet, not add calories.
posted by Khalad at 8:16 AM on July 25, 2007

A friend of mine sent this to me (courtesy of Dr. Mehmet Oz , I think) and I've been drinking it ever since. I've lost weight and I feel better when I have it in the mornings.

The Magical Breakfast Blaster
2 servings, 136 calories per serving

1 scoop (1/3 cup) Soy protein (like Nature's Plus Spiru-Tein)
1/2 tablespoon flaxseed oil
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 large ripe banana (or other fruits of your choice)
1/2 tablespoon apple juice concentrate or honey
1 teaspoon Psyillium seed husks

Peel banana; break into chunks. Put all ingredients in a blender. Add 12 ounces of water and ice, as well as powdered vitamins. Cover, blend until fairly smooth.
posted by krisken at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2007 [16 favorites]

Bagged spinach! It might sound weird or gross, but if you especially if you have frozen fruit in your smoothie, you barely taste it! You can add CUPS of it, and it blends down to practically nothing. I really blend the hell out of it, though, just for texture purposes.

I wouldn't say it's delicious, but it's an easy, fast way to get another serving or two of an awesome veggie.
posted by peep at 8:37 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some ground flax seed would probably be a nice addition.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:40 AM on July 25, 2007

This is from a book called 'A Week in the Zone' written by Barry Sears.

27 grams protein powder
1-1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1-1/2 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
4 macadamia nuts (or 18 almonds)
6 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend at a high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add a little water if smoothie is too thick. If you prefer, eat the nuts on the side.
posted by Soda-Da at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's certainly worth making sure you're getting enough protein. The RDA is about 63g for an average male, or 0.8g per kilo of body weight if you want to be more precise.

Protein on its own won't help you in the slightest if you don't work out though.

Bodybuilders tend to believe that you should massively exceed the RDA. I tend to be a bit skeptical: I haven't seen a lot of evidence that that's helpful for most people.

Be aware that the side-effect of massive protein doses is incredibly stinky farts.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:46 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

So add in a scoop of protein powder (~20g of protein, about 100 calories) and cut back a little on fat/carbs in other meals to compensate.

Please read the nutrition facts on your protein powder--many are packed with sugars and are much higher in calories than 100 per 20g protein!

Also: try adding Flax Seeds. They're delicious. I get them vacuum-sealed from Trader Joe's.
posted by gramcracker at 8:50 AM on July 25, 2007

Tofu is excellent (just a bit of the softer stuff, uncooked). Echinacea's efficacy is debated, but I've used it a few times. Yogurt - I prefer plain unflavored in smoothies, but YMMV.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2007

Make very sure that the protein powder you choose doesn't have tons of cholesterol, if you have high blood pressure along with your little bit of extra weight.
posted by tmcw at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2007

Please read the nutrition facts on your protein powder--many are packed with sugars and are much higher in calories than 100 per 20g protein!

Try a raw egg. An omega-3-enhanced egg, even.

I'm sure there's some OMG DISEASE about it now, but a raw egg was the default health-it-up addition back when smoothies were called shakes.
posted by kmennie at 9:05 AM on July 25, 2007

I'd also cut out the Crystal Ice and Fresca, that stuff is crap. Mine usually consists of soy milk, honey, frozen and/or fresh strawberries/blueberries/raspberries/mango/pineapple/banana (whatever's around), flaxseed, plain nonfat yogurt. Super tasty.
posted by look busy at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2007

Best answer: I, too, have the magic bullet and make smoothies often. People have made some great suggestions, but I really want to highlight this one:

Get rid of all the extra sweet stuff. That is, skip the juices (lemon and lime juice are okay, just not lemon/limeades), the fresca, the sorbet. If you want sugary taste, stick with Crystal Light or similar low calorie tea/juice mixes, or just add in some Splenda or Stevia.

Frozen fruit is your best bet, and I think it's sweet enough as it is, personally.

As for healthy additions, my favorite is any kind of "green" powder mix. They taste surprisingly pleasant. I got mine for under $10 at Trader Joe's (Very Green, I think it's called). It's a mixture of things like wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, spinach, green tea, etc. Much tastier than it sounds.

