“I won’t eat anything green.” –Kurt Cobain
I’ve been experimenting with protein shakes for a while.
When I first started out drinking them, I used a somewhat standard recipe of bananas, strawberries, 2% milk, and protein powder. I was never a big milk drinker, but a couple of years ago, I cut milk out of my protein shakes completely. This is because I’ve experienced better fat loss results from minimizing dairy in my diet. Some people are lactose intolerant so avoiding dairy is a good idea for them, not just from a fat loss perspective. I don’t think that’s my case. I believe the improved fat loss has more to do with avoiding the insulin spikes that come with milk whether it’s whole, 2% or skim. So long story short, these days I don’t even keep milk in my fridge. Cheese, on the other hand, is a different story (one of my big-time weaknesses). More recently, I’ve been wanting to switch to an all natural protein shake… one that tasted good. Enter the green protein smoothie.
One of my 2013 goals is to eat a fruit or vegetable every day.
I’m focusing mainly on green vegetables because I feel that’s what my diet has been lacking for the better part of three decades. After reading Eat to Live, I was surprised by how superior the nutritional profile of raw leafy greens is to almost any other food including other fruits and vegetables. On Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s nutrient density chart, raw leafy greens achieve a score of 100 compared to a score of 45 for fresh fruits. In other words, raw leafy greens give you the best micronutrient profile of any food and therefore, the best bang for your buck in terms of overall health and disease prevention. So really, I’ve really been trying to eat more spinach. I’ve been pretty successful so far, going through about a package a week. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I’ve converted my traditional shake recipe to a green protein smoothie recipe.
So what’s in this spinach protein shake?
First, I had to find a replacement for milk as the base of my shake. For a while, I was using unsweetened vanilla almond milk which was great but now I use coconut water. Coconut water trumps just about everything in electrolytes and best of all, it’s an all-natural source of electrolytes. Not some sugar-filled artificial syrup. Because I drink these shakes after training, it’s a great fit and tastes surprisingly good. I use my Magic Bullet to blend about 1 oz. of raw organic spinach leaves with 6 oz. coconut water as step 1. Make sure you do this step before you do anything else and use raw leaves, not frozen spinach. Then, once the spinach and coconut water are blended into this green liquid, I add the remaining ingredients: coconut milk yogurt, frozen berries and protein powder.
The coconut milk yogurt (or cultured coconut milk) is something I’ve discovered fairly recently. It’s better than regular yogurt in the theme of minimizing dairy and tastes really good. No protein, but you get enough of that in your protein powder and ideally in my opinion, you should get enough protein from other food sources outside of protein shakes. For the frozen berries, I opt for Cascadian Farms organic red raspberries or antioxidant blend. You can use any protein powder you want, but I strongly recommend a high-quality protein powder such as BioTRUST Low Carb. It’s not cheap, but well worth the price tag. It’s all-natural, cold-processed, growth hormone, rBGH, rBST-free, contains a unique blend of ingredients that combine both fast-digesting and slow-digesting proteins, and even offers 4g of fiber per serving. Also, if you don’t use the full two-scoop serving or have a shake everyday, it will last you much longer.
Final step: Add the coconut milk yogurt (a couple of spoonfuls), berries (about half a handful) and protein powder (at least 12g worth) to the blender. Then crank it for round two.
You’ll start with the green liquid and end up with something not quite green, more of a lavender. Don’t worry though, it tastes way better than it looks! Not bad for five minutes of prep time!
As my diet has evolved, so has my concoction.
I believe the all natural protein shake I’ve arrived at today delivers the best nutritional density in the fewest calories while also conducting the essential functions of a great protein shake (intense exercise recovery, muscle repair, etc.) I drink these two to three times per week, mostly for lunch immediately following strength training. I created it as a meal on MyFitnessPal and it came out to about 275 calories. The green protein smoothie has been somewhat of a fad lately, getting rave reviews from celebrities such as Hilary Duff. I do believe they are legitimate “superfoods”, though. They are extremely nutritious, energy-boosting and easily digestible. And as a quick FYI, the digestive system is the most underrated system in the body for fat loss. When your body doesn’t need to divert a lot of energy to digestion during the day, it can metabolize fat much more efficiently. So whether it’s a fad or not, as far as my diet is concerned this spinach protein shake recipe is here to stay.