In fact, why not head over to your local co-op/Trader Joe's/Whole Foods/whatever and check out their nutritional supplements section? See what rocks your boat.
posted by timory at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2007

Oh! I also highly recommend almond milk in place of soy milk. It doesn't have as much protein, that's true, but if you get the unsweetened kind it is only 40 calories per cup and so incredibly smooth and creamy - like nothing I've ever seen soymilk do, except when it is very high calorie.
posted by timory at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you must have it sweet, get yourself some stevia. It tastes good, is all natural, and is non-caloric; which means you can use it to your hearts content.

Your smoothies sound really sugary and not healthy with the exception of some needed fruit. I would do a little research on nutrition.

Body for Life by Bill Philips can provide some very basic nutritional information as well as some exercise tips and inspiration.

For a protein powder I like Optimum Nutrition's gold standard natural line. It is sweetened with Stevia and has nothing weird added to it.

Best of luck.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2007

I drink a smoothie with Source Of Life from Natures Plus almost every day. I can definitely tell the difference on days I don't drink it. It's got tons of vitamins, nutrients, protein, and it tastes pretty good too...
you can get it at any GNC or mall type vitamin store...
posted by smithygreg at 9:37 AM on July 25, 2007

Best answer: thanks for the comments, everyone.
quick note: i meant crystal lite, not crystal ice. whoops.
quick question: are bananas important? or are they there for taste? I'm not really bananas for bananas. (nor do I relish relish, FWIW).
quick follow-up: it's true. i'm woefully undereducated about nutrition. every time I try to learn more, however, i get inundated by all sorts of theories and such. is there a good "For dummies" guide?
quick point of clarification for smithygreg : which Source of Life product do you use for smoothies? can it be used with other protein supplements as above. what else do you put in your smoothies?

thanks again. you guys rock.
posted by prophetsearcher at 9:55 AM on July 25, 2007

How's the Magic Bullet for crushing ice? My hand-blender is great for smoothies except for ice-crushing, and I like smoothies that involve ice-crushing.

In apology for my derail here are the Abs Diet smoothies, designed to accompany a weightlifting routine for weight loss, so keep in mind all the caveats above about replacing calories instead of adding calories.

Also: tuna shake.
posted by mendel at 9:55 AM on July 25, 2007

Response by poster: *the magic bullet is great with the ice crushing. i also had used a handheld, but switched to the MB.

*the tuna shake could be a great diet. just read the page of recipes and get too grossed out to eat anything else.

*i should never have started marking best answers. they're all great.
posted by prophetsearcher at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2007

Definitely cut out the juices from your smoothies. Juice is a really great way to gain weight. It's basically like squeezing all the sugar out of the fruit and throwing away all the good stuff like fiber, etc.

Protein powder can be pricey. I don't know how quality varies by vendor/manufacturer (I hardly think it matters if you're not a bodybuilder), but I noticed that my local GNC sells really expensive protein powder. I go to WalMart and buy cheap-o protein powder. It's whey protein and is made by Body Fortress. It's like $13 for the big jug.

Take a B-complex vitamin everyday.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:19 AM on July 25, 2007

re: Bananas. I'd say they're 25% for taste, 75% for a certain consistency that they bring to the mix. And they mix fairly well with other fruits, so people don't mind them.
posted by tmcw at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2007

I must say I'm surprised to hear that the Magic Bullet is a great product for smoothies. I tend to lump anything from an infomercial as pretty much crap.

I am in the market for a new blender specifically for smoothies that is not an expensive vitamix, so I shall have to investigate further.

To get back to your question, I always add vanilla yogurt (for sweetness and probiotics) and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed (for fiber, Omega 3's).

Good on ya for getting healthy!
posted by willmize at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2007

Bananas are also chock full of potassium, which is apparently good?

You could also use avocado for texture if you really hate bananas. It's creamier (but also more fattening).
posted by SoftRain at 10:54 AM on July 25, 2007

OK, after years of lurking, I've finally manned up to the blue specifically to throw in my $.02:

I've been on a huge smoothie kick the past few weeks, here's my current recipe:

A small handful of blueberries
A somewhat larger handful of strawberries
1/2 - whole banana (agree with tmcw, for texture as much as/more than taste)
About 8 oz (eyeballed, a little too much or too little doesn't hurt) light soy or almond milk - might need a little more if your fruit is frozen
4 tablespoons quick oats
4 tablespoons hemp protein powder (I use Notiva, but I imagine they're all good...lots of protein, fiber, amino acids without a lot of calories)
A whopping tablespoon of plain no fat yogurt

It's plenty sweet from the fruit and the hemp powder gives it a nice nuttiness. The oatmeal adds a suprisingly nice touch and some complex carbs. I took this up after starting to jog in the morning (google a couch to 5k program if you're interested, the one I did was great!).

The combo of jog + smoothie has been a pretty tight way to start my days this summer...
posted by Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

every time I try to learn more, however, i get inundated by all sorts of theories and such.

There are a ton of conflicting theories out there, no doubt. A lot of advice is couched in "ignore this at your peril" language, when really most advice is helpful but not critically important. Any time you get overloaded with information just fall back to these simple principles:

1. To lose weight, you want burn more calories than you eat.
2. A balanced diet is best. Eat lots of plants.
3. To be in good shape, you need to exercise.
4. Good health encompasses both diet and exercise. Neither one is sufficient on its own.

That's it, really. When you get into more depth than that, you start to hit "rules" that are good ideas but aren't the One True Way to good health. For example:

1. Vitamins and nutrients are good. Vitamin supplements, it's not so clear. Supplements are not a proper substitute for eating a balanced diet.
2. People talk about your macronutrient ratio, the ratio of protein/carbs/fat in your food. It's good to aim for a 30/40/30 (good) or 40/40/20 (better) ratio, but honestly the number of calories you eat and burn is far more important than the exact breakdown of those calories source by source.
3. Whether to do cardio or strength training (i.e. weight lifting) is a neverending debate. The same thing with aerobic exercise vs. anaerobic exercise (e.g. HIIT -- high-intensity interval training). The bottom line is, exercise of any type is good for you, so do what you enjoy.

In the end, you just have to accept that being healthy is tough, and there's no shortcut. I think that's where people get stuck. They hear all kinds of advice and recommendations, and the ones that involve the least amount of time and work are the ones they try. You can't escape the four principles above, though. Thankfully, they are dead simple. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And exercise regularly.

Don't sweat the details.
posted by Khalad at 11:03 AM on July 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

I feel like I've posted this answer a lot lately:

Try Sambazon Acai Smoothie Packs. These things add this berry/chocolate flavor to a smoothie that is just amazing. Acai is a berry that is loaded up with antioxidants and really tastes great.

I've also made a good green tea smoothie by brewing a few cups and pouring them into my normal mix (with a little soymilk or frozen yogurt, or even Kifir). Another good way to get antioxidants if you can't find the Acai @ your local grocer. (Check Wild Oats or Whole Foods!)
posted by jstef at 11:29 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am on (and off) Weight Watchers, and thus counting points. I make smoothies with a banana, half a cup of frozen mango, occasionally a little other frozen fruit, half a cup of fat-free plain or vanilla yogurt, a little water or skim milk, and a scoop or two of Trader Joe's protein powder -- it is relatively cheap. I can't speak to the perfect nutritional value of this, but it's quite sweet without any additional sweentener, and very filling without too many extra calories, in my non-expert opinion. If I don't have enough mango, I very rarely add a little Splenda or honey, but I try not to. I am going to try the green powder suggested by timory -- thanks.
posted by theredpen at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2007

Khalad is right on the money. There are no shortcuts here.

Definitely cut out the artificial crap and the juices.

Hemp protein is wonderful- you get fibre and Omega-3s.

nthing timory on the unsweetened almond milk. Soy is overrated, and often full of sugar.

By the way- bananas are really high in B6 (pyroxidine). Especially good for hangovers.

If you want to boost the greens, try a tsp. of spirulina in your smoothie.

I could never make the Magic Bullet work for me. I use a Braun handblender (but it's messier).
posted by solongxenon at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I second the spinach. Especially since you say you do not eat many veggies. There really is no powder to replace green vegetables and even one cup already provides you with many nutrients you are probably missing now.
posted by davar at 12:02 PM on July 25, 2007

Just a note on blenders. I make a frozen-fruit-based smoothie every morning. After many trials (mostly broken blades) with cheap blenders, I invested in a Krups 1,000-watt model for about $150. It's heavy-duty and doesn't break down. Worth the money if you're drinking smoothies daily.
posted by nancoix at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2007

. If you up your protein intake, though, your body will stick to burning fat rather than muscle.

Uh, no, you still need to do exercise to keep your body from burning muscle when you lose weight.

A good guideline for men exercising and losing weight is to get 1-1.5g of protein for every 1lb you weigh. Women should aim for 0.5-75g per pound.

There is no reason women need this much less protein per day than men. Women might have 10-15% less lean body mass than men, so their protein needs might be 10-15% lower, not half as much.

Protein powder is a good addition to your shake because it can be extremely filling (a 100cal protein-only drink can fill me up quite a bit, the same cannot be said for 100cal of carbs). I used to take protein shake base (I was actually drinking Myoplex lite at the time), and add frozen berries and lite yogurt to make them palatable. I would also occasionally add a tablespoon of flax oil (keep it in the fridge) which made it much tastier. Don't sweat the sweeteners (did this thread bring out all the health nuts?), but you can also get unflavored plain whey protein if you prefer. Be careful with too much soy.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:49 PM on July 25, 2007

Your current smoothies sound unfortunately like the smoothies I used to gain weight after an illness. If you want the opposite effect, ditch the added sugar such as the Crystal Light...fruit has enough sugar already!

http://www.nutritiondata.com/ is a great site to learn about the benefits of fruits and vegetables. Search for what you are interested in and out pops all kinds of nice data.

You can sneak in some greens in smoothies without noticing their taste- spirulina , a seaweed, is popular with commercial manufacturers of smoothies because of its taste. Baby spinach or something similarly mild would also work. You can also sneak in ground flax for the omega-3s.

My smoothies now that I no longer need to gain: Sometimes I use unsweetened Kefir instead of yogurt because it's a better probiotic. Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants, so is pomegranate juice, which I use as a sweetener.

I don't know though, with smoothies they are perfect for gaining weight because you can drink so many calories so easily. I wouldn't drink them every day if I wanted to stay in shape.
posted by melissam at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2007

Your smoothie ingredients look to be very high in sugars. You may want to spend a week measuring ingredients and calculating calories for the smoothies. You might be surprised how many calories are packed in there. Since your stated goal is to lose weight you probably want to get a handle on that.

As far as protein powders, I love the Jay Robb Egg White Powders and the Designer Whey powders. Both are about 100 calories a serving, have 2g carbs and 20g of protien.
posted by 26.2 at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2007

Here's my smoothie recipe:
One banana
One carrot
One cup mixed frozen berries
One cup mixed frozen exotic fruits
One cup yogurt
One cup water
One tablespoon crushed flaxseeds
Three tablespoons no sugar, whole grain muesli
One-two tablespoons almonds
A piece of fresh ginger
One teaspoon of pumpkin seed oil

On the oil, it's good to remember that many nutrients are oil-soluble. I add a dash of oil for flavor and to help my body get as many healthy nutrients out of my smoothies as possible.
posted by syzygy at 1:22 AM on July 26, 2007

I'm a fan of the protein powders. As a female vegetarian on 40/40/20 I need all the help I can get. Even the cheap Body Fortress stuff will do (and it happens to taste pretty good). A lot of more expensive powders have extra supplements thrown in, these are of limited value anyway.

My daily breakfast is
1.5 scoops of the protein powder
300ml water
1/2 large banana (or 1 small one)
1 tsp flax oil or ground hemp seeds

I'm not bananas about bananas either, but they improve the texture loads and blend nicely with any flavour the powder might have. Adding a little bit of nuts, seeds or oil also gives it a nice emulsified texture as well. When I'm out of bananas, mixed frozen fruit is good. But I also eat a lot of salad, so I definitely think you could kick up the nutritional value with some chicory, or as suggested above, spinach. Rhubarb is also loaded with vitamins and reads more as "fruit" to taste but needs some sweetener with it (I use Splenda).

Good on you for making the effort, and good luck!
posted by methylsalicylate at 3:02 AM on July 26, 2007

I supplement with Creatine - Glutamine - Taurine when I'm doing a lot of weight lifting. It seems to help with the recovery.

Also, eating meals more often with less calories per meal is a great way to lose weight. My personal trainer and endocrinologist got me to eat 5 meals a day, and I felt better, and lost weight more quickly (I've since backslid from illness).
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:20 AM on July 26, 2007

ditch the added sugar such as the Crystal Light

Crystal Light is artificially sweetened. (It sounds gross in a smoothie to me, but at least it's not added sugar.)
posted by mendel at 7:14 AM on July 26, 2007

